Airlines

Cancelling Airline Tickets for Free Within 24 Hours

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Did you know you can cancel almost any airline ticket within 24 hours of booking for a full refund? If you answered yes, this post is about stuff you already know. If you answered no, welcome to a new perk that greatly reduces the risk of jumping on great sale fares.

(Note: I saw “almost any” above, because my experience is limited to purchasing tickets through sites and airlines governed by US laws. I do not know if this also applies to tickets purchased in other countries or on other sites)

US Airways Miles allow you to upgrade with milesBut yes, you can cancel your airline ticket (if booked at least a week in advance) for a full refund if you do so within 24 hours, something Jeanne and I have frequently done when we want to jump on a sale and can’t get ahold of the other person in time. We make our best guess as to their schedule and then cancel a few hours later if needed. I’ve also found this helpful when booking last minute trips over the holidays when inventory is extremely limited.

This works for tickets booked directly with the airline on sites such as USAirways.com, United.com, etc and through third party sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc. The one catch with booking on a third party site is that you do not get refunded any service fees. So if you purchase a ticket that has multiple carriers — like an outbound on US Airways and connects to Silver Airways — you can get the cost of the ticket back, but not the $6.99 service fee for booking more than one airline.

And usually the refund is immediate, in some cases the credit card transaction is still pending and just never goes through. 19 out of 20 times I never have a problem.

But occasionally its not automatic and you need to follow up. This happened to me with my upcoming Israel trip. I booked a ticket, realized I had a $200 voucher, so cancelled the earlier ticket within 24 hours and booked the new one applying my voucher.

cancelled flights

All the fine print said I would get a full refund. The ticket immediately showed as cancelled. I thought I was good. Then I checked my credit card balance online a week later and saw I was about about $1,000 higher than expected. Sure enough, I’d been charged for both tickets and no refund had processed. It can take 7-10 business days, so I gave it another week. Still no refund.

So I called and the automatic system said no refund request had been received. Then I talked to an agent who was able to fix it. I was well within the full refund period, it just hadn’t processed. I’m all set now, but it was a great reminder never to assume things will go through correctly.

Next time a great fare sale comes up on a site that doesn’t let you hold a reservation (like AA.com) and you can’t get ahold of your traveling partners immediately, know you can book it and cancel penalty free if you find out a few hours later those dates won’t work. Just make sure if you have to cancel that you make sure the refund goes through!

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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