Refundable airline tickets versus non refundable airline tickets

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Oct 30, 2018
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#1
My question to you is what kind of advice you might be able to provide me on the following:

I have signed up for a trip through an agency that specializes in (possibly) seeing the northern lights. They recommend the following in their brochure: a) providing proof of having travel insurance and b) making flight arrangements that are "refundable".​


I understand the rationale for having "travel insurance" and when I do trips like this, I'm totally on board. However, I'm puzzled by their recommendation to secure "refundable" airline tickets. Those tickets are kind of expensive. In my previous experiences, my "nonrefundable" tickets seem to have worked out rather well (like when I had to fly to Buenos Aires for my trip to Antartica).

I will be traveling to Finland from the United States and on trips of that duration, I would prefer to travel in business class, but at some point, the cost does become rather daunting.

Please, do you have any advice for someone in my situation??
 
Feb 16, 2018
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#2
I would assume that the reason they recommend refundable is in case there is a reason that the Northern Lights can't be seen, (i.e.: atmospheric conditions)the insurance wont't cover that.
 
Sep 12, 2018
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#3
It’s possible that I’m misunderstanding your question, but it seems to me that if the trip insurance is cheaper than the fare difference to get a refundable ticket, buy the insurance. Getting a refund or credit for any part of an unused, non-refundable fare is onerous, to say the least. And if you decide to go for the insurance, please make 100% certain that the policy you buy covers the reasons you might want to cancel, and that you understand any exceptions or conditions *before* you purchase the policy or tickets. All policies are not created equal, and just because you think something’s covered doesn’t mean it is.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#4
It sounds like they might possibly cancel the trip at the last minute. If they do, travel insurance usually doesn’t cover a cancellation for this reason.

I highly recommend you do what they advise of make sure you buy a cancel for any reason any reason insurance policy. You won’t be made whole if they cancel but you won’t lose everything you paid for the air either.

I suggest before you go any further you do a google search for “complaints about xyz company”
( whatever the company is). This doesn’t sound right.
 
Likes: jsn55
Mar 14, 2018
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#5
This will be an unpopular recommendation on this board, but I suggest you look at Norwegian Air. Fully refundable premium class tickets are quite reasonable from them (less than $3K). I flew them last year and found it pretty nice--not a lay-flat seat, but still much better than economy class.

As I'm sure others will chime in, leave some slack in your reservations since, if something goes wrong, it may take longer to recover.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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113
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www.promalvacations.com
#6
This will be an unpopular recommendation on this board, but I suggest you look at Norwegian Air. Fully refundable premium class tickets are quite reasonable from them (less than $3K). I flew them last year and found it pretty nice--not a lay-flat seat, but still much better than economy class.

As I'm sure others will chime in, leave some slack in your reservations since, if something goes wrong, it may take longer to recover.
If you do, book yourself at least 2 days before you actually have to be there just in case.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
Norwegian is still having problems with the 787s being grounded and there are substitutions of aircrafts some quite old and not so great. There are many unhappy travelers that have ended up on leased charter planes such as HiFly or Priveledge Style.—

If anything goes wrong Norwegian does not handle disruptions well, there are many reports of people not getting another seat for days. Insurance of course helps.
 
Likes: jsn55

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
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Maui Hawaii
#8
My question to you is what kind of advice you might be able to provide me on the following:

I have signed up for a trip through an agency that specializes in (possibly) seeing the northern lights. They recommend the following in their brochure: a) providing proof of having travel insurance and b) making flight arrangements that are "refundable".​


I understand the rationale for having "travel insurance" and when I do trips like this, I'm totally on board. However, I'm puzzled by their recommendation to secure "refundable" airline tickets. Those tickets are kind of expensive. In my previous experiences, my "nonrefundable" tickets seem to have worked out rather well (like when I had to fly to Buenos Aires for my trip to Antartica).

I will be traveling to Finland from the United States and on trips of that duration, I would prefer to travel in business class, but at some point, the cost does become rather daunting.

Please, do you have any advice for someone in my situation??
Where is your point of origin in the US, and where in Finland are you going? What dates are you looking at?
Be sure to arrive in Finland 2 days (or more) before your scheduled tour.
Norwegian is currently a risk if you need to be in Finland on a date that is not at all flexible.
I generally do not book refundable tickets except for business. For personal travel, the non-refundable tickets are a lot less expensive.
You can always use the tickets and have other activities in Finland if your original plans are disrupted by the lights.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
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#9
Another thought-to avoid very high-cost, refundable business class tickets, if you have the time, it may be much less expensive to buy refundable economy class, but break the long trip up with a stopover along the way. Many of the US flights to Finland stop in some very interesting countries (like Iceland for example) with free stopovers.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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#10
Cancel for any reason policies seem to becoming increasingly difficult to find; I just tried to find one and have been unable to find them where I used to with ease.

