Last winter when I was looking to book my annual winter getaway, I discovered an awesome little tool on American Airlines’ website that allows you to hold a fare, for no cost, for up to 24 hours! This little trick allowed me to price out my trip and research other destinations without the pressure of having to make a decision out of fear of losing the lowest possible price. I figured this was something other airlines offered as well but didn’t know too much until I came across a recent article from Airfarewatchdog.com.
Turns out, lots of airlines allow you to take advantage of the best possible fare, without thinking twice. So helpful for those who aren’t always able to act on impulse!!
Ever see an amazing fare on Airfarewatchdog.com and be itching to book it, but you have to call your husband/wife/brother/posse to coordinate plans? Or just want to shop around for a bit to make sure it’s a good deal? Sure you have. And while you waited, that $312 round-trip tax-included fare to Berlin suddenly jumped back up to $1000. Well next time, book it and decide later. Many airlines allow you to hold a fare and get a full refund within 24 hours of booking if you change your mind or make a mistake in the booking process. Many, but not all. JetBlue? No. Airtran? Only if you make a change or cancel within four hours, and you’ll get a voucher, not a refund. So book with confidence on the airlines that allow a full 24 hour grace period.
Just booked a non-refundable fare and immediately realize you selected the wrong dates or the wrong city? Or simply decide that you don’t want to attend Aunt Freda’s annual bingo marathon after all? Depending on the airline or online travel agency you bought from, you might be able to cancel and get a full refund if you do so within a certain time. But it might take some work and some airfare vendors are more frustrating to deal with than others.
In general, if the airline you are booked with has a no-penalty cancellation policy you must cancel within 24 hours of purchase, or else regular change fees will apply. Many major U.S.-based carriers offer a 24-hour grace period and let you get a refund for no fee. The only exceptions are American Airlines and Air Tran. Continental and Delta make it super easy to cancel fee-free with just a few mouse clicks. If your ticket is not on either of those airlines you will have to be patient and spend some time on the phone.
While American does not have a 24-hour cancellation grace period, it does offer a “Hold” feature for many fares allowing you to hold the reservation for 24 hours while you make your decision. That’s even better as you don’t have to fork over your credit card and can secure the same fare for a short period (unless it’s a sale or advance purchase fare with other expiration guidelines). Continental has also recently launched a similar service called FareLock, where you can lock in your fare for 3 days for as little as $5 or 7 days for $9. This goes above and beyond their 24-hour cancellation policy, which remains in place for free.
If you’ve bought from an online travel site such as Expedia or Priceline, you’ll have to be even more patient. Recently, we received an email from a reader about her experience trying to cancel a ticket booked on Priceline, and in short she wasn’t able to reach a representative in time and was stuck with a ticket she no longer needed. Under Priceline’s rules, if you phone them by 11:30 p.m. ET on the day that you book, you can get a full refund. But as our reader discovered, it’s easier said than done. If you can’t get through by phone, send them an email (which records the time it was sent) or better yet you might have luck calling the airline directly to see if they can do anything. However, this policy doesn’t apply to “name your own” price (bidding for travel) fares.
Orbitz offers a 24-hour courtesy cancellation on certain reservations, which can be processed online. Exclusions are package deals, paper tickets, and “certain airlines”. Typically, a courtesy cancel button will appear at the end of the booking process if the reservation qualifies.