Subscriber OnlyTravelQ&A

Can I get a refund for a flight cancelled on medical grounds?

Conor Pope on the tricky issue of flight refunds when there’s a medical issue involved

Almost all airline tickets are sold on strictly no refund basis

One of the most common queries we get from readers has to do with refunds for flights not taken for all manner of reasons.

We have one this week from a reader, we will call Martha, that contains some of the common elements of all the queries that we get.

“I hope you are doing well. I’m e-mailing because myself and my fiance are left very confused by Ryanair,” the mail from Martha begins.

“We had our honeymoon booked for November since last year. However, in June I was diagnosed with a pineal cyst which left us deciding to cancel our flights on medical grounds until we got more information around treatment,” she says.


“I got a letter from my doctor and we contacted the airline, but Ryanair wouldn’t refund us.”

“We went through our insurance we got while booking our flights but they are looking for a cancellation letter from Ryanair and we are unable to get this too. Either way it is looking like we can’t get a refund or even some amount back on our flights which is disappointing.”

Now, in our experience, airlines can be more compassionate than you might expect when it comes to a some of the most serious reasons people have for cancelling flights.

We have heard on multiple occasions of Ryanair offering people refunds after they or their travelling companions suffered a bereavement and similarly Aer Lingus often step up to the plate if someone is unable to travel for a for a very serious reason, such as a grave illness or death.

However, it’s worth pointing out that airlines are not obliged to do this under their terms and conditions. Almost all airline tickets are sold on strictly no refund basis and airlines make the valid case that anyone who is unable to travel as a result of illness should be in a position to make a claim on their travel insurance.

Luckily our reader had travel insurance which brings us to the second issue she highlighted. She now accepts that no refund will be coming from Ryanair as a result of her medical condition. But we shared her disappointment and her confusion about the absence of a letter from Ryanair that she could use to claim on travel insurance policy.

We contacted the airline on Martha’s behalf and received the following statement.

“This passenger contacted Ryanair on Mon August 7th to request a refund for their return Dublin – Lanzarote flight [in November] and accepted in accordance with Ryanair’s T&Cs that these tickets are non-refundable. Since this passenger is not entitled to a refund, he was advised to contact his insurance provider,” the statement said.

“We received no request from this passenger for a ‘no show’ letter. However, we cannot provide such a letter until the flights have actually departed. If [Martha] requests such a letter on/after [the flights depart] we will be happy to provide same.”

So it would appear that our reader will have to wait until the flight takes off without her before she can claim that element of her aborted travel plans from her travel insurance provider but at least she knows now that it will be forthcoming.