Southwest Airlines has one advantage passengers use when they must

Whether traveling alone or coordinating with others, planning for flights involves a lot of thinking and organizing well before booking.

But sometimes things don't go according to one's preconceived notions. If an unexpected event occurs and travel arrangements are put on hold, people may have to consider canceling a trip.

It's a difficult decision to make, but there are circumstances when it has to be done. Airlines, thankfully, are generally good about accommodating these needs.

Delta Air Lines  (DAL)  usually allows travelers to cancel flights that originate in the U.S. and Canada without a fee, except for those with basic economy tickets.

On United Airlines  (UAL) , fee-free cancellations can be available for travel within the U.S., Canada and Mexico and for international flights that begin in the U.S. But for basic economy tickets, travelers have to cough up the entire cost of the airfare.

For those traveling on Southwest Airlines, travelers can cancel their flights for free all the way up to a surprising 10 minutes before departure. There are a few stipulations.

"Anytime and Business Select fares, however, are fully refundable," the authors continued. "If you need to cancel one of these fares, you'll receive a full refund for the amount paid back to your original form of payment."

Some carriers simply refuse to refund costs on most types of airfare. That's the case for United Airlines passengers, who can expect to forfeit the whole value of their tickets when they are forced to cancel.

"Whether you can get a refund for plane tickets depends on the fare type purchased and what you are looking for in terms of a refund," The Points Guy noted. "No airline offers full refunds back to the form of payment for every ticket purchased.

So it's a good idea to understand the cancellation policies for the airline being considered for travel. When booking flights, if you aren't completely sure your schedule will allow for a trip, selecting an airline that has a desirable cancellation policy is important.

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