We’ve all been there—you enter the credit card digits on what you think is awesome airfare, but just moments later you realize that really wasn’t the case.
Thankfully Uncle Sam has got your back more than ever, as now canceling flights within 24 hours of booking is pretty much the law. So if you realize your best friend can’t skip out of work, or if you see an even better fare less than a day later you can cancel your purchase—hassle free.
We’ve rounded up some of the policies below to ensure that you can book first and figure things out later.
They call it their “risk-free guarantee” and they actually had this pretty generous policy before the new rules and regulations went into effect. Refunds are allowed for most tickets purchased directly through their website, as long as you are leaving from the United States, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Again, you can do it all online, and you will be credited back with a full refund—including any prepaid fees and direct ticketing charges — with no cancellation fee.
When it come to booking now and changing your mind later, United is totally cool with it — even after their merger with Continental. Their 24-hour flexible booking policy allows you to change things as well as cancel within 24 hours of when you booked your flight. The clock starts ticking as soon as your enter your credit card digits at United.com, and refund requests will be credited back in the original form of payment. If you use that FareLock thing to hold a certain price and end up booking later, you’re out of luck — those fees will not be returned.
If you’re going through American Airlines to get your tickets things work a little differently, but not necessarily in a bad way. They are cool with you holding your ticket online before booking, and they give you at least 24 hours to make up your mind. Your reservation is held until midnight on the following day. After that you’re free to book or free to let the hold expire, but after your booking you're going to be flying.
If in-flight television and in-flight WiFi just isn’t for you then you’re more than welcome to skip out on your bill with Virgin America. In fact they are especially generous when it comes to their fares, as they will gladly hold your itinerary for 24 hours if you book the old fashioned way — by calling them up on the phone. Once you finally do hand over your payment you’ll still have 24 hours to cancel without penalty and for a full refund. Of course they’ll be out a couple hundred bucks, but your wallet will thank you for acting quickly.
To us things seem a little bit more cranky over at US Airways, but they do play by the new 24-hour cancellation rules. They’re fine and dandy with your change of plans, but you do have to call them — and probably wait on hold — in order to cancel your flight. Both refundable and non-refundable tickets are eligible for full refunds, and you won’t be stuck with a change fee or anything like that. Watch that clock, and dial 800-428-4322 to take care of business.
Southwest Airlines and AirTran
No problem if you’re booking with either Southwest Airlines or their little buddies over at AirTran, as the 24-hour fee-free cancellation is not a big deal. Southwest is even pretty proud of the fact that they’ve been basically doing this since 2000. Remember, they also don’t have change fees, so as long as you are willing to pay the fare difference you’re free to change your mind on pretty much any ticket. Now you can calm down, call your grandma back, and tell her that you will be there for the holidays after all.
Yet another generous airline. They allow reservations to be held for at least 24 hours, but just make sure that you do so at least a week in advance of your planned departure. After handing over your plastic money you’re fine to cancel within 24 hours of booking, and the payment will head back to your card — or whatever else — without any sort of cancellation fee.
We covered most of the airlines in the nifty fifty, but a few more still come to mind. Hawaiian Airlines says they will allow you to allow cancel reservations made 7 or more days prior to departure without penalty as long as you do so within 24 hours. Over at Alaska Airlines it's pretty much the same thing—cancel within in 24 hours and you’re fine. They’ll even allow one change within 24 hours of purchase, but you’ll have to give them a call.
As for Spirit here’s what they say: “Refunds are allowed for reservations made 7 days or more prior to your departure, provided that you make the refund request within 24 hours of your initial reservation.”