Additionally, airlines have the option of allowing customers to hold their fare without payment for 24 hours or issue a refund if the reservation is canceled within 24 hours of purchase. (American Airlines, for example, has the option of suspending the fare instead of refunding payments.) They don’t have to do both. So if you’ve already held your ticket for a day without payment and decide to purchase that ticket, you won’t be eligible for a refund under DOT regulations if you decide to cancel.
The 24-hour flight cancellation rule also only applies to fares purchased directly from an airline. So if you buy through a online travel agencysuch as Orbitz or Expedia, the DOT rule will not cover your ticket and your reservation will be subject to the third-party company’s refund policy.
What to do if an airline breaks the 24-hour rule
According to the DOT, airlines must be upfront with customers about the one-day refund grace period both on their websites and when contacted by passengers. This means that not only must an explanation of the 24-hour reservation requirements be visible in the refund policy sections of an airline’s website (such as on any terms and conditions pages or reservation pop-ups), but customer service representatives must also explain the rule to passengers who call them with questions about cancellation.
Any airline (including international carriers) operating flights to or from the United States that fails to follow these guidelines is considered to be engaging in “unfair and deceptive” practices, the DOT says. If customers suspect that the airline is not following the rule, they can file a consumer complaint on the Department’s website.
“I haven’t heard too many examples of an airline breaking the 24-hour rule,” Keyes said. “On the contrary, I’ve personally been lucky with them making an exception and allowing me to cancel a few hours late. But if (this) happens, it’s a clear violation of federal regulations and should be notified to DOT.”
The agency takes these complaints seriously and responds to them. Recently he published multiple refund policy reminders to airlines failing to follow the rules during the coronavirus crisis after a surge in consumer complaints.
No matter where you’re traveling or how you book, it helps to know the cancellation rules for your fare.