The issue with Cancel for Any Reason policies (again, in my experience) is that they require you cancel 48 hours pre-departure date/time and then the refund is usually around 75% - not 100%. Maybe this tour company has experienced situations where cancelation were made within less than 48 hours pre-departure time.

I have zero idea how often it occurs where the Northern Lights are not visible and trips get canceled but you might want to do some sleuthing to learn if it is common, very uncommon, really really rare, whatever - that might help you decide though, of course, it will not mean much for future viewings.

Have you had a conversation about this issue with the tour company? Maybe that would help clarify some questions for you.

Also - consider what else you might do if the lights are not a possibility; will the entire trip be a bust or do you have other plans for when there?

Refundable fares are pricey especially in Business Class -

Good luck whatever you wind up doing.
 

AMA

Verified Member
Dec 11, 2014
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#11
We are so glad to see someone asking these questions BEFORE buying tickets/reservations. Good for you for thinking ahead of the game!
 
Likes: Tricia K.

Neil Maley

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#12
We are so glad to see someone asking these questions BEFORE buying tickets/reservations. Good for you for thinking ahead of the game!
I don’t know about that. The writer says they have signed up for the trip through an agency.

I’d like to know the name of the company do we can view the terms and conditions. I’m not comfortable with a company that requires a refundable ticket- that usually means if they don’t get enough spots sold they cancel the tour.
 
Likes: Nancy
Oct 30, 2018
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#13
Oh, my! I had no idea that posing such a question on a forum would generate so many responses that make perfect sense! Everyone of you who have posted something here has given me very useful information and suggestions on what to do - I sort of feel a little naive right now (maybe too trusting?) Anyway, I do know that the chance of seeing the northern lights is a crap shoot - that's why I'm starting now - if I don't see them this year, I will try again, maybe from a different location - all I know is that they are on my bucket list and I must see them before I "go". Anyway, I did do my usual "research" that I probably should have done with this travel company - Aurora Travel - I sort of took them at their word, recognizing that seeing the northern lights was no guarantee - totally dependent on on the solar cycle. But, aside from that, I like the suggestion of maybe building into this trip an extra day or so to explore someplace that is on the way, like Iceland - but the problem there is that I would find want to spend more time in Iceland!! As far as the suggestion to be sure to include a couple of days before meeting the tour group, I have looked into sleeping accommodations at Gatwick and have learned I can indeed a place to "rest" at Gatwick to for a day before I meet up with Aurora - this is definitely something I will do - I don't do jet lag well.

As far as travel insurance goes, thank you so much for your sage advice! Especially about the "cancel for no reason" part. I have not signed up for that in my past trips because I'm so darned stubborn that the only way I would not take the trip was if I was on a ventilator and comatose! The refundable comments about tickets, I still am not quite clear on the concept - they really are VERY expensive and for a trip of such duration, I really want to take advantage of "business class" amenities (but I am not a diva who needs that!) So, your comments tell me that I have options when it comes to getting travel insurance and that is to explore what their coverage is for such tickets. I (naively) assumed that airline tickets would not be covered by travel insurance.

If anyone out there has any other comments that will help me, I greatly appreciate your insight, your experience, everything! I'm retiring 12/31/18 and am looking forward to taking advantage of my ability to travel anywhere while I am still "young and healthy"! For me, it's like starting another phase of my life and I'm excited to be able to take advantage of this opportunity!! Thank you!! :)

Jane
 
Likes: Tricia K.

