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I'm currently in Tenerife and have a return flight booked for 20 May.

I have decided to stay out here a bit longer and purchased a single ticket back to the UK for 25 May on another airline.

The ticket was clearly advertised as non-refundable, so I'm not expecting any money back from cancelling it. Is there any benefit to me of cancelling the first ticket as opposed to simply not turning up?

In case it makes any difference, Thomson Airways is the specific airline the first ticket was booked with. It looks as though to cancel it formally, I would need to phone a UK number at my own expense, as this is not something they provide an online facility for.

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You can probably get credit from the airline for the another flight. –  Karlson May 10 at 20:30
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@Karlson Is that typical even for budget airlines? Maybe I was a bit hasty booking with another carrier then! But now I've done so I'm not sure there is any incentive to cancel it properly. E.g. are there any penalties for not doing so? –  Martin Smith May 10 at 20:45
    
No idea. That's why I left it as a comment. In addition. The penalties and cancellation rules will change from airline to airline and from regulatory body to regulatory body. –  Karlson May 10 at 21:43
    
It's good karma to do so, even if you don't get a refund. –  TheMathemagician May 12 at 9:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 23 down vote accepted

Yes. In my experience while you can't get a refund, you can get a credit. If the airline won't give you a credit, you can give yourself one like this:

  • determine the change fee for your flight. In this example I'll use $150.
  • remind yourself of the price you paid for your flight. I'll use $1000.
  • find a flight a long way in the future that costs just under the difference, eg $850. It does not matter where this flight is from or to, you will NOT be taking it.
  • change your flight to that flight. You may end up needing to pay a few dollars on a credit card, or losing some of your credit if you change to something that costs less than the target price. Consider changing to a higher fare class that does not have change fees, if you can. (Before you call, look into whether you are allowed to change up and down on this airline. Changing up to avoid change fees is a fool's bargain if you can't change back down again when you use the credit.)
  • wait until you want to use the credit. Don't wait too long since generally you can't make changes that take a ticket beyond the one-year mark since it was first issued. Use it only when you are going to spend more than the credit (possibly the credit less the change fee) so $850 or $700.
  • change your flight again to what you want. Again, you may have to pay a small balance, or give up part of your credit if you're not using it all.

When I have credits that clients paid for, I try to use them on the client's behalf in the future. This is also one of those times you can get yourself in a more expensive fare class (from which upgrades are cheaper or more likely, or in which the food is free, for example) since you need to use up the whole credit.

The airline I fly most often actually does this behind the scenes when you cancel a ticket. But if the airline you're flying doesn't, you can - don't lose what you paid!

If the change fees on your airline are so high that would you not end up with any actual benefit, you should cancel anyway. This may enable another person to buy a ticket they urgently need. No-showing for the second leg of a return ticket generally won't hurt you, but it can inconvenience all the people who work at getting a flight out with everyone on board. So take a minute and let them know not to expect you, if it's simply a matter of clicking something on a web site.

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Thanks. In my specific case the original flight was extremely cheap (£130 return all in) and I'm happy to just write it off and forget about if there are no additional downsides to not cancelling "properly". But this looks like extremely useful information for more expensive flights. –  Martin Smith May 10 at 21:00
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(+1) Interesting idea even if it's unlikely to work with European low costs airlines, which charge EUR 50 and more to change flights that cost EUR 100-200. In that case, the change fee for Thomson seems to be… 100% of the original fare (I am not even sure why they still call it an amendment fee, maybe to satisfy some legal obligation without actually offering changes?). –  Relaxed May 10 at 21:02
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Agreed, on an LCC changes are expensive or impossible. This prevents them from having to leave room on planes for people who might change to that flight on short notice and is one of the ways they can have such low fares. But even if you are charged 50 twice, and paid 110, why throw away the 10? (100% change fee is a different game.) –  Kate Gregory May 10 at 21:08
    
@KateGregory Good point, I guess it's why even long in advance Thomson has things like “50% of the original fare” but it's true that it's not the case with all LCC. –  Relaxed May 10 at 21:15
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I agree on the last paragraph. Unfortunately in this case it isn't just a matter of clicking something on the website. I need to make an international phone call of indeterminate duration at my own expense so I'm not sure I'll bother! –  Martin Smith May 10 at 21:20

You might also see a benefit in getting the refund of the airport taxes that are included in your ticket fare and are only due by the issuing airline if you actually go into the plane.

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Good point. The actual break down of costs for my return trip was Fare £45.55, Taxes & charges £36.43, Baggage £48.00. So one leg will be about £18.22 and there is a £25 administration charge levied by that particular airline. So that still doesn't provide any particular incentive in my case but more generally might. Actually I'm quite surprised at the lack of even a small apparent incentive to cancel in advance so the airline can resell the ticket. Maybe they habitually overbook anyway. –  Martin Smith May 11 at 8:00
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@MartinSmith Usually LCC don't overbook, as far as I know. There are opportunity costs of course but it's not like the airline would have no revenue for your seat; you paid for the ticket anyway. It would be much more critical for them to provide some incentives and resell the ticket if you could get your money back. –  Relaxed May 11 at 9:16
    
+1 I've been told that Air Asia will refund the taxes, but you have to explicitly request it. –  Spehro Pefhany May 11 at 11:15

You get the personal pleasure of knowing you may help someone else that just needed that seat, and will be able to get it because the company now knows it is free. Assuming the phone call is not too expensive, nor too time consuming, that's reason enough.

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