How to Lock In Cheap Flights with the 24-Hour Refund Rule

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Published November 2, 2022

Whenever I search for cheap flights from Philly and spot an insane deal, my first thought is usually: “Book this flight NOW before someone else does!”

But then I snap back to reality and remember I need to check with my boss.

The problem is, by the time I do that, the flight deal is often gone — scooped up by other travelers who pulled the trigger first.

I had experienced this disappointment a few times before I finally learned about a better way to book airfare that lets you impulsively jump on cheap fares first, and ask questions later:

The US Department of Transportation 24-Hour Rule

This is a powerful flight booking refund rule that everyone can take advantage of, but hardly anyone talks about.

Basically, if your flight meets the following criteria:

  • Booked directly with the airline
  • Flight is going to or from the USA
  • The reservation was made at least 7 days before departure

You can cancel your ticket within 24-hours of booking without charge or penalty.

How the 24-Hour Refund Rule Benefits You:

1. When you see an incredible fare, you can book immediately to lock in a price, and then have 24 hours to decide if the trip will actually work for you.

2. If the price drops further within 24 hours of booking, you can cancel the original reservation and book the same route at the new lower price.

Example: Say you book a flight to Paris for $500. But the next day, the same flight drops to $400. Here’s what you do:

  • Ensure you’re still within the 24-hr window from purchase (with some time to spare)
  • Book the new cheaper ticket on the same flight
  • Cancel old reservation
  • Pocket the $100 difference and spend it on your trip 🙂

It’s really that easy.

Just two points to keep in mind:

1. This rule doesn’t cover flights booked with online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia or Priceline. Those sites all have their own policies but are not required to honor this rule. It only applies if you book directly with the airline.

2. In lieu of this 24-hour cancelation policy, airlines can offer a free 24-hr price hold on a ticket without payment. But this isn’t super common nowadays.

Wrapping up

Now that you know about the 24-hour flight refund rule, you can take advantage of this lesser-known traveler right. It gives you the flexibility to jump on cheap plane tickets as they appear and get “cash back” if the price drops within a day of booking.

After all, more money saved means more flights… and that’s what we’re all about!

p.s. you can view the official rules on the Department of Transportation website here

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