Buying a refundable ticket just for lounge access (and then cancelling)

Last year, I flew back to Canada from Australia via the USA. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have access to shower facilities in the US, and oh boy, did I need a shower. What was I going to do? I had a long layover and I stunk.

I went online and I bought a fully refundable F ticket between the USA and Canada for much later that evening. Because this is technically an international ticket, I had lounge access. I checked in, went to the lounge, showered, called the airline, and refunded the ticket. In the USA, most airlines have a 24 hour “no questions asked” refund policy (read the individual refund policy of the airline before doing this). Nonetheless, even if the ticket didn’t have the 24 hour cancellation policy, it was fully refundable, so would have been refunded in full anyways (watch out though, some airlines have an administrative charge on fully refundable tickets to refund them).

This behaviour can obviously be against ticketing rules, so don’t do it too often. In my case, I bought and cancelled the ticket within 30 minutes, so the airline didn’t have that seat out of available inventory for too long, thus morally rectifying what I did 😉

If you have a long layover without lounge access, you might be interested in doing this. You could visit some of the world’s greatest lounges without actually spending the money (or points) required to do so. Again, be really careful about ticket rules, refundability, and any applicable administrative charges.

This system can theoretically be used to also bring a loved one, like an elder who is in need of assistance, right to the gate to say goodbye.

There are obvious risks, like buying the wrong fare, forgetting to cancel, and getting the airline upset with you. I suggest the following: be super duper careful about which fares you buy, buy it on a no-foreign exchange fee credit card (like the rewards card) so you don’t lose out on those fees on refund, don’t put your frequent flyer number in the reservation in order to protect yourself, buy and cancel the ticket in quick succession in order to minimize lost inventory, and don’t do this very often. Also note that I am in no way recommending you do this, it’s probably a bad idea. This is an informational post. 

Happy travels!


    1. Absolutely! Refundability doesn’t typically concern itself with check-in (rather, airplane take-off and post-ticketing times matter).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *