Know Your Rights: Free 24 Hour Flight Cancellation for Flights Departing from the USA

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Last updated on July 23rd, 2023
Originally published on October 22, 2013

Since January 2012, travelers may cancel flight tickets reserved on a US carrier and obtain a full refund within 24 hours of the initial booking, including any fees paid.  Since many of these airlines now permit cancellation up to midnight on the day following the flight reservation, this in effect means that you often will have longer than 24 hours to cancel, depending on the time of day you booked your flights.

Note that this rule applies to tickets purchased directly from the airline online, by phone, or at a ticket counter, but does not apply to tickets purchased from online travel agencies likes Orbitz, nor from brick-and-mortar travel agencies.

This consumer rule (or regulation, but it is NOT a law) is issued by the United States Department of Transportation and applies to US airlines only.  Airlines must allow customers to:

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  • cancel a booking without penalty within 24 hours of purchase, provided the booking is made at least one week in advance of flight
  • hold a reservation without payment for 24 hours, provided the booking is made at least one week in advance of flight

Note that the rule does not apply to change fees. For example, say you don’t need to cancel your flight, but merely to change the date.   In most cases, you are going to be charged at least $200 to do this. However, with the new rule in place you can simply cancel your flight, get a refund, and rebook for the correct dates.  Also, the rule applies only to tickets purchased directly from airlines, not from brick-and-mortar or online travel agencies, who will still charge you a hefty fee to cancel.

To change a flight reservation within 24 hours of booking, simply follow the instructions above to cancel the original flight tickets and then book the new flights once you’ve received confirmation of the cancellation.

24 Hour Cancellation / Reservation Policies and Refund Instructions for Major US Airlines:

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