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,427
1,399
113
Maui Hawaii
#14
Oh, my! I had no idea that posing such a question on a forum would generate so many responses that make perfect sense! Everyone of you who have posted something here has given me very useful information and suggestions on what to do - I sort of feel a little naive right now (maybe too trusting?) Anyway, I do know that the chance of seeing the northern lights is a crap shoot - that's why I'm starting now - if I don't see them this year, I will try again, maybe from a different location - all I know is that they are on my bucket list and I must see them before I "go". Anyway, I did do my usual "research" that I probably should have done with this travel company - Aurora Travel - I sort of took them at their word, recognizing that seeing the northern lights was no guarantee - totally dependent on the solar cycle. But, aside from that, I like the suggestion of maybe building into this trip an extra day or so to explore someplace that is on the way, like Iceland - but the problem there is that I would find want to spend more time in Iceland!! As far as the suggestion to be sure to include a couple of days before meeting the tour group, I have looked into sleeping accommodations at Gatwick and have learned I can indeed a place to "rest" at Gatwick to for a day before I meet up with Aurora - this is definitely something I will do - I don't do jet lag well.

As far as travel insurance goes, thank you so much for your sage advice! Especially about the "cancel for no reason" part. I have not signed up for that in my past trips because I'm so darned stubborn that the only way I would not take the trip was if I was on a ventilator and comatose! The refundable comments about tickets, I still am not quite clear on the concept - they really are VERY expensive and for a trip of such duration, I really want to take advantage of "business class" amenities (but I am not a diva who needs that!) So, your comments tell me that I have options when it comes to getting travel insurance and that is to explore what their coverage is for such tickets. I (naively) assumed that airline tickets would not be covered by travel insurance.

If anyone out there has any other comments that will help me, I greatly appreciate your insight, your experience, everything! I'm retiring 12/31/18 and am looking forward to taking advantage of my ability to travel anywhere while I am still "young and healthy"! For me, it's like starting another phase of my life and I'm excited to be able to take advantage of this opportunity!! Thank you!! :)

Jane
Another point--using https://www.seatguru.com/ will allow you to select premium economy seats that often have as much or more leg room than business class. Buying selected refundable prem econ seats can give you a great seat at a fraction of the price of business class.
Flying through Iceland gives you a flight leg from the E Coast that is only 5 hrs (with a free stopover) --maybe not worth the big extra expense of bus class.

Enjoy retirement--we just completed our 4th international trip (S Pacific X 2, Canada, Central Europe) in 10 months. It's time to take advantage of time, good health, and freedom. Your plans and planning are great. Travel and the travel process are a learning experience. Our last trip took us through 12 times zones, but we broke the trip up in both directions, arriving in Europe 2 days prior to our tour to adjust.

Also be sure you have medical insurance for international travel included in any insurance package you buy. Many US health insurance plans DO NOT cover illness/injury outside the US; some do and this may influence your choice of a health insurance plan post-retirement. Medicare does not either. Your posts suggest you may have a medical background and you know stuff happens to the "young and healthy"!
 
Likes: Nancy

Neil Maley

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#15
What is the full name of the company? Aurora Travel comes up as a Vietnam supplier or a travel agency in Queens NY. I’d like to see the terms and conditions of their tours.

I’d also suggest finding a travel agency that specializes in the Northern Lights for guidance. Your best bet is a cruise that does that area because you are away from the city lights and moving from area to area. There is a line that offers Northern Lights promise- if you take a 12 day Northern Lights Cruise and don’t see any lights, they give you a free 6-7 day cruise.
 
Oct 30, 2018
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#16
Mr. Maley - I truly did not consider a cruise that specializes in northern lights as an option - hear "head bump on the table" - it did not occur to me it might be a viable option! If I do not see the northern lights on this trip, then my next trip would definitely look into that as an option - I am not going to leave this mortal coil without seeing the northern lights!

The name of the travel company who has arranged this trip is "Aurora Zone". I will sadly admit that I didn't do extensive research on this company (which is unlike me) but I grasped at what I thought would provide the best possibility of seeing the northern lights. I am usually very careful about how I commit to a "sponsored" trip having experienced the Lindblad/National Geographic trips I've taken in the past. I've not been disappointed by my experience with them but this time, I was seeking a smaller group - more personal. Don't get me wrong - my experiences with Lindblad/ National Geographic have been un-f*^king believable and I wouldn't do anything different. But, this time, I just want a few people around me.

