Many people ask me all the time how the cancellation and reimbursement process for humanitarian flights works. I have dedicated this to all my adoptive families and others who have questions about cancellation and reimbursement of humanitarian flights, so I can hopefully help answer them here. Some benefits of using a humanitarian plane ticket include the fact that these flights can be refunded, minus airline penalties, and fees if you have to cancel the flights before the departure date. Most flights on the Internet are non-refundable, but humanitarian flights are not in this category.
Mission and humanitarian flights, unlike most flights, are reimbursed, minus airline penalties and fees, if you have to opt out and request reimbursement. These are not a total refund of 100% of the cost of your flight, but they are extremely helpful as most other flights are not refundable. There are many other benefits to using a humanitarian plane ticket. Humanitarian flights are variable and usually the first change after departure does not penalize the airline, so the change fees are much lower than the change in a regular flight you will find. In addition, since humanitarian flights can only be reached by a missionary and travel adoption agent, you can also expect a much better service than using an online travel engine to buy your flights.
The process of canceling humanitarian and mission flights may take about six weeks before you see a refund applied to your credit card. However, many people notice that their refund is shown closer to two or three weeks after the cancellation has been processed by the airline. There will always be many fees and credits with every refund of this nature and many times you will have to add costs and credits that should equal the amount quoted for the refund.
Sometimes adopters will only have to cancel the return portion of their flight for various reasons and book again with another airline later. This is a case where the family will be very grateful to have humanitarian flights against published flights. Humanitarian flights are refunded, even for the return portion only. This is always only a partial refund, less penalties and fees to the airlines, but it still helps tremendously to preserve some of the loss that would otherwise be suffered.
In general, families using humanitarian flights, especially for adoption trips, are very happy with them if they have to make changes on their return date. Sometimes there are unpredictable circumstances that force families to cancel their flights for adoption, and when these things happen, they are always very grateful to have used humanitarian flights rather than anything they could book on their own.
I hope this helps answer some of your questions!
Tabita Lovell, International Travel Manager