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Wednesday
Feb052014

Skipping Sochi: What Happens If You Want to Cancel Your Flight

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tracey Madigan's husband has gone to every Olympics since 1992 for his job. She and her three kids, however, have never been. That was going to change this year.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, coincide with school vacation for her 14, 12 and 10 year olds. So on Oct. 11, 2013, they purchased four round-trip tickets from New York to Moscow on Delta Air Lines. They would fly from Moscow to Sochi on Aeroflot.

But on Dec. 29, and then again on Dec. 30, the Russian city of Volgograd was attacked by suicide bombers. More than 30 people were killed and 40 injured in the two attacks.

Volgograd is 400 miles away from Sochi, but Madigan started to have second thoughts.

And then on Jan. 10, the State Department issued a travel alert for Russia. That alert was updated on Jan. 24 and warned "U.S. citizens planning to attend the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia that they should remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times." It also reminds travelers that "large-scale public events such as the Olympics present an attractive target for terrorists."

It was then that Madigan decided she wanted to cancel her trip. She reached out to Aeroflot and Delta. Her money from Aeroflot was refunded immediately. But Delta, despite her numerous inquires, did not. Because Madigan had purchased the most restrictive, non-refundable ticket, she would be penalized $300 per ticket and be able to use the remaining value of the tickets for future travel.

Should the airline refund money on non-refundable tickets if someone's scared to travel to the destination?

Delta has issued fee waivers for the threat of terrorist activity in the past, most recently in Egypt, which is also under a travel alert. Airlines may also choose to issue waivers to countries that come under State Department warnings, which are more serious than alerts. And every domestic airline frequently issues waivers -- even for the most restrictive tickets -- when bad weather hits.

"Delta has not issued a fee waiver for travel to Russia based on the recent alert provided by the U.S. State Dept. For this reason, the standard guidelines for these nonrefundable fares, including any change fees, would still apply," the airline said. "If the customer opts not to travel, after deducting the change fee she would be able to use the remaining value of the tickets toward the purchase of future travel."

As for Madigan, she'd hoped she would get her money back, or at least a travel voucher for the full cost of the trip. Instead, she'll get a voucher for the amount she paid -- about $1200 per ticket -- less a $300 change fee for each of the four tickets purchased.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio