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I am probably going to travel from a US city to Latvia (NE Europe) in June (round trip), but there is a 50% chance I won't get my visa in time or of other complications, in which case I'll have to cancel the flight. Is it cheaper to cancel last-minute or book last-minute?

By last-minute, I mean ~10 days before the first flight.

I am going to search with skyscanner, so it would probably be a 1- or 2- connection travel each way, with different companies operating all of the flights. I also expect some difficult in communicating with the call-center operator in case I need to cancel, but I only had one such flight before (with a major difficulty changing the date). Would you agree with that?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark Mayo, drat, Gayot Fow, JoErNanO, choster May 18 '15 at 16:11

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • It partly depends on the conditions attached to the booked ticket. – fkraiem May 18 '15 at 6:17
  • It doesn't matter if the flights are with different companies. As long as you buy one ticket that covers the whole journey, you only need to talk to the call centre of the company that sold you the ticket. (Always get the whole journey on one ticket whenever possible. There are multiple significant advantages.) – David Richerby May 18 '15 at 8:17
  • It may be possible to get travel insurance which would cover you in the case of visa refusal. – choster May 18 '15 at 16:11
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Cheap international air tickets are generally not refundable. You will get some airport taxes back (probably less than 100 USD) minus an administration fee.

Alternatively you might get a voucher that you can use towards a future flight on the same airline. It depends on how you buy the ticket.

As a rule of thumb a fully refundable ticket will be about three times the price of the cheapest ticket you can find.

Some airlines will let you change your ticket to a future date, but only if you tell them before the flight.

Ten days is not last minute. Last minute is when you arrange your flight in the taxi to the airport. Anyway, ten days before I would expect the price of MCI-RIX-MCI to be about 1000 USD (in economy class), providing your stay includes a Saturday night. Such a ticket is considered a deep discount advance purchase fare and remains unrefundable.

In your shoes I would definitely purchase the ticket after I received the visa.

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