If you’ve ever missed a flight, you may be concerned about the so-called “no-show fee” mentioned in your ticket.
No-show fees are part of no-show clauses, which allow the airline to cancel a reservation when a passenger has missed either:
- the first leg of a multi-leg itinerary
- the outbound flight of a round-trip itinerary
This is why you can’t buy a cheaper KUL-SIN-SYD ticket on Singapore Airlines and only fly the SIN-SYD leg, for example.
Some consumer rights organisations argue that no-show clauses are unfair to passengers, and in fact, there’s a move afoot in the EU to get these banned altogether. But in the meantime they’re just a fact of life, and it’s important to understand how exactly they work.
One important point before we begin: different airlines adopt different no-show clauses, which can be found in the contract of carriage. In this article I’ll be using Singapore Airlines as an example.
What are no-show fees?
No-show fees apply when a passenger fails to check-in for a reserved flight, or completes check-in but fails to board.
Certain airlines consider last-minute changes to be the same as no-shows (e.g. Qatar Airways considers any changes made within three hours to departure as a no-show), but Singapore Airlines still uses scheduled departure time as the cut-off.
However, airline no-show fees are only charged at the point of rebooking or refunding a ticket. Unlike staying in a hotel, your card is not automatically billed should you fail to show up for a flight.
The applicable no-show fee depends on whether you’ve booked an award ticket or a commercial ticket.
|Premium Economy Class||US$200|
No-show fees for KrisFlyer award tickets range from US$100 to US$300, depending on cabin.
To illustrate, suppose I book a return Business Saver flight from Singapore to San Francisco (190,000 miles) for travel on 18 June, and fail to show up for the flight.
I can still make changes to the ticket or refund it, but I’ll need to pay a no-show fee on top of whatever prevailing fees apply:
- If I want to change my travel date to 25 June, I’ll pay US$300 (no-show fee) + US$25 (Saver award change fee)
- If I want to refund my ticket, I’ll pay US$300 (no-show fee) + US$75 (Saver refund fee)
|👍 Waiver of change fees|
|Singapore Airlines is currently waiving all change fees until 31 July 2022, under their Complimentary Rebooking Policy. This means the US$25 Saver award change fee will not apply in the interim. However, refund fees and no-show fees still apply as per normal.|
To be clear, my credit card is not automatically billed for US$300 on 18 June. The no-show fee only comes into play at the point of changing or refunding the ticket. If, for whatever reason, I felt it wasn’t worth paying a US$300 no-show fee to recover my 190,000 miles, I’d be perfectly entitled to walk away and not pay a further cent.
One further point to note: although Singapore Airlines mentions a no-show fee for Spontaneous Escapes awards (aka “promo awards”), the concept doesn’t really apply here. Spontaneous Escapes awards are strictly non-changeable and non-refundable. If you miss your flight, that’s the end of the story; there’s no question of paying a no-show fee to reschedule or refund.
My speculation is that they included a no-show fee to cover the (very) rare instances where refunds might be entertained, say in the case of a medical emergency (though you’d think in that case they’d waive all the fees altogether).
|Premium Economy Class||S$270|
Unlike award tickets, the no-show fees for commercial tickets are charged in SGD. They vary by cabin, but also by fare type and destination.
Economy Class shows the most variability. On this route to Bangkok, the no-show fee is a flat S$130 for Value, Standard and Flexi tickets…
…but on this route to Frankfurt, it’s S$400 for Value, and S$130 for Standard and Flexi.
For Premium Economy, Business and First Class, I’ve found that the no-show fees are reliably S$270, S$400 and S$400 respectively, regardless of destination or fare type.
To illustrate, suppose I book a return Economy Value ticket from Singapore to Hanoi (S$478.60) for travel on 18 June, and fail to show up on the date of travel.
I can still make changes to my ticket or refund it, but I’ll need to pay a no-show fee on top of whatever prevailing fees apply:
- If I want to change my travel date to 25 June, I’ll pay S$130 (no-show fee) + the prevailing fare difference, if any)
- If I want to refund my ticket, I’ll pay S$130 (no-show fee) + S$200 (refund fee)
|👍 Waiver of change fees|
|Singapore Airlines is currently waiving all change fees until 31 July 2022, under their Complimentary Rebooking Policy. That’s why no change fees apply in this particular case. No-show fees and refund fees are still applicable.|
Paying S$330 of no-show and refund fees on a S$478.60 ticket may not be the smartest idea, which is why you should try and avoid a no-show as much as possible.
As mentioned earlier, my credit card is not automatically billed for S$130 on 18 June. The no-show fee only comes into play at the point of changing or refunding the ticket. In this case it’d be better to recover S$148.60 (S$478.60-S$130-S$200) than nothing, but there may be scenarios where the no-show fee + refund fee cost more than what you’ve paid.
Should that be the case, you’d be better off trying to reschedule the flight instead of getting a refund.
|⚠️ The strictest rules apply|
You may combine different fare types in a single trip, but the most restrictive conditions apply.
For example, I could have booked the following itinerary to Hanoi, with Economy Lite on the outbound leg and Economy Standard on the return leg.
However, this entire ticket is treated as an Economy Lite fare for the purposes of no-show and cancellation; hence the “not allowed” displayed in the table under no-show fee and booking cancellation fee.
So why even bother combining different fare types? It could simply be the case that a cheaper fare type isn’t available on one of the legs, or perhaps you want to upgrade one of the legs with your miles. Note that the Economy Standard leg from HAN-SIN can still be upgraded with miles, and accrues more miles than the Economy Lite leg from SIN-HAN.
To reiterate: no-show fees are not automatically billed to your card. They only come into play when you wish to rebook or refund a reservation that you failed to show up for.
Singapore Airlines’ no-show fees can be steep for premium cabin tickets (a couple travelling on award seats in Business Class would have to pay US$600!), so as far as possible, try to contact customer service as soon as you know you won’t be able to fly.
Waiting times for customer support are significant these days, and it’s a good idea to keep documentation showing you attempted to contact the airline prior to departure, in case you can’t get through in time.