Don't Forget About the 24-Hour Rule That Lets You Cancel a Flight for Free (Video)
Book that flight deal now — and worry about the logistics later.
Purchasing flights can be stressful. Unless you’re confident you’ve found an unbeatable fare deal (or you’re traveling on a corporate card at your employer’s expense), making the decision to click “buy” can be one wrought with doubt and insecurity.
Unless, of course, you knew you could cancel your tickets for free.
Too many travelers may not realize that almost all flights are protected by strict cancellation policies, one of which was put in place by the Department of Transportation.
“The [DOT] requires U.S. and foreign airlines offering flights to or from the United States to allow reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or canceled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after the reservation is made,” a DOT spokesperson told Travel + Leisure.
While this policy is restricted to bookings made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure, this catchall policy covers a majority of Americans’ travel plans.
It’s also important to note your specific carrier’s rules before authorizing payment, however. In certain markets, American Airlines offers travelers the option to hold a fare — and that’s the option you have to select if you think you might want to cancel your booking. If you select purchase, and not hold, you will not have a 24-hour cancellation policy in the event of last-minute buyer’s remorse.
But depending on your route and booking method, travelers may be able to mull over their purchase for even longer than 24 hours.
Last year, I booked flights through Priceline on a Friday — and was informed that I had until Monday to cancel.
“Cancelation policies are determined by the supplier and depend on their fare rules,” a press representative for Priceline told T+L. Meaning that weekend-long grace periods aren’t a rule, but can (and do) definitely happen.
And Southwest Airlines also has a carrier-specific policy that makes it easy to cancel flights. Travelers who are prone to last-minute schedule changes should consider booking directly with the airline, which never charges a fee to change flights (as long as the change was made at least 10 minutes prior to departure). That means you can rebook your flights time and time again, and pay only the difference in fares.
Even if none of these circumstances apply, travelers may still be able to walk away from a flight without penalty. If the airline makes a significant change to your itinerary (your morning flight is now leaving hours later than originally scheduled) you can make a convincing argument for a full refund.