Are airline tickets transferable?

Unfortunately, most plane tickets sold nowadays are not transferable, but it depends exclusively on each airline’s internal policies.

From what I can tell, a sort of unwritten rule applies: the bigger the airline, the slimmer the chances of accepting ticket transfers.

Why are not all airline tickets transferable?

It shouldn’t matter if the airline is big or small; satisfying the customer’s needs should be the company’s main goal, yet this is not the case with transferring tickets.

These are the main reasons that prevent the transfer of tickets between individuals:

 1. Airline policies 

The airline policies are limits and rules instituted to provide safe and secure flights for everyone.

Governments have no say in which rules air companies choose to implement unless those rules go against the F.A.A. policies.

In most cases, airlines refuse your request by citing the airline policies as a polite way of showing you the middle finger. 

There is hope, though. Airline policies change all the time, and if someone in a management role concludes that it’s in the company’s best interest to allow transferable tickets, they will change the rules accordingly.

2. Security

Airline companies have stated that one of the reasons for not accepting transferable tickets is that the T.S.A. might not have enough time to make the necessary security checks for the new name on the ticket. This is a little funny because T.S.A. didn’t comment on this.

If this is the truth, what about the small airlines that allow transferable tickets?

Did they find a way to circumvent the T.S.A. rules? Or does the reason lie elsewhere?

I think there is a high chance that the T.S.A. recommended that the airlines avoid the transfer of tickets between persons because it would burden their personnel with unnecessary checks.

The truth is that the T.S.A. does not communicate with airlines by pigeon post; they would have plenty of time to check the new name on the ticket when the switch occurs, and it is ultimately the airlines’ decision not to allow transferable tickets.

But there is some truth that additional security measures made the transfer of tickets prohibitive because most airlines stopped this practice after 9/11.

However, it would be stupid for a criminal to try to beat the system by changing places with an innocent person and hoping that nobody would notice.

3. Ticket scalpers

Ticket scalpers are the main reason airlines do not accept the transfer of tickets to other individuals.

In essence, some people were booking tickets when they were cheap and reselling them later at a higher price.

I know what you are thinking – how were they so sure that ticket prices would increase enough to cover the transfer fee and also turn a profit?

The answer is rather easy. They pre-plan it by booking tickets on holidays, sporting event dates, concerts, or other dates bound to attract many passengers.

Ticket scalping was bad for air companies because it artificially raised the final customers’ prices and damaged the airlines’ reputation. Fortunately, those days are long gone.

In the informational age that we live in now, even if an individual could transfer their ticket to a different person, he would be unable to abuse the system because his activity would be flagged immediately.

Airlines could easily implement a rule stating that they will only accept a transfer request from the same person once per year, thus preventing commercial reselling of tickets and increasing customers’ overall satisfaction.

Why do some airlines allow the transfer of tickets?

The airlines that allow this practice are the underdogs, meaning they need to find creative ways to attract new passengers, and accepting the transfer of tickets between individuals makes them more competitive.

They are also aware that satisfied customers are best because they tend to stay with an airline they like for a long time.

Allowing ticket transfers is also a sure way to increase their profits. Airlines figure out how much it cost them to transfer the ticket to someone else and then gladly add that cost to the customers’ tab.

Nowadays, the majority of airlines that accept transferable tickets are from Europe. I think that’s because rules tend to be a little looser there.

Here’s a suggestion: even if you know for sure that your airline will not accept your request to transfer the ticket to someone else, you should at least try.

Send their Customer Support department an inquiry about this. In time, if enough individuals demand it, there is a chance that the airline will change its policies accordingly.

Since the pandemic situation began, airlines have been struggling to keep and get new customers; they might even accept your request if it suits them.

Now, let’s check the most important airlines and see how they deal with transfer ticket requests.

Southwest Airlines

No, you can’t transfer a Southwest ticket to another person.

If you booked your ticket less than 24 hours ago, you can cancel it and request a refund, and after this, you can book a ticket for someone else. If you cancel the ticket in those 24 hours, you will get a full refund.

Southwest Airlines allows you to book a flight for someone else. However, remember that you will not receive the other person’s flight points.

The good news is that you can transfer the Rapid Reward points from person to person and the bad news is that you will pay a high fee if you do so.

It costs $10 to transfer 10,000 points, and the lowest amount of points you can move is 2,000. Southwest Airlines points never expire, though.

If you have any other non-urgent questions, it is better to contact Southwest Airlines on their Twitter account since they will not pass you from one customer support person to another.

American Airlines

You are not allowed to transfer your ticket to someone else.

