Part of your nonrefundable airline ticket is refundable, after all

It turns out your nonrefundable ticket isn’t entirely nonrefundable, after all. Taxes and government fees, which until now have disappeared into a void — and many believe, are simply pocketed by airlines — can be returned.

Just do what Susan Cornell did when Spirit Airlines wouldn’t refund the taxes and fees on her canceled ticket: dispute your credit card charge.

Several months ago, she asked Spirit for her money back, but it didn’t bother responding. Undeterred, she wrote to government officials and told her story to a national audience on Peter Greenberg’s radio show.

Today we checked our American Express bill, where we charged the Spirit tickets, and we were given a $42 credit yesterday from Spirit. This is the amount in dispute — We won!

Apparently they can’t keep the pre-paid travel taxes and government fees!

Maybe this small victory will put the spotlight on Spirit’s billing practices and force Spirit to return money to others. Can you imagine how much money that might be?

Yes, I can.

It has all the makings of a class-action lawsuit that would involve the entire airline industry, particularly if an audit showed that airlines kept all of the money paid in taxes and fees and passed none of it along to the government. But even if it did, passengers would be able to take up their case with governments and airports. I’d pay good money to see that trial.

Has anyone else managed to get a refund on fees and taxes on a domestic, nonrefundable airline ticket?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Flyhi152

    I  tried  to  get  my  taxes and  fees  back  from  Lufthansa,  they  refunded  only  a  small  portion  and  after  after  I  filed  a  dispute  with  my  credit card  company  they  stated  that  the  fuel  surcharge  (YQ)  and  the  Passenger  Facility  Charge (PFC)   are  non-refundable.   Why   should  a  passenger  who  does  not  fly  pay  the  Passenger  Facility  Charge  which in many  countries  is  paid  directly  at  the  airport ?   In  those  countries like  for  example  the  Philippines,  Colombia,  etc.  a  passenger  can’t   fly he  won’t  pay  the  Passenger  facility  charge  or  (Terminal  Fee)  –   why should  a  US  passenger  who  pays  this  fee  when  he  purchases  the  ticket  have  to  pay   for  the  Terminal  that  he  doesn’t  use ?

  • Chad Ellis

    Just spoke with Spirit Airlines today referencing this article, and they refused to refund the taxes.  “That is not part of our policy.”

  • caellis03

    I spoke with Spirit airlines today regarding refunding the taxes and got nowhere.  I tried referencing info from this article and got nowhere.  “This goes against our policy.”  

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