Mr. Weilach, thank you so much for the possibilities you have mentioned that are open to me plus your experience with refundable premier economy seats - I have not explored that option because I didn't know it existed (naive but not stupid! :) You have provided me with information that I will be able to use when I make my flight arrangements - like I said - I don't need "diva" service - I just want to be as comfortable as I can on a trip of this duration. I absolutely love your suggestion of taking a little "side trip" in Iceland - more to whet my appetite to return for more! Since I no longer have to answer to the daily regimen of going to work, this gives me so much freedom with my time and I intend to make the most of it!! :)

Also, I appreciate your advice about following up about medical insurance as part of the travel insurance I look into - this is critical when considering options - I believe I'm healthy enough that this would not be a concern for me . . . BUT, when I was on my trip to Antartica, the South Georgia Islands and the Falkland Islands, I witnessed what the possibilities are . . . after hiking Shackleton's route over the mountains, I descended from this wonderful trek only to discover that a woman freaked out when a baby seal approached her and she backed into a f*^king trench, broke her hip and we never made it to Shackleton's grave where I was looking forward to saluting him with a "wee bit a' single malt scotch" - nope, didn't happen - we had to make a beeline to the Falkland Islands so she could be airlifted to Santiago, Chile, since Argentina would not allow any planes from the Falklands to land (due to the "misunderstanding" they have about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands or Islas Malvinas - I have no "skin" in this disagreement so I really didn't care). Selfish it might sound but I was EXTREMELY disappointed about not being able to raise a toast to Shackleton over his grave.

Regardless, I do have to think about "evacuation" from areas that are remote. It is very expensive . . . some folks have a yearly plan they pay into for such situations to guarantee expenses will be covered . . but damn - I just don't feel I've reached that point yet! I'm going to hike the Appalachian Trail once I get conditioned for it - this is a goal of mine - I love the Appalachian mountains and I have to hike the trail - don't care how long it takes me but I'm going to do it. So, you're right on target about my having a health background - I am a registered nurse with a Masters in "Chronic Care" - I have not been in a clinical setting since 2001 but I do understand the physical risks before me - if I do not feel ready or capable of starting this hike, I won't do it but, whoa! right now, I see no limitations to what I can do. Other than the "naive" part.

Oh, dear - this post of mine is WAY too long - I apologize to anyone who is foolish enough to open it - this is not normal for me. But, reading all of your posts has been a tremendous help to me, and I greatly appreciate your interest in providing me with advice to insure I have the best possible experience. Thank you!!!!!

Jane
 
Feb 3, 2017
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#17
Anything on earth can happen - one can be crossing a street, get hit by a vehicle; trip and fall - having that medical coverage really has nothing to do with age or health status or even locale one is visiting.

I know someone who was hit by a car incurring serious injuries - at the ripe old age of 33 - and wound up in hospital for a few weeks and would have faced huge medical bills if not for his medical coverage through his travel insurance (his U.S. policy, like mine, does not cover international travel) -

It is a choice we all make but given the high cost of travel and the ever-rising cost of medical care, it is prudent to set aside what is usually a small part of an overall travel budget to have this peace of mind - just in case.

I'm glad to read you will more carefully research any future vendors - it is a minefield of choices online these days, old ones and new ones that pop up every day.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#18
Pandoradean, please read our thread on what travel insurance covers. It has nothing to do with whether or not you are healthy- what if you fell and broke your leg a week before your trip?

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/the-right-travel-insurance.1283/

I highly recommend speaking to a travel agent for your next trip. And agent can give you information on many different ways to see the Lights and many different places as well.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,112
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www.promalvacations.com
#19
I found their terms and conditions and the reason they want you to but refundable tickets is just what I thought- if they don’t fill a minimim number of seats- they cancel the tour.

10. Cancellation by us

Occasionally, it may be necessary to cancel confirmed holiday arrangements. In the event (i) we are prevented from performing your contracted holiday arrangements as a result of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances (see clause 11) and we notify you of this as soon as reasonably possible; or (ii) we have to cancel because the number of persons who have booked the holiday on which you are travelling is smaller than the minimum number applicable to the holiday as stated in the contract and you are notified of the cancellation not less than 20 days before departure if your holiday lasts more than 6 days or not less than 7 days before departure where your holiday lasts between 2 and 6 days; we have the right to terminate your contract.

In this situation, we will refund all monies you have paid to us within 14 days of the date we inform you of the cancellation but will have no further or other liability to you including in respect of compensation or any costs or expenses you incur or have incurred. We will of course endeavour to offer you comparable alternative arrangements where possible which you may choose to book in place of those cancelled.

Many tour companies do this and we advise clients not to buy air until a tour has been confirmed by the tour company.

