Cancelling Airline Tickets for Free Within 24 Hours

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)

a plane flying in the skyBut 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,, 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.

a screenshot of a computer

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 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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    1. Yes, that’s correct. The 24 hold period is free, but if you jump on a fare immediately, you’re stuck with it!

    2. Thank you for catching that (post updated). Though it’s not their policy to allow the cancellations, but I’ve been able to cancel AA tickets made on their site and through third parties, though its best not to count on being able to cancel an ticket.

    3. I booked a flight to Cabo San Lucas through an agent on AA. Within 5 hours I realized about the Zika virus spreading in Mexico. Sent an email to my agent to cancel but he didn’t receive it until the next morning. But it was still within 24 hours. AA said they would only give credit for one half of the ticket price and no refund. Isn’t that breaking the transportation law?

  1. Anyone knows what happens or has experience if you cancel a ticket purchased through CitiBank’s “THANK YOU” program or US Bank’s “FLEXPERKS” program? Both make it clear that it’s non-refundable, and I prefer purchasing mileage runs through those sites when it makes sense.

    1. With Citi’s “ThankYou” program, you can cancel within 24 hours, but there’s a fee (of $10.96 per passenger).

  2. You said you can do this with third party sites as well? I have Ben searching online for the past hour because I found the US department of transportation 24-cancellation low however it doesn’t state if it applies only directly to airlines or anyone selling flights. I booked a flight today from Boston to portugal only to realize I didn’t use my rewards credit card. I booked it on cheapoair. Called and tried to cancel or switch payment type. They said I would have to cancel and that I’d have to pay a cancellation fee and tickets are non-refundable.

      1. Jeanne Marie Hoffman…thanks, good to see you had a good experience with Expedia since if you look at the website’s regular refund policy it is exremely difficult to navigate. Regards, Dan

  3. I am hav a problem. My passprt last name and ny ticket is not match passport is ny surename b3fire married and my ticket is my married name ,i called both parties airline. And travel agency, but they can’t. Help me on changing so i don’t. Know what to do and i am leaving on the 30th of this month. To Europe. Can anyone help me and advise me pls asap !!!

    1. Name correction policies vary by airline. But most of them will require you to bring your marriage contract at the airport. But prior to that, you should call the airline’s customer service to have it input in the system, so that you won’t be encountering problems at the airport. If your itinerary has a multiple carrier then, they cannot correct that. If they will not allow you to bring documentation to prove that you are the traveler then, better to cancel the ticket. however, check the fare rules first if your ticket is refundable, but if not, that’s gonna be a lose value even if they will give you a flight credit since the name of the passenger on the ticket is incorrect.

  4. Last Friday I bought the flight ticket which was Turkish airlines then I cancelled it within 24 hours by Expedia online. I checked my email from Expedia and called Expedia call center yesterday.
    Fortunately, both of them(Email & Agent) informed me I’d have no problem getting refund.
    But I’m still not sure until I check the refund in my bank account. I’m just waiting until this week. If it takes much time, what I should do next?

  5. It’s called a courtesy cancellation. If you are still within that window, not getting past the 11:59pm pacific standard time, then you can still cancel the airline ticket without being charged of the penalty or getting a flight credit. Most of the credit card accounts show the payment as pending authorization, so it is not an actual charge. It will become an actual charge after 24 hours of booking. Thus, This courtesy cancellation is an exception to normal fare rules because the charge to credit card is not yet complete.

    The courtesy cancellation window generally lasts until 11:59 pm Pacific Time on the business day following your purchase.

    This is gonna be my lesson for travel agents, but I’m still new to the industry. Guys, I need help on how to start the class, like the motivation phase. Do you have any idea? Thanks. I appreciate your replies. 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for this info. I just cancelled 2 tickets through Orbitz, with in 15 minutes of the booking and they said I should expect my refund with in 5 days. The authorization shows up on my credit card, but not on my balance. Where you refunded right away or did it take longer than 5 days?

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