How to Cancel a Flight Within 24 Hours of Booking

In today’s travel landscape, where unforeseen circumstances such as unpredictable weather and flight delays can disrupt our plans, knowing how to get a refund for airfare is crucial. Fortunately, many airlines have implemented policies that allow passengers to change or cancel their flights without incurring any fees.

However, did you know that there’s a way to cancel a flight and receive a full refund in the original form of payment? This is made possible by the Department of Transportation’s 24-hour flight cancellation rule. In this article, we will explore this rule in detail and provide you with all the information you need to cancel your flight within 24 hours and obtain a full refund.

Understanding the 24-Hour Flight Cancellation Rule

24-Hour Flight Cancellation

The 24-hour flight cancellation rule is a customer service standard set by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that applies to all airlines operating to, from, and within the United States. According to this rule, airlines must allow travelers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment.

Additionally, if a purchased reservation is canceled within 24 hours of booking, the airline must provide a full refund to the original form of payment. It’s important to note that this rule applies to both domestic and international carriers.

The clock starts ticking on the 24-hour period as soon as the ticket purchase is made. This regulation is particularly beneficial for travelers seeking the best airfare deals or those who want to secure a flight before it sells out. By taking advantage of the 24-hour rule, you can book your tickets and have the flexibility to cancel within the specified time frame if needed.

Benefits of Utilizing the 24-Hour Rule

  1. More Time for Consideration: The 24-hour rule allows you to hold a reservation without payment, giving you additional time to evaluate your travel plans. This is especially useful when you’re waiting for confirmation from friends or family before finalizing your trip.
  2. Savings and Flight Deals: By booking a flight within the 24-hour window, you can take advantage of incredible flight deals that may not last long. For example, you might come across a roundtrip ticket from New York City to Paris for only $230. Booking such deals and knowing you can cancel within 24 hours if necessary ensures you don’t miss out on significant savings.
  3. Price Protection: If the ticket price drops further within the 24-hour period, you have the option to book the new flight, cancel the old one, and save even more money on your ticket.

Refund Process and Timelines

When canceling a flight within 24 hours, airlines are required to make prompt refunds. For payments made with a credit card, the airline should return your money within seven business days. If you made the payment with cash or check, the refund should be processed within 20 days. It’s important to keep these timelines in mind when canceling your flight and expecting a refund.

Exceptions to the 24-Hour Rule

While the 24-hour rule applies to most flight bookings, there are a few exceptions to be aware of:

  1. Bookings Made Less Than Seven Days Before Departure: The DOT rule does not cover bookings made less than seven days before the flight’s departure date. In such cases, you won’t have a grace period to cancel and receive a full refund.
  2. Airlines’ Fare Hold Option: Some airlines offer the choice to hold a fare without payment for 24 hours instead of issuing a refund if the reservation is canceled within that time frame. It’s essential to understand the specific policies of the airline you’re booking with to determine whether a refund or fare hold is available.
  3. Changes to Tickets: The 24-hour rule does not cover gratis changes to your ticket, such as altering the travel date or correcting a misspelled name. In these situations, you may need to cancel the fare for a full refund and rebook the ticket. Contact your airline to inquire about their flexibility regarding ticket changes.
  4. Third-Party Bookings: The 24-hour rule only applies to fares purchased directly from an airline. If you book your tickets through an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia, the DOT’s rule won’t cover your ticket, and you’ll be subject to the refund policy of the third-party company. Before purchasing tickets through an online travel agency, make sure to read their policies regarding refunds.
  5. Tickets Booked Through a Travel Agent: If you booked your tickets through a travel agent, it’s advisable to contact the agent first before reaching out to the airline for a refund. Your travel agent will be able to guide you through the cancellation process and assist you in obtaining a refund.

Ensuring Compliance with the 24-Hour Rule

Airlines are required to be transparent about the 24-hour refund grace period both on their websites and when interacting with customers. This means that the explanation of the 24-hour reservation requirements should be clearly visible in the refund policy sections of an airline’s website. Additionally, customer service representatives must explain the rule to passengers who inquire about canceling their flights.

Fortunately, most airlines cooperate with this regulation and provide refunds to eligible passengers. However, if you believe an airline is not following the 24-hour rule, you have the right to file a consumer complaint on the Department of Transportation’s website. The DOT takes these complaints seriously and takes appropriate action to ensure compliance. In the past, the DOT has secured significant refunds for travelers and imposed fines on airlines that failed to issue refunds promptly.


Can I cancel my flight and get a full refund if I booked it less than seven days before the departure date?

No, the 24-hour flight cancellation rule does not cover bookings made less than seven days before the flight’s departure date.

What should I do if an airline is not following the 24-hour rule?

You can file a consumer complaint on the Department of Transportation’s website to address the issue and seek resolution.

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