What is the 24-Hour Flight Cancellation Rule? Guide on Canceling for a Full Refund at Each Airline
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says airlines must refund your money if you cancel within 24 hours of booking. While that is great news for impulsive flight buyers, there are some stipulations. This post will tell you how the 24-hour flight cancellation rule works as well as how to get a full refund.
What is the 24-Hour Flight Cancellation Rule?
Enacted in 2013, the 24-hour rule means airlines must issue a full refund if you cancel your flight booking within 24 hours. The rule also allows airlines to offer 24-hour fare holds (without payment) instead. Regardless of what the airline chooses, it must abide by this rule.
That provides awesome flexibility when booking flights. See a fare you may want? You can book it and have 24 hours to decide if you want to keep it. During that time, you can search for better, alternative flights.
What the 24-Hour Rule Covers and Does Not Cover
Here is the rule’s important fine print.
- Flights must be booked at least seven days in advance (though some airlines allow for closer bookings).
- The flight must depart from or land in the United States (includes domestic and international airlines).
- Flights must be booked directly with the airline (online travel agencies do not count).
- All tickets, including basic economy and non-refundable tickets, are covered under the rule.
Essentially, the rule covers flights touching U.S. soil at some point booked directly with the airline at least seven days in advance.
While the minimum requirement is seven days, some airlines allow you to book as late as 24 hours in advance. For example, American Airlines abides by the 24-hour rule if you booked your flight within two days of departure.
Some online travel agencies (OTAs), while not required, have their own 24-hour cancellation policies.
24-Hour Flight Cancellation Rules Benefits
The 24-hour rule provides travelers tremendous flexibility. Airfare is usually the most expensive part of a trip, so you should take full advantage of the rule.
Let’s you lock in a price ceiling – Airfare prices are dynamic; In other words, they change often throughout the day for no apparent reason. With the rule, you can book a price you feel comfortable with and then search for a better deal. If you find a better price, can cancel your initial booking. If you do not, you know you found the best current price.
Buys you time – While the $300 roundtrip flight to Europe you just booked is a great deal, you may not be able to take the trip. Sometimes, flight prices are too good to think about. The 24-hour rule lets you book now and ask questions later. Maybe you find out the dates are no good; Maybe your significant other does not want to go. Whatever the reason, you have 24 hours to decide.
How to Cancel a Flight Using the 24-Hour Rule
The 24-hour rule is easy to put into practice. Here is how it’s done.
- Book a flight that meets the rules
- Search for alternative flights. If you find a better deal, book it if you are still within the 24-hour window of your original booking.
- After successfully booking the new flight, cancel your original flight and receive a full refund.
You should book the new flight before canceling the original one because the price could change. Remember, airline prices are dynamic and go up and down multiple times per day.
Can I Still Cancel My Flight if it’s Past 24 Hours?
It depends. Here are a few common scenarios.
Refundable Tickets – Even after 24 hours, you can cancel your refundable ticket for a full cash refund. Refundable plane tickets always cost more money than non-refundable tickets.
Basic Economy Tickets – In most cases, you cannot cancel or change basic economy tickets after 24 hours, even for a fee. Some airlines do allow you to pay to change basic economy fares, but it is often expensive.
Non-Basic Economy Tickets – During the pandemic, most airlines eliminated change fees for most non-basic economy tickets, and that wonderful policy is still in effect today. The only catch is you will get a credit or voucher instead of a cash refund. Regardless, that is extremely valuable if you planned on rebooking anyway and the new flight is cheaper; You get to keep the credit difference for a future flight.
Specific Airline Policies for the 24-Hour Cancellation Rule
While every airline is bound by the DOT’s guidelines regarding the 24-hour cancellation rule, some have more generous policies.
- Alaska Airlines – Book 24 hours or more before departure.
- Allegiant Air – Book at least seven days before departure.
- American Airlines – Book at least two days before departure.
- Delta Air Lines – Delta’s policy is a bit more complicated than other airlines. “Requests must be made by midnight of the day after the eTicket is purchased or midnight of the departure date of the first flight, whichever comes first.” For cash purchases made over the phone, Delta will hold the fare for 24 hours. – See the full policy here
- Frontier Airlines – Book at least seven days before departure.
- Hawaiian Airlines – Book at least seven days before departure.
- JetBlue Airways – Book at least seven days before departure.
- Spirit Airlines – Book at least seven days before departure.
- United Airlines -Book at least seven days before departure.
Further Reading: How to Cancel an American Airlines Flight, and How to Cancel a Delta Air Lines Flight
24-Hour Cancellation Rule for Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
The DOT’s rule only applies to flights booked directly with airlines. Regardless, some online travel agencies, like Expedia and Priceline, have their own policies regarding the 24-hour cancellation rule. It varies by each OTA, so you should read the full policy before booking. See our guide on the best websites for booking cheap flights.
While OTAs may offer cheaper fares, we always recommend booking directly with airlines. In addition to being protected by the DOT’s 24-hour policy, booking direct cuts out the middleman and generally leads to better customer service. Use Google Flights to find cheap flights; Unlike an OTA, you’ll book directly with the airline after searching on Google Flights.
The 24-hour flight cancellation rule means airlines must provide full refunds under the following circumstances:
1. Flights booked directly with airlines
2. Flights departing from or landing in the United States
3. Flights booked at least seven days prior to departure.
No they are not. Regardless, many OTAs have their own guidelines when it comes to cancellations within 24 hours of booking.
As long as you do not have a basic economy ticket, you can in most cases. You’ll receive a flight credit or voucher as opposed to a refund, however, if you have a non-refundable ticket. Those with refundable tickets receive a full refund even after the 24-hour window.
No, it is one or the other.
It depends entirely on your credit card company.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
The 24-hour cancellation rule provides power to consumers. It allows you to lock in a flight price you are willing to pay and then shop for cheaper deals. It also gives you time to think about if you really want to take that flight. Flexibility is the main thing when it comes to booking cheap travel, and this rule provides it.
Get The Vacationer Newsletter
Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox