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You Can Get A Full Refund Within The First 24 Hours On All U.S. Flights

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A relatively unknown U.S. Department of Transportation rule could come in handy for travelers who have a quick change of plans. The ‘24-hour reservation requirement’ rule requires airlines to give travelers a full refund if they cancel their flight within 24 hours of buying a ticket. This applies to all airlines that operate flights within the U.S. and those operating flights into or out of the country. According to the DOT, the airline must refund 100% of the fare to whatever payment method was used to book the flight, even if the fare was listed as non-refundable.

Couple canceling flights within 24 hours

Is There A Catch?

There are three things travelers need to watch out for regarding the 24-hour rule.

  1. This rule only applies if travelers book directly with the airline. Those who purchase airfare through a travel agency, such as Kayak, must adhere to the travel agency’s refund policy. Likely, their policy will not include a 24-hour rule, and they do not have to follow the DOT’s guidance like airlines do.
Traveler booking a flights with an online travel agency
  1. Another thing to watch out for are airlines that allow you to hold a fare for 24 hours. The airline is technically giving you 24 hours to cancel the hold by offering this service. Therefore, according to the DOT, they are upholding their end of the requirement. If you hold a fare and follow through with its purchase, you will no longer be able to take advantage of the 24-hour rule.
  2. Finally, this rule does not apply to flights that are booked within a 7-day window of departure. If you book a flight for a Friday on the preceding Monday, you will not be able to take advantage of the 24-hour rule.
AA reservation flights fare hold screenshot
Image Courtesy Of: American Airlines

Handy 24-Hour Rule Use Cases

Most travelers who book a flight have been thinking about it for a long time. By the time they reach the point of purchasing a ticket, dates are set, plans are made, and it’s unlikely they will cancel within 24 hours. While something may come up within that 24-hour window, such as a family emergency, it isn’t very likely. So, what are some more practical uses for this rule?

Woman booking a flight with her phone
  • Save some money! Ticket prices fluctuate daily, sometimes dramatically. If you purchased a ticket only to see it go down in price significantly within 24 hours, you might feel a bit of buyer’s remorse. However, with the 24-hour rule, you would be able to cancel your flight and rebook it at the cheaper rate. Knowing this, make sure to check prices for the next 24 hours after buying your ticket to ensure you are getting the best deal you possibly can.
Woman excited about a booking that was just made to go on vacation

Jump on that low-cost ticket! See a fare that’s too good to pass up? Afraid it will vanish in minutes if you don’t snag it? Planning can wait! Go ahead and purchase the ticket, then spend the next few hours seeing if you can make it work. If not, go ahead and cancel for a full refund knowing you at least tried to take advantage of a great deal.


Relatively Unknown Passenger Rights In The U.S.

Many people are unaware of the 24-hour rule in the United States. Similarly, there are additional relatively unknown passenger rights in the U.S. you should know about. Below are your rights for canceled or overbooked flights.

Interior of airplane cabin with passenger sitting down
  • Canceled Flight: The DOT suggests attempting to work with your airline first when your flight is canceled. However, another relatively unknown law requires airlines in the U.S. to refund passengers in the event of a canceled flight.
  • Overbooked Flight: If airlines can rebook you on a flight that gets you to your final destination within one hour of your original arrival, you will not be compensated. If your new arrival is 1-2 hours later than your original arrival, you receive 200% of your one-way fare cost, up to $775. If your new arrival is over 2 hours after your original arrival, you get 400% of your one-way fare cost, up to $1,550.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Francisco Javier

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Thanks for your articles, very useful. Regarding 24 hours right, the Icelandic Company Fly Play doesn't honor this rule, even accomplishing conditions, when reservation is not made in US Dollars. Nevertheless, Customer Service will respect this right in case of reservations in other currencies, if the customer give a proof of being an american citizen. In this regard, there are two different pages in the website, one, stating limitation by currency (only USD), and other, with a customer service plan where there is not any limitation. As European and user of Euros, my request of refund was denied. Just for general information.