In certain circumstances you may be eligible for a refund, but you’re probably going to need some proof from a doctor. Let’s look into this somewhat complicated question.

Will the airline refund me if I am too sick to fly?

In some cases, yes they will. Especially in light of what the last few years have been like, there are certainly some instances in which air travel is discouraged, if not outright forbidden. If you fall into any of these categories, you may have a case for a refund:

  1. You have a positive COVID-19 test
  2. You have a high fever or some sort of respiratory illness
  3. You just underwent surgery, or had a heart attack or stroke

Let’s look at each scenario.

1. You have a positive COVID-19 test

COVID-19 is still a highly contagious virus, if not a national emergency. You’re not permitted to fly. If you have COVID, stay home.

2. You have a high fever or some sort of respiratory illness

High fever is usually a sign of infection, and respiratory symptoms are some of the most easily transmissible infections. This is particularly true in closed environments on public transportation. Finally, on an airplane for a prolonged period of time you’re sitting in close quarters next to the same person. If you have a confirmed respiratory illness, you should probably stay home and you might be eligible for a refund.

3. You just underwent surgery, or had a heart attack or stroke

This final, and most serious category, puts you in a no-fly population. Those folks who’ve undergone recent surgery or have suffered a cardiac or ischemic event like a stroke, are at increased risk of blood clots, which can be exacerbated by flying.

What are the rules for your airline ticket?

The good news for sick travelers is that airlines have largely eliminated pesky change fees from the past. Now, if you need to delay your trip for illness, you can usually do so without penalty.

Most airlines now allow changes with Economy tickets. When you are well enough to travel, you’ll just have to pay the difference in cost for an airline ticket (if there is one for your new dates).

How can you get a refund if you’re too sick to fly?

First, if you can get some sort of note from your doctor you should have that in hand for when you reach out to the airlines to plead your case.

Next, make sure you reach out to the airline before your travel date. It’s next to impossible to try and get some sort of refund or credit when you effectively no-showed for a flight.

Finally, get on the phone and talk to your airline or online travel agency. Let them know you’re too sick to fly. Most people’s best case scenario will be to obtain a credit for future travel, rather than an outright refund. Keep in mind that the airline reps do have a certain amount of latitude in what they will allow a passenger to recoup, but outright refunds are usually reserved for only the most serious situations.

How CheapAir.com helps travelers who are too sick to fly

Our travel advisor team will help change your plans if you’re under the weather. We can communicate with the airlines to help you make the best decision for your particular situation.

7 Comments

  1. I had a heart attack on 18/10/23 and I have a flight to Brasil on 09/02/24 with BA, QOASM8, due to a bypass surgery that I am on the waiting list, I will not be able to go.
    British Airways is refusing to refund me the money and also want to charge me if I want to change the date but only giving me up to April as I bought my ticket in April, but I can’t do that as I don’t have date for the surgery yet.
    I have sent to BA my doctor sick note, but the staff from BA said there is no exception

    • Hi Edmilson,

      We’re so sorry to hear that. When it comes to requesting a refund, the airlines can be very strict. Ultimately it is up to the airline what they will refund and what they will not. You could always try to call BA back and see what another agent says, but it’s likely they have noted your reservation so when/if you do call in they know what they told you… but it may be worth a shot. Just make sure that if you are not able to get the refund and you are certain you won’t be taking that flight then you must cancel your flight prior to departure to ensure you’ll have credit for a future trip. It sounds like the airline won’t even waive their change fees, so you may still have to pay to change the dates. It’s really up to the airline what they will waive or refund. If you purchased your flight through another company other than BA directly, you could reach out to them and ask them to pursue the refund on your behalf. Ultimately it’s all up to the airline still to decide.

      Your health is most important and we wish you all the best with your bypass surgery.

  2. I have a friend that got very sick nmin n Mexico and he has no extra cash but his ticket is for December 15 travel but he needs to get to his dr in the USA sooner than that because some treatments Mexico is charging him he doesn’t have the cash to pay the extra money if he could get home he has Medicare can you help him

  3. I recently had emergency eye surgery resulting in me being unfit to fly. I had booked a flight to Paris to watch the RWC and requested a refund as I not cannot travel as planned but instead of being given cash I’m being offered a voucher. I do not want cash as this trip was specifically for the RWC which will be over by the time I’m able to fly again. How can I get a cash refund?
    Thank you.

  4. I have tested positive for covid and have been told I can’t fly. However because my tickets is a economy light ticket they won’t change it to a later date. Tickets are now sky high and I can afford to get home.

    • Hi Angel, I’m sorry to hear that. I wish you a speedy and full recovery. I tried to locate your booking to see if we can do anything on our end but could not locate a booking with you email address. Though many airlines have made some airfares very flexible, they have also added lower fares that are completely not changeable or refundable. If have travel insurance, we recommend going through your insurance company. Otherwise, you can try to appeal to the airline with medical records but it is at their discretion. We wish you the best of luck resolving this issue. Thank you

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