Only name changes caused by misspelling or errors are permitted.

Canceling the ticket and then rebooking in the other person’s name is the only way to circumvent this.

Keep in mind that American Airlines has some of the biggest cancellation fees in the industry.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airline tickets are not transferable.

Like Southwest Airlines, you will need to cancel the first booking and after that, book a new ticket under a different name.

Delta offers a 24-hour, risk-free cancellation period, meaning that you will receive a full refund if you cancel your booking in the first 24 hours. After that 24 hour period expires, you are out of luck if you happen to have a Delta Basic Economy ticket because you can’t cancel it.

Delta stated that they would allow customers to cancel the Basic Economy ticket for a fee until December 31, 2021, and customers can rebook with that credit until the end of 2022.

Delta made this move because of COVID crisis-related problems that their customers were facing and to better handle the customer support problems they are experiencing.

Delta customer support lines were flooded with calls, so much so that they were forced to hire more than 5,000 people to deal with this problem. To reduce the number of support calls, Delta also made other moves – you can read more about this here.

Delta Airlines’ cancellation fee varies from ticket to ticket, and is in the $0-$500 range.

JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue doesn’t allow its customers to transfer their tickets to others. Name changes are permitted only for misspelling or other errors.

Just the same as other airlines, the rule of 24-hour no fee cancellation applies.

If you decide to cancel your flight after 24 hours, you will be forced to pay a $100-$200 fee.

If you’re not aware, when you cancel your flight and get a refund from JetBlue, your funds go to the JetBlue Travel Bank, and those funds will expire after one year.

You can book a ticket for someone else without any issues with JetBlue, but when you cancel a reservation for more than one person, the refund splits into equal parts for each individual.

So if you are one in a family of three and booked seats for a total of $600, when you cancel that booking, every member will receive $200 in their Travel Bank account.

Speaking of headaches: When you book a flight for someone else and then cancel it, the passenger gets the refund credit in his Travel Bank account even if you paid for the flight.

For the credit to be rightfully refunded to your account, you need to contact JetBlue customer support. By instituting these rules, JetBlue attempts to discourage people from canceling their flights.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airline tickets are not transferable to another person. You will need to cancel your ticket then book another one for the passenger.

The current cancellation fee with Spirit ranges from $0-$79.

Cebu Pacific Airlines

Cebu Pacific tickets are non-transferable. A few years ago, you could still transfer Cebu Pacific tickets to someone else. However, Cebu stated that they were forced to change the rules due to security reasons.

Allegiant Airlines

Allegiant Airlines tickets are not transferable.

United Airlines

You cannot transfer a United Airlines ticket to someone else. United recently modified their Change Fee policy, so if you want to change your destination or cancel your flight, the fees are low or nonexistent.

So, there is a good chance that you could cancel your booking then rebook in another person’s name without additional cost.

If you want to learn more about this, you can do so here.

Note: These policies were changed because of the pandemic crisis, so I’m not expecting them to last long.


What is a non-refundable flight ticket?

I can tell you that a non-refundable flight ticket does not mean now what it meant in the past. Before the COVID crisis, you could not get a refund for a non-refundable airline ticket.

Now, most airlines refund even the non-refundable tickets, although not all. So you will need to check with your airline to see if you are eligible for a refund. In essence, the COVID crisis erased the “non-” from the non-refundable.

If you are wondering why airlines didn’t change the name of non-refundable tickets to something else, the answer is fairly obvious.

Airlines hope that the COVID crisis will pass and then they will return to their old ways of managing tickets. Furthermore, airlines don’t want to confuse passengers by switching names.

For you, the customer, this situation does create an advantage. 

The non-refundable tickets are usually cheaper than the refundable ones; so if you know for sure that you can get a refund for your non-refundable ticket, you should buy the cheaper one.

Saving some money is always good but keep in mind that air companies put a time limit on this practice, and you should do your diligence before trying to outsmart them.

Are refundable airline tickets fully refundable?

Yes, the refundable airline tickets are fully refundable, but there is a catch: you will need to pay a low administrative fee when canceling your ticket. The fee amount varies from airline to airline.

The airlines instituted this fee not because they were looking for another revenue stream, but to prevent some people from abusing the system.

People were booking, refunding, and rebooking again, and airlines stopped this practice by adding a small fee.

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Sorin Susanu
Sorin, the primary writer for this site, launched it in 2019 as a hobby and a means to refine his English. With a passion for travel ignited by a trip to Italy at age twelve, Sorin has been exploring the world and sharing his adventures ever since.