How An Airline No Show Policy Can Cost You Big Bucks

by Jason on April 10, 2012

in Airline Reviews

Airline no show policy forfeitIf you travel as often as I do, eventually you’re bound to come up against one of the most surprising airline industry policies: the dreaded “No Show Policy.” Let’s hope that unlike me you’re reading this information NOW instead of later when not knowing this could cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars. If that doesn’t entice you to keep reading, I don’t know what will! Not knowing this information once cost me a whopping $600. Don’t let the same thing happen to you!

What Is A No Show Policy?

Although every airline has the right to choose exactly what its no show policy is, most airlines follow the standard rule. Simply put, a standard no show policy usually means that if you don’t show up at the airport for your flight, you forfeit the entire value of your ticket completely. So if your plans suddenly change and you decide to skip-out on one leg of your flight, you actually forfeit the entire ticket and your funds are non-refundable, non-exchangeable, etc etc.

No Show Policies For Round Trip Flights

Most people who learn about no-show policies the hard way usually share a pretty similar story. That story goes something like this…

“I booked a round trip flight to go visit a friend of mine. At the last minute, my plans changed and I ended up renting a car and driving the first leg instead. Then, when it was time to fly back home, I showed up at the airport only to discover that my confirmation number no longer worked, my ticket had been cancelled and I had to book a brand new one-way flight at full fare!

Yup, the evil No Show Policy strikes again!

This same story comes in so many forms and permutations, but it usually starts with someone changing their flight plans last minute WITHOUT contacting the airline. Why would somebody do that? Well, plans can and often do change without notice. But the primary reason for not letting the airline know about a change is usually to avoid paying a change or cancellation fee.

If you’re booking a one-way flight only, then it doesn’t matter if you just skip out on your flight. But if you have another piece (or pieces) of a flight remaining, you risk losing ALL of it and being stranded.

Most Airlines Have Strict No-Show Policies

A quick browse across the web reveals some pretty consistent no-show conventions throughout the airline industry…

American Airlines:
“Customers who no-show a flight without canceling will lose the value of the remaining coupons.”

United Airlines:
“Inventory spoilage caused by the failure to issue tickets and/or cancel ticketed or unticketed reservations.”

Virgin America:
“Our no-show policy is simply that, if you fail to check in, Virgin America will cancel that flight reservation and all subsequent segments for continuing or return flights. On non-refundable fares, the fare or Elevate points spent for all such reservations will be forfeited. So please contact us within the appropriate time and we will gladly reschedule or cancel your flight. If the fare is refundable, then you can contact our call center for credit. Again, change/cancel fees may apply.”
(I especially liked Virgin America’s policy language.)

Southwest seems to be the only airline that does NOT strictly enforce a no-show policy, though this information I found on the website (NOT on the SWA website)…

Southwest Airlines:
“On Southwest, unlike other airlines, you can no-show the outbound half and still keep your return reservation.”

What To Do If You’ll Be A No-Show

There’s a simple rule of thumb you can follow to avoid getting penalized by airline no-show policy — ALWAYS call the airline if you think you might miss your flight. Even if you sleep in or something happens outside your control, ALWAYS call.

Most airlines will work with you if you’re upfront about what’s going on with your travel plans. But truly the worst thing you can do is just not show-up. There’s no reason to miss an opportunity to salvage at least some of your ticket value.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi July 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

I did a No-show with a flight I purchased from Orbitz. It was a $1000 roundtrip flight. I called the airlines and Orbitz to see if I could have gotten any refund for about a week to fight it. Finally they gave me the option of getting refund back for taxes which was worth $270. So that was better than nothing, but they never offered me that option first. I had to keep calling until one customer service guy told me that I could get my taxes back. The one-way ticket back cost $500.


agnes October 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I bought tickets worth $3095 …. to china for me and my kids … showed up at the airport 45 minutes before flight due to an accident right outside of the airport . we were stuck in traffic for 2 hours ….we were willing to get on next flight for a fee BUT no … we were told it was not going to happen …. the airline ( air canada and the travel agent ITN ) all said that money is down the drain ,,,,, I am going to fight this one …. since we were at the airport …. please give me any ideas how to fight it … small claims court ? dispute charge ? ….


