Airline refund policies--they have a tendency to apply at the most inopportune times.
One such instance involves Lynn McKain, a Maryland woman diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. McKain thought she had the disease beat in 2009, prompting her and her family to buy five roundtrip tickets to Belize. But just months before the big trip, Fox News reports that the cancer had returned, and in a more aggressive manner.
Armed with a doctor's note advising her to cancel the trip, McKain sought a $4,200 refund from U.S. Airways. They said no.
Lynn McKain had purchased non-refundable tickets. Under most airline refund policies, non-refundable tickets are simply non-refundable. Very few, if any, make exceptions for those who cannot fly due to illness.
However, a number of airlines, including U.S. Airways, will allow you to apply the value to a new ticket. Subject to a fee, of course. As McKain suggested to various news outlets, this option does her no good.
Such a policy is completely legal, and only in the very rare circumstance will an airline refund policy be void. So if you're spending a large sum of money on an airline ticket and other vacation necessities, consider protecting yourself with travel insurance.
For a relatively small sum, you can insure yourself against any unexpected cancellations. Policies will generally refund the cost of airfare, lodging, and any pre-planned activities. They may also provide medical insurance as an added bonus.
Don't let airline refund policies get in your way. Planning ahead will make a trip cancellation a little less painful.