Yes, you can legally cancel your flight within 24 hours and get a full refund (mostly)

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Did you know that it’s your legal right to cancel a flight and receive a full refund within 24 hours of purchasing it?

There’s a couple stipulations to ensure you’re within the cancellation policy: as long as the reservation was booked out seven days or more before the flight’s departure date, you purchased the flight direct from the airlines (not through brokers such Expedia, Hotwire, etc.), and it’s not reward travel then you should be in the clear.

Didn’t know you had this right? I didn’t either. And a lot of people don’t — even frequent travelers. The Department of Transportation regulation is relatively new; just over three years old, so it’s not like it’s been around for a while.

Passengers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.

Need to Cancel Flight Within 7 Days or Bought via Broker?

In the first paragraph, I mentioned a couple caveats to the DOT’s 24-hour rule. The good news is that if you’re within the 7 day period or purchased your fare via Priceline or Travelocity, you’re not out of luck by a long shot.

Many of the major carriers are flexible with this policy and will allow you to cancel as long as you’re within the 24 hour window. This is obviously the airlines’s right to refuse if you’re not 7+ days out, so it all comes down to a combination of “intangible” factors. Here’s what you should consider if you’re calling in to cancel a flight fewer than 7 days out (but within your 24 hour window).

    How many days out are you before the flight? Obviously being 6 days out as opposed to 6 hours makes a huge difference
    Airline How “chill” is that particular airline about policing the regulation? Check the carrier’s policy on their website.
    Representative How “by-the-book” the airline representative you’re speaking to is.

Increase your chances by being nice to the representative, have a legitimate excuse, and if you’re desperate, let them know how desperate you are to cancel. And sometimes it can help your case when you own their credit card or have reached a certain level of their rewards program (V.I.P. etc.).

If you bought your airfare from brokers such as Orbitz or Travelocity or HotWire; though not legally bound by DOT’s law, a few of these brokers allow for cancellations usually accompanied with a fee or partial refund. I was going to look them up and list a couple, but after reading their terms, it was way too convoluted. Instead, here’s a list of cancellation/price adjustment policies from Million Miles Secrets.

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