Laticia January 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm

UPDATE: with several weeks of 30-60min hold times on many different calls with customer relations, supervisors and emails to CEO’s I manages to get $2500 back. I am still out $1046.46 ($523.23 per ticket cancelation fee) I’m fighting that too!
I’m not getting penalized for airline laziness)
Good things will happen. You just need to be percistant, take names, log calls and search the web for higher ups, CEO’s etc. good luck! And post your findings.


Laticia December 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

My husban and I were flying one way from Perth, Australia to Orlando, Florida where we live. We arrived at the International departures 2 hours prior to catch our flight. We were issued tickets and sent to the domestic departures for the firt leg of the trip ( Perth to Melbourne).
When we arrived to check the baggage we were told our luggage can’t go. We were then abrutly told we aren’t able to take the flight so we asked for our boarding passes back from Qantas service desk. The reluctently gave them back and followed up with “Here’s your tickets, they’re worthless anyway”

We called immediately to our booking agent. The plane hadnt even left the tarmac. Needless to say, we are out of pocket US$3500 in tickets and are tagged a “No Show”
When does the airlines take responsability, when the customer is there for the flight and they don’t let you on the plane?

What action can I take to be heard?


Kasey January 28, 2013 at 10:30 am

Thanks for posting this. I was really hoping to drive the last leg of a flight I’m taking at the end of the month and I’m pretty bummed to find out I can’t do that. I’m going to look into what I can do to change the tickets, but I appreciate your clear and concise blog about the no show policy.


Bill February 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm

We missed an Emirates flight (SFO to New Delhi, by way of Dubai) due to a mechanical delay on a United Airlines flight. I DID call Emirates when I thought we might miss the flight. The fellow told me that the cost of canceling would be $200/ticket & a no-show would be $400/ticket. He also told me the next available flight wasn’t for three days. We decided to go for it, because a 3-day delay would have meant no Christmas with our kids. Needless to say, we missed the flight. I called Emirates again and they told me that they could put me on a flight the NEXT day and that I would be charged $800 per ticket for the no-show – $400 for each leg of the flight, or $1,600. I was appalled at this apparent bait and switch, but had no choice.
How can I go about getting recourse from Emirates and/or United?


KPOM May 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm

FYI, Southwest has changed their policies.You need to cancel at least 10 minutes before the flight or it’s like the other airlines. They still don’t charge change fees and you can re-use the funds, but I don’t know if they’ll let you cancel just the first leg of a reservation (at least not online). Perhaps the word to the wise for Southwest fliers is to book 2 one-way fares rather than a round trip. The cost is exactly the same. That way, if you do cancel the first leg, you won’t need to re-buy the second leg at the Anytime fare.


Jeff August 25, 2013 at 8:01 am

My family & I booked 4 return tickets on Lufthansa DUB – FRA – DBV returning DBV – DUS- DUB. for 1285 EUR. Outbound and return were the same price.

We did not show for the outbound legs and so Lufthansa cancelled our returns. After some confusion they gave us the cheapest return route they could find 1936 EUR. I believe under the TOC they should also refund the cancelled legs but no one at the airport explained this.

Now I understand that under the TOC we were contracting to take the flights in sequence. However, we weren’t planning to use the out bound tickets, so before booking I duly contacted lufthansa and explained just that. The rep merely said that is up to you. I specifically asked would there be a difficulty because the one way fares were almost double. Again the rep said ” that is your decision”.

I’m sure if I press it, Lufthansa will come up with some language barrier waffle. But here’s the real point. The rep was obliged to tell me that Lufthansa would cancel the returns if we didn’t show and did not do so when I asked about it.

so Lufthansa the broke the contract not us. I’m not a lawyer but I know you cant enter into a contract without good intention that it will be executed. I think I was deliberately misled and should be entitled to a full refund.


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