Opt for full refund plans to lower flight ticket cancellation charges

Online travel portals are increasingly launching plans that allow fliers to get full refund in case they cancel their air tickets. The offering helps to take the sting out of the high charges that airline companies deduct in case of a cancellation.

Sample this: If you are flying from Mumbai to Delhi in November, the cheapest fare is Rs 2,451. If a person cancels this ticket, they will need to pay about Rs 2,016. If a flier opts for the zero cancellation plan from Yatra, for example, they will need to pay Rs 849 and will then get full refund in case of cancellation. The price one pays varies from one online travel agent (OTA) to another.

The product is growing in popularity. Most popular travel websites such as Yatra, MakeMyTrip, Paytm and Goibibo offer it. “The product has already gained a lot of traction, with over 1 million customers having purchased it. The engagement of customers who have opted for zero cancellation on our platform is far higher than other customers,” says a MakeMyTrip spokesperson.

However, there is an important exclusion. Most of these websites provide full refund only if the customer cancels the ticket 24 hours before the scheduled departure. The passenger gets back the ticket fare, minus the convenience fee. But if the cancellation is done within 24 hours of departure, then the flier gets a refund after deduction of cancellation charges from the airline. 

The product is also available on select routes and many offer the same for a one-way ticket, as of now. “Many opt for the product when they are not sure if they will fly on a specific date, but also worry that if they do need to, the airfare may be much higher,” says Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C), Yatra.com.

Some travel portals like Yatra have tied up with an insurance company for this product. Websites like MakeMyTrip have designed it in-house. Zero cancellation has become popular, given the travel insurance pays for a ticket refund only in specific situations such as sickness, injury or loss of an immediate family member. 

Another option for the fliers is to opt for flexi fares. A few low-budget carriers and most full-services airline offer this option.

Under the scheme, a passenger is allowed to reschedule tickets without paying any fee or charges. IndiGo, for example, lets a customer make unlimited changes to the itinerary free of cost. The individual has to just pay the difference in the fare. Rescheduling — with most airlines that offer this product — can be done up to two hours before departure.

How to choose between the zero cancellation and flexi fare depends on the money a person has to pay. “If flexi fare is cheaper than the premium that the OTA is charging, it makes sense to opt for the former,” says Dhall. 

Take the earlier example of a Mumbai-Delhi flight. The airline offering the cheapest fare does not offer flexi fares. If you buy zero cancellation with it, the price will be Rs 3,300. If the airline that offers flexi fare charges a lower amount for the tickets, you can opt for it. Else, go for the zero cancellation and get the full refund.

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