If a flight is cancelled will the airline provide a refund? If a flight is cancelled do you get a credit? There are a few considerations to think about when a flight is cancelled by you or the airline.
First of all, it is always a good idea to have travel insurance for flight cancellation except for the reason noted below. For covered reasons and as per the conditions of a travel insurance policy, a reimbursement of what was paid for a flight can be recovered. Also, if the airline cancels a flight or changes the schedule significantly, the traveler is probably eligible for a refund. The rules surrounding this can vary from airline to airline, but if a flight departure time is changed by 90 minutes or more, a refund will most likely be granted if requested.
Another note is that most of what is covered in this blog post applies to flights originating in the United States. For a flight within Hungary or Peru for instance, the rules and policies may be different. Another important consideration is that if a "Basic Economy" fare is purchased from legacy carriers like American, United, or Delta, usually no refund or credit is given unless the airline cancels or the departure time is changed significantly. In the case of a Basic Economy flight for those holding travel insurance, reimbursement can probably be made if the cancellation reason is covered by the policy and according to the terms and conditions of the policy.
Also, some airlines like American and United allow the purchase of a refundable ticket, usually for an extra fee. As the name suggests, if you cancel for any reason, the fare is refundable.
But what if you don't have a refundable ticket, an insurance claim cannot be made, the flight does not originate outside the US, and the airline has not cancelled a flight or made significant changes to the departure time of a flight? Can you get a refund or credit? Let's go through that now.
Most airlines like American, United and Delta will provide the traveler with a credit if the traveler cancels. This is also true of Southwest and Jet Blue. Travel credits are usually good for a year. Believe it or not, as bad as some airline policies are, in recent years many of them have loosened their refund/credit policies. And in most cases, if a traveler has cancelled a flight paid for with airline award miles, those miles will be re-deposited into their account.
In the case of frequent travelers loyal to one airlne, there is probably no reason to take travel insurance on a flight. So if the traveler cancels and gets a credit, the frequent traveler can use that credit for future flights. A frequent traveler should probably not purchase a non-refundable" ticket either. But if a traveler is not a frequent flyer and has no plan of traveling on the same airline within a year, that traveler might want to consider travel insurance for reimbursement in case of him/her cancelling. Again, the traveler cancellation needs to be done in accordance with the travel insurance terms and conditions.
One more important consideration: If an airline ticket was purchased through a booking agency like Expedia or Orbitz, this might complicate things. The airline will probably direct the purchaser back to the agency where the ticket was purchased, and there might be additional, more restrictive rules. At the very least, there will be another layer of bureaucracy added on to the refund/credit process.