Make sure you read their requirement about insurance- they require proof of medical insurance for their Tours. I don’t know if you are located in the US but if you are- most health insurance doesn’t cover you outside of the US. Check with your health insurance company.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,427
1,399
113
Maui Hawaii
#20
Mr. Maley - I truly did not consider a cruise that specializes in northern lights as an option - hear "head bump on the table" - it did not occur to me it might be a viable option! If I do not see the northern lights on this trip, then my next trip would definitely look into that as an option - I am not going to leave this mortal coil without seeing the northern lights!

The name of the travel company who has arranged this trip is "Aurora Zone". I will sadly admit that I didn't do extensive research on this company (which is unlike me) but I grasped at what I thought would provide the best possibility of seeing the northern lights. I am usually very careful about how I commit to a "sponsored" trip having experienced the Lindblad/National Geographic trips I've taken in the past. I've not been disappointed by my experience with them but this time, I was seeking a smaller group - more personal. Don't get me wrong - my experiences with Lindblad/ National Geographic have been un-f*^king believable and I wouldn't do anything different. But, this time, I just want a few people around me.

Mr. Weilach, thank you so much for the possibilities you have mentioned that are open to me plus your experience with refundable premier economy seats - I have not explored that option because I didn't know it existed (naive but not stupid! :) You have provided me with information that I will be able to use when I make my flight arrangements - like I said - I don't need "diva" service - I just want to be as comfortable as I can on a trip of this duration. I absolutely love your suggestion of taking a little "side trip" in Iceland - more to whet my appetite to return for more! Since I no longer have to answer to the daily regimen of going to work, this gives me so much freedom with my time and I intend to make the most of it!! :)

Also, I appreciate your advice about following up about medical insurance as part of the travel insurance I look into - this is critical when considering options - I believe I'm healthy enough that this would not be a concern for me . . . BUT, when I was on my trip to Antartica, the South Georgia Islands and the Falkland Islands, I witnessed what the possibilities are . . . after hiking Shackleton's route over the mountains, I descended from this wonderful trek only to discover that a woman freaked out when a baby seal approached her and she backed into a f*^king trench, broke her hip and we never made it to Shackleton's grave where I was looking forward to saluting him with a "wee bit a' single malt scotch" - nope, didn't happen - we had to make a beeline to the Falkland Islands so she could be airlifted to Santiago, Chile, since Argentina would not allow any planes from the Falklands to land (due to the "misunderstanding" they have about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands or Islas Malvinas - I have no "skin" in this disagreement so I really didn't care). Selfish it might sound but I was EXTREMELY disappointed about not being able to raise a toast to Shackleton over his grave.

Regardless, I do have to think about "evacuation" from areas that are remote. It is very expensive . . . some folks have a yearly plan they pay into for such situations to guarantee expenses will be covered . . but damn - I just don't feel I've reached that point yet! I'm going to hike the Appalachian Trail once I get conditioned for it - this is a goal of mine - I love the Appalachian mountains and I have to hike the trail - don't care how long it takes me but I'm going to do it. So, you're right on target about my having a health background - I am a registered nurse with a Masters in "Chronic Care" - I have not been in a clinical setting since 2001 but I do understand the physical risks before me - if I do not feel ready or capable of starting this hike, I won't do it but, whoa! right now, I see no limitations to what I can do. Other than the "naive" part.

Oh, dear - this post of mine is WAY too long - I apologize to anyone who is foolish enough to open it - this is not normal for me. But, reading all of your posts has been a tremendous help to me, and I greatly appreciate your interest in providing me with advice to insure I have the best possible experience. Thank you!!!!!

Jane
You should look at one of the recent posts on cruise and health insurance. A "healthy retired" couple paid for a cruise and 3 days prior the husband had his first kidney stone-trip canceled. No travel ins, they wondered why they could not get a refund. They were asking for insurance benefits without purchasing the insurance.

Travel insurance would cover this, as well as a broken leg or MVA prior to the trip. It also would cover illness/injury on the trip as well as repatriation (if that benefit was included). No traveler is "healthy" enough to safely travel outside the US without insurance. When I was 21 I went to London with a group; one member looked left and stepped into the path of a car coming from the right. He was REALLY REALLY healthy until he wasn't. Luckily for him, England has NHS, otherwise he would have been charged many $$$ which he did not have. As you know from your background, cr*p happens to healthy, careful people.

I spent 40+ years in Emergency Departments so I have seen it all. I recently saw a young widower traveling to ski with his 3 young kids. He fractured his femur; kids alone, can't drive, no family nearby. It was much more challenging to rearrange care for the kids than fix a simple femur fracture. Things happen.