Airline Risk-Free 24 Hour Ticket Cancellation Policies

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Here is an update to an older post about the cancellation policies of several airlines.

The Flight Deal is about spontaneous and flexible travel to interesting destinations. We’ve published a lot of great fares that expire quickly. For most of you, the ability to take advantage of these deals is sometimes challenging due to lag time required to coordinate with significant others or friends.

The team here has a book-now-ask-later policy. Why? Well, we usually book on the carrier website and take advantage of their generous cancellation or hold policies.

Summary:

  • American: 24 Hour Hold
  • Delta: 24 Hour Risk Free Cancellation
  • JetBlue: 24 Hour Risk Free Cancellation
  • United: 24 Hour Risk Free Cancellation
  • US Airways: 24 Hour Risk Free Cancellation
  • Virgin Atlantic: 24 Hour Risk Free Cancellation
  • Others – see below for Department of Transportation Regulations

American Airlines

American Airlines allows you to HOLD a reservation for 24 hours for free. As long as you purchase before the HOLD expires, American will guarantee the price if it goes up. This is probably the most generous policy out there since it requires no money out of pocket. Starting at $5, American also offers holds for up to 7 days.

American does not offer a 24 hour risk free cancellation policy unlike Delta, United, or US Airways.

One caveat: if you HOLD multiple reservations with the same dates, American will run a sweep at midnight and cancel them all. To avoid such a situation, HOLD the reservations without being logged in on the AA.com site.

Read more on AA.com for hold feature

Delta

Delta offers a 24 hour risk free cancellation policy. If you buy a ticket from Delta.com, you have 24 hours to cancel without penalty and you will receive a refund in your original form of payment. This policy applies to refundable as well as non-refundable fares.

Unlike American, Delta does not offer the ability to hold a fare.

Read more on Delta.com for cancellation policy

JetBlue

JetBlue offers a 24 hour risk free cancellation policy if the travel was booked seven (7) or more days before the departure date.

Like Delta, JetBlue does not allow you to HOLD reservations.

Read more on JetBlue.com for cancellation policy

United

United offers a 24 hour risk free cancellation policy. If you buy a ticket from United.com, you have 24 hours to cancel without penalty and you will receive a refund in your original form of payment. This policy applies to refundable as well as non-refundable fares.

Unlike American, United does not offer the ability to hold a fare except for a nonrefundable fee under their FareLock service.

Read more on United.com for cancellation policy

US Airways

US Airways will allow a customer to cancel a purchased ticket for a full refund without penalty for up to 24 hours after purchase. This policy applies to refundable as well as non-refundable fares.

Unlike American, US Airways does not offer the ability to hold a fare.

Read more on USAirways.com for cancellation policy.

Virgin America

Virgin America allows a customer to cancel a purchased ticket for a full refund without penalty for up to 24 hours after purchase.

Virgin allows you to HOLD a reservation for 24 hours for free if booking via their 800 number but not on VirginAmerica.com. Virgin will cancel the hold if fullpayment is not received within 24 hours of holding the fare.

Read more on VirginAmerica.com for cancellation policy.

US Department of Transportation Regulations

In addition, earlier this year, the Department of Transportation enacted a new rule with regards to reservations and cancellations — 14 CFR 259.5. According to the rule, if a reservation is made more than 7 days in advance with an airline with flights originating or flying into the US, the reservation must be held for the quoted price for 24 hours without cancellation or price increase. The full DOT guideline can be found here on page 14.

The bottom line?

On the scale of customer friendliness, American has the best policy for pre-purchases while all the other carriers have a better policy for post-purchases. In the end, these cancellation policies allow us more time to think about the deal and whether or not to take advantage of them.

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Responses to "Airline Risk-Free 24 Hour Ticket Cancellation Policies"

  1. BLee says:

    For AA, what if the hold function was not available at the time of purchase? Do certain fares warrant immediate payment and stay absolutely non-refundable even the first 24 hours? I purchased a ticket from Dallas to Buenos Aires (hold feature was not available), and cancelled within 24hours. When the hold function is not available then shouldn’t I be able to cancel my ticket without penalty in the first 24hour post purchase?

    Reply
    • TFD says:

      @BLee – for AA, if the hold function is not available, 24 hour cancellation rule applies if the flight departs from the US. This happens on AA when the entire itinerary is not with American — e.g., AA to London then BA to somewhere else.

      Reply
  2. BLee says:

    Yes, the flight was part AA part LAN and the hold function was not available. Thanks for the reply!

    Reply

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