Sometimes even the smallest unexpected delay can sideline your entire trip by causing you to miss a flight. Whether you’ve encountered a longer-than-average TSA line or an unexpected jury duty assignment, we found a few tips to help you talk with the airline about refunding all or at least part of your ticket.

If you have travel insurance
For travelers who purchased travel insurance, contact your insurance provider immediately. Your refund options depend on the plan you purchased. For example, some plans cover any cancellation or interruption – no questions asked – while others only protect you from missing a trip for a specific reason, such as an extension of your child’s school year. So, what do you need to look for in your plan?

You can purchase two kinds of cancellation coverage – basic trip cancellation or cancellation for any reason. Under basic cancellation, you’ll be able to recoup the entire ticket price if you cancel due to illness or hospitalizations, weather-related problems, natural disasters or a legal obligation (i.e. jury duty). With cancel-for-any-reason coverage, you may not be able to regain your entire ticket price and could face restrictions on when the coverage is available. This is best used when traveling to a country with civil or political unrest.

Plan to work directly with your travel insurance company to get a refund. The airline will not be able to offer any assistance in getting your money back. Alternatively, if you want to rebook your flight, the airline is your go-to stop. 

If you travel without insurance
This may be a difficult sell with an airline, but starting the conversation the right way could increase your chances. Whether you’ve already missed the flight or know you’re not going to make it, contact the airline. Some airlines allow you to change your flight for free within 24 hours of booking your ticket.

If the missed flight is the airline’s fault, the gate agent or customer service representative will likely offer a travel voucher. You can ask for a refund instead of the voucher, however, you could incur a fee. The same is true if you miss your flight or have a last-minute schedule change.

The secret rule
While researching this question, we came across Rule 260, also known as the involuntary refund rule. While some travel bloggers call it a myth, we say it’s worth a try – just make sure you know what you’re talking about before you get to the airport.

If your flight is canceled, drastically delayed or the time of departure changes causing you to be unable to travel, you can ask for an “involuntary refund,” even on nonrefundable tickets. This rule is usually included in an airline’s Contract of Carriage.

Do your homework before you boldly invoke Rule 260. Some carriers may use a different name, and many gate agents are unfamiliar with it. Just like all of your other refund options, it doesn’t work all the time but is worth a try.

Have you ever had an airline refund your ticket? Tell us how it went and what you learned from the experience!