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Vouchers for Cancelled Flights: An Expert Guide for Air Passengers

Vouchers for Cancelled Flights: An Expert Guide for Air Passengers

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
Last Updated: May 09, 2024

Vouchers might seem like a convenient option for passengers, but they can come with plenty of restrictions. It’s important to take the time to understand the details and expiry dates before accepting one.

Your flight is cancelled at the last minute, you’re frustrated, and you’re upset with the airline for putting you in this situation. But then, they offer you a travel voucher to help smooth things over. It seems like a good idea, but you’re not sure if you should accept it. Is this you?

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In 2023, the BBC reported that passengers in the UK had yet to claim approximately €724 million (£643 million) in airline vouchers. But why do passengers accept vouchers for cancelled flights when they’re entitled to a full refund? Let’s take a look.

Key Takeaways

  1. Passengers have the right to demand a cash refund for cancelled flights
  2. Vouchers can come with many restrictions, so it’s vital to understand their limitations before accepting one
  3. Accepting vouchers in some regions, could forfeit your right to compensation

What is An Airline Voucher

Similar to a coupon or credit, a voucher is usually offered to passengers when their flight has been delayed, cancelled or overbooked by the airline. In most cases, vouchers are offered before and in place of a refund. They can be used for future trips with that airline or the airline’s partners. During long delays, EU, UK, and Canadian airlines are required to offer vouchers to cover the cost of meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation, or transportation to and from a hotel for qualifying flights.

Airlines Offer Vouchers for Cancelled Flights

Why Do Airlines Offer Vouchers

If your flight is cancelled while you’re travelling in the US, EU, UK, or Canada, airlines are required by law to offer you one of the following:

  • A full refund
  • An alternate flight
  • A voucher

In addition to this, you could also be eligible for compensation from the airline if your flight qualifies.

So you might be wondering why an airline would offer a voucher if they are required to refund your ticket when a flight is cancelled. The answer is simple. Vouchers help airlines minimise the expense of cash refunds while giving you more incentive to book future flights with them. Plus, a voucher might never be used which also helps the airlines financially.

If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 3 years, you could be eligible for up to €600 in compensation.

Do You Have to Accept Vouchers

If you’re offered a voucher, you do not have to accept it. In fact, you have a right to a full refund if you choose not to continue your journey when your flight is cancelled. Sometimes passengers might think that accepting a voucher is a good choice instead of a refund, but unfortunately, most vouchers come with loads of blackout dates, restrictions, and short expiry dates.

Not only that, but accepting an airline voucher, especially in the EU, UK, and Canada, can forfeit your right to airline compensation if your flight is eligible. So be very careful about accepting these.

Cancelled Flight

Your Rights

European Union and United Kingdom

EU Passenger Rights Regulation EU 261 and UK 261 both require airlines to compensate passengers whose flights have been cancelled up to €600 (£520) in compensation when the airline is responsible for the flight disruption. This only applies when the airline cancels the flight with less than 14 days notice. The compensation is in addition to the refund, voucher, or alternate flight.


In Canada, passengers could be compensated up to $1,000 CAD for cancelled flights in addition to refunds or rebooking. The exact amount is determined by the size of the airline and the length of the delay in getting you to your final destination.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has specific rules for airlines offering vouchers stating that, an airline can offer vouchers on if the following conditions are met:

  1. The airline must tell passengers the amount of money they are entitled to
  2. They must tell, “the passenger in writing the value of the other form of compensation it is offering”
  3. The voucher must be of greater value than the cash amount
  4. The voucher must have no expiry date and
  5. The passenger must confirm “in writing they know that the monetary compensation is available but they choose the other form of compensation.

United States

The rules in the US for cancelled flight vouchers are laid out by the Department of Transportation. Simply put, if your flight is cancelled by the airline, you are entitled to a full refund or a rebooking on the next available flight.

There are no requirements for compensation or rules for vouchers. Instead, each airline makes its own rules. So, if you’re offered a voucher for a cancelled US flight, pay extra close attention to the small print before you accept it.

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Travel vouchers for cancelled flights and the regulations surrounding them vary quite a bit from country to country. Unless you’re offered one from a Canadian airline, you should carefully weigh your options before accepting one. And if you’re in the EU or UK, remember that accepting a voucher in lieu of a refund could eliminate your chances of getting flight compensation later on.

Have you experienced a flight cancellation in the last 3 years? Did you know that you could still be eligible for flight compensation? Getting the money you’re owed can involve jumping not one, but a few hurdles with airlines, but there’s a simpler way to submit compensation claims. Let the airline compensation experts at AirAdvisor submit the claim for you!

  • Our team of legal professionals have been protecting passenger rights since 2017
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Bottom line, we only get paid when you do. You want to claim the compensation you deserve, agreed? Start today by entering your flight details below.

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