Hitting Turbulence When Canceling A Flight Reservation

An Air Force Veteran’s health declined after he purchased an airline ticket, he turned to NBC 7 Responds to try and land him a refund.

Canceling an airline ticket can be expensive. Most airlines charge fees for changes or cancellations, but what if health concerns arise after you’ve purchased your ticket? 

Robert Hanson suffers from COPD and liver disease but wanted to go on one last flight to visit his adopted family in Illinois. 

“I was going to take an emotional trip back to see my foster, adopted family back there. I was going to see them one last time,” Hanson said. 

Robert bought a non-refundable round trip ticket on Spirit Airlines. As the trip got closer, he says his health began to decline. 

“I had trouble, early in the morning, with breathing,” Hanson said. “I took a nebulizer, inhalers, Prednizone and nothing seemed to help. I thought, my word, I can’t travel like this.” 

Hanson, who no longer works, is on a fixed income. He said he knew canceling the trip would cost him some money but he was surprised by how much. 

Describing the fees and charges Hanson said, “withhold $35. $120 for a cancel fee and then that left me a refund of $230 that I can use to travel in the next 60 days otherwise I will lose the entire amount.” 

With his failing health, Hanson said he couldn’t fly anymore and there was no way he could reschedule his travel plans within the next 60 days. 

NBC 7 Responds reached out to Spirit Airlines inquiring about Hanson's refund. The company told us Robert had cancelled the reservation via online and that if Robert had talked to them personally, Spirit Airlines would have worked things out.

The company did issue Robert a full refund after talking to us.

To see more on Hanson's story watch the video above. 

Travelers often buy non-refundable over refundable airline tickets because of the cheaper price but every non-refundable ticket an airline provides comes the airline’s own restrictions or rules. 

Once you book a flight, think of the clock ticking down the amount of time you have to get a full refund. Under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s guidelines, you can cancel your reservation and not pay a cancellation fee if you cancel within the first 24 hours after you book the flight. To read more about this, click here

For those like Hanson, who don’t have the luxury of knowing within 24 hours if they can go forward with their reserved flights, every airline has different rules and regulations when it comes to cancelling or changing a booked flight. 

Airlines suggest if there is the slightest possibility that you might have to cancel or change your reservation, pay more for the refundable ticket. 

Below is a current list of fees and charges for canceling or changing your flight tickets compiled from airline websites: 

Alaska Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $125 for changes made less than 60 days prior to scheduled departure. $0 for changes made 60 days in advance.
  • Same day change fee: Free if flying in certain markets, indicated here. Otherwise $25 fee

Allegiant Air

  • Ticket change fee: $75
    Credit issued if you purchase "TripFlex" on reservation

American Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $200
  • Same day change fee: $75 domestic

Delta Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $200 (fee can go up to $500 on some international fares)
  • Same day change fee: $50

Frontier Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $99
  • Same day change fee: $99

No refunds for cancelling flight, unless you add on THE WORKS to ticket


  • Ticket change fee: $70 for fares up to $99, $90 for fares up to $149, $135 for fares $150 and above
  • Same day change fee: $50

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $30-$200

Spirit Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $90 if change or cancellation made online, $100 over phone
  • Same day change fee: $25 to standby for earlier flight.

Southwest Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: Free
  • Same day change fee: None but any fare difference will apply

United Airlines

  • Ticket change fee: $200 for domestic flights, $200-$400 for international flights
  • Same day change fee: $25-$50
  • No refunds for cancelling flight

Virgin America

  • Ticket change fee: $100-$150 depending on route
  • Cancellation fee: $75-$150 depending on route
  • Same day change fee: $25-$50
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