How to Cancel a Flight for a Deceased Loved One


If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you have a lot on your plate. The next steps and final arrangements can be tricky, and you might not know what to do next. It’s not always clear what to do when someone dies, especially if that person had upcoming travel plans. How do you cancel a flight for a deceased loved one?

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There are a lot of different reasons someone might not be able to make a flight. Of course, if your loved one passes unexpectedly, another family member needs to take action to cancel this flight on his or her behalf. Failing to cancel the flight could result in unwanted penalties. Though it can seem like a lot of hassle, it’s important to cancel all upcoming travel plans. 

Luckily, this is a relatively easy process. You should always be as proactive as you can when handling travel arrangements. Failing to show up to a scheduled flight is never a good idea. Here’s how to cancel a flight for a deceased loved one with step-by-step tips. 

What Happens If Someone Misses a Flight?

First, what actually happens if someone fails to appear for a flight? Since missing a flight isn’t a common experience, you might not know what happens in these instances. If someone fails to show up for a scheduled flight, they fall into what’s called the “no show” category. This means the airline takes action to cancel the rest of the itinerary. It usually means there are limited (or no) options for rebooking or refunding the ticket. 

If there are standby passengers for that flight, the seat is typically given to them. Frequent flier and rewards points are not given for missed flights. If several flights are missed, this could result in someone being banned from the airline. The good news is that airlines understand that things happen. As long as you cancel the flight or give the airline notice, it’s easy to avoid any unexpected consequences. 

Whether your loved one was flying alone or with others, take action as quickly as possible. If there were other passengers on the itinerary, their standing with the airline is at risk if they fail to show on time. 

What Documents or Information Will You Need Before You Cancel the Flight?

Now that you understand what happens if someone misses a flight, you’re ready to start the process. Before you begin, make sure you have the right documents. Airlines typically require proof before they cancel flights, especially in the case of death or emergency. However, this doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Airlines only consider official death certificates in the case of death. Learn how to get a death certificate from your funeral home or local vital records office. Alternatively, you can get a document signed and typed on official hospital letterhead. Whether or not the flight is refunded, rebooked, or canceled is at the discretion of the airline team member. 

Steps for Canceling a Deceased Loved One’s Flight

Canceling upcoming travel is part of the typical executor duties, though it’s not something most people think of. As an executor, it’s your job to make sure your loved one’s arrangements are made in a timely fashion. Here are the steps for canceling a deceased loved one’s flight. 

1. Find their flight information

Before you begin, make sure you have all of their flight information. This is typically found through their email, travel services, or travel agents. You will need information about their airline, flight number, and how they paid for the flight (credit card, airline points, etc).

If you’re not sure where to find their contact information, check their calendar or with loved ones. Most people share these plans with others in their life, so it’s usually possible to track down key information with a bit of research. 

2. Log into their airline page

The easiest way to cancel a flight for a loved one who passed is by logging into their online airline account directly. If they booked through a travel service, you might be able to log in and cancel the flight digitally. Their information might be shared with you or stored in a password manager.

If you can log into an airline directly, there is typically an option to change the flight details or cancel. This lets you avoid a lengthy phone call. However, if you’re unable to cancel digitally or you don’t have access to their information, continue to the steps below. 

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3. Contact the airline

Next, contact the airline directly. Ask to speak to a representative on the line and let them know you wish to cancel a flight on behalf of a deceased loved one. The representative will let you know what else you need to provide. In most cases, you will need to share a copy of the death certificate or a document from the hospital. 

4. Ask for a refund

In most cases, the airline will be able to refund your loved one’s account for the unused ticket since it’s the result of a death. These funds go back toward your loved one’s estate, and they can be used for final affairs or other debts. 

In some cases, you can apply this refund towards rewards points or alternative travel arrangements. Talk to the airline about their refund options to determine what’s best for your needs. This flight might be able to be used for last-minute travel, such as for a funeral. 

5. Keep track of any confirmation

Keep close track of any contact information, confirmations, and so on. You’ll want to follow up to make sure the flight has been canceled. This can take a few days to finalize, so keep track of any documentation.

6. Cancel any other travel arrangements

If your loved one had any other travel arrangements, now is the time to cancel these as well. The sooner you act, the better. Things like hotels, car rentals, and so on often have late fees if you cancel right before the reservation date. You don’t want the estate to be charged unnecessarily. From there, you’re all set. 

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What Are Airline Exceptions to Unused Tickets?

In most cases, unused tickets are not eligible for donation, transfer, and so on. The passenger might be responsible for re-booking his or her own trip, and other destinations on the itinerary are often canceled. However, there are some exceptions in the case of death. If a passenger on the ticket passed away, you might find these policies in place:

  • A refund is issued to the original form of payment
  • The family is issued a voucher for the death of a family member
  • Reward miles are returned to the deceased traveler’s account
  • The ticket is transferred to another passenger

In all of these cases, documentation is usually needed. The best way to handle these interactions with airline staff is in advance. If you can avoid the flight being missed entirely, this is the best-case scenario. The sooner you act, the more options the airline has to make the situation right for the surviving family members. 

What If the Deceased Had Travel Insurance?

Last but not least, if your loved one had travel insurance, you might be entitled to an even larger payout. Travel insurance covers the costs of unused tickets, missed flights, and so on. There might be a payout for the family as well. However, there are exceptions for most travel insurance plans. They don’t usually cover death due to any pre-existing conditions, so keep that in mind. 

Ultimately, if you suspect your loved one had travel insurance, it’s a good idea to reach out to their policy provider. They might have agents available to help you navigate these next steps with the airline. 

Making Travel Arrangements After a Loss

There are a lot of unexpected steps and decisions that take place after losing a loved one. From managing his or her final affairs to canceling unused plans, death has a way of disrupting all aspects of life. As long as you’re prepared for the path ahead, you can proceed with confidence. You’re performing a compassionate act of remembrance, and it’s something to be proud of. 

Now that you know how to cancel unused flights on behalf of deceased relatives, you’re ready to take action. The sooner you cancel reservations, flights, and so on, the more options you have. It’s in the airline’s best interest to work with you, so don’t be intimidated to take the first step.

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