During regular travel times, a non-refundable airfare is generally forfeited if you voluntarily decide to cancel the ticket. Even though you won’t get your hard-earned money back, there is an opportunity to get some taxes back, as most third-party and government charges are bundled in the fare.
After scouring the website of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), I wasn’t able to find a firm blanket policy that outlines what happens to third-party fees and charges in the event of a non-refundable ticket being voluntarily cancelled.
However, it is a reasonable expectation that you would get third-party fees refunded if they’re not used, as airlines only get charged when you proceed to use the ticket. Many carriers do have a policy relating to this, however, some may charge ‘administrative fees’ to get your money back.
Here is what we know about the policies on non-refundable fares from six major airlines.
Qantas has a somewhat ambiguous policy within its Conditions of Carriage. Under Section 13.4 (Refunds on Taxes and Charges), it states:
“Whether or not your airfare is refundable, if you do not use your Ticket, you may be entitled to claim a refund of certain charges and taxes which you have paid, except for any amounts we have had to pay to third parties even though you have not travelled. We may deduct a reasonable administration fee. If the fee exceeds the amount of the refund, no refund will be paid.”
The two main points to note. Firstly, Qantas may refuse a refund on taxes paid if the airline has already given the funds to the relevant third-party before travel. It’s unclear whether this rule would hold up if you approached the ACCC or your state/territory’s consumer protection agency.
Secondly, a ‘reasonable administration fee’ may be charged, which is in line with other airline policies. Though there is no indication what that fee may be, Qantas is likely within their rights to charge such an administration fee for processing your refund of taxes, as it would require manual intervention.
Virgin Australia’s Conditions of Carriage do not outline what will happen to third-party taxes and charges in the event you cancel a non-refundable fare.
After looking at the airline’s Taxes, Fees and Charges policies for travel agents, it is implied that residual (unused) taxes and charges should be refundable if a ticket is cancelled. It’s best to check with the Guest Contact Centre if this situation applies to you.
However, it’s made quite clear that payment and credit card charges, coded as ‘OB’ on your ticket, and other Virgin Australia-specific fees, coded as ‘YR’ on your ticket, are not refundable under any circumstances.
Like its parent Qantas, Jetstar does outline what happens in the case that you cancel a non-refundable fare. Under its Fees & Charges page, it reads:
“If you choose not to travel, contact us to request a refund of certain third-party charges and Government taxes that may be included in your fare: excluding fuel and insurance surcharges. If you request a refund of these third-party charges and taxes, the following administration fee applies, unless otherwise exempted by applicable law. If this administration fee exceeds the amount of the available refund, no refund will be paid and you will not be charged an administration fee.”
The administration fees, as of 18 May 2020, are:
|Jetstar Airways (JQ)||$50 AUD or NZD|
|Jetstar Asia (3K)||$50 SGD for all origins, except:|
2.20 MYR when departing from Malaysia
|Jetstar Japan (GK) domestic||¥3,090 JPY|
|Jetstar Japan (GK) international||¥4,150 JPY|
|Jetstar Pacific (BL) domestic||400,000₫ VND or $18 USD|
|Jetstar Pacific (BL) international||900,000₫ VND or $50 SGD or $40 USD|
Unlike its parent Virgin Australia, Tigerair does have a written policy regarding the refund of taxes and charges on a cancelled non-refundable fare. Under its Conditions of Carriage, Section 13.2:
“If after having made a reservation you do not fly with us, whether or not a refund of the fare is payable, you may be entitled to claim a refund of any taxes paid and payable by you, which as a consequence we have no obligation to pay to any government or other authority. We will deduct an administration fee from any such refund, as published on our Website on the date you request the refund. The administration fee is not payable if you are entitled to a refund under applicable Laws, including the Australian Consumer Law.”
This is a rather reasonable policy, as it acknowledges that the airline no longer has to pay the government or other authority when you don’t board a flight, and it also acknowledges Australian Consumer Law for when you are entitled a refund (i.e. a non-voluntary cancellation).
As noted on Tigerair’s Fees & Charges page, the refund administration fee currently stands at $50 AUD per passenger at the time of writing.
Regional Express will also refund unused taxes and surcharges on cancelled fares. Under its Conditions of Carriage, Section 8:
“Your air ticket comprises 3rd party taxes and charges like airport head tax, security screening charges etc which we collect as a deposit as part of the all-inclusive airfare. This will be paid on your behalf to the 3rd parties when travel has taken place. The deposit amount varies due to differences in 3rd party taxes and charges. Regardless of whether your airfare is refundable, if your ticket expires at the end of one year from date of purchase with sectors unused, you are entitled to claim a refund of the corresponding deposit, less a reasonable administration fee currently fixed at $44 (incl GST) per passenger per booking regardless of the number of sectors in the booking. All claims must be made prior to ticket expiry. Please fill out the enquiries form on the Rex website to claim this refund.”
The enquiries form is found here on REX’s website.
Moving beyond Australia’s major airlines, AirAsia will generally refund government taxes on cancelled bookings. Under an FAQ on its website:
“In the situation where you did not board the flight, you may request for a refund on the Airport Tax paid, within six (6) months after the scheduled date of flight departure. You have the option of an AirAsia Credit Account or back to the original mode of payment.
Should you prefer the AirAsia Credit Account, the full amount of the airport taxes paid will be refunded. On the contrary, a refund back to the Original Payment Mode is subject to a refund fee (per guest per sector) as stated in our Fees and Charges.”
In short, you can avoid the administration refund fee if you opt for a credit of the taxes rather than a refund back to the original source. For bookings departing Australia, the refund fee is set at $50 AUD per person.
As you can see from the six examples we’ve covered, most airlines will be reasonable when it comes to refunding unused taxes and charges on a cancelled non-refundable ticket. However, do expect to pay ‘reasonable administration fees’ when doing so, which is in the region of $50 AUD per person.
The quickest way to find out if your airline has a policy regarding tax refunds is to look for their Conditions of Carriage, then search for the word ‘tax’ within it. Many carriers will include a clause about refunding taxes in certain circumstances.
If you’re not able to find it, try the airline’s ‘help’ or ‘frequently asked question’ pages to see if there is a dedicated article about it.
I found similar policies for Singapore Airlines, Emirates (Section 4.2.5) and Etihad (Section 4.2.2), using this method. If you’re still stuck, let us know in the Point Hacks Community and we’ll do our best to help you.
Finally, if you have a COVID-19 related cancellation, you may be eligible for a full refund, even on non-refundable fares. Check out our guide to Coronavirus Fee Waivers for more information.