How to Save Money on Flights Using the 24-hour Reservation Requirement

Did you know that airlines are required by law to give you a refund within 24 hours if you decide you don’t want the flight, or allow you to hold a flight for 24 hours without payment? Most people are not aware of this government-mandated policy, but it’s true! Click here to see it for yourself on the Department of Transportation’s website.  This is pretty cool news.  But in reality, how can we actually use this to our advantage?

Most of us just search for flights online, book the one we want, and then consider it non-refundable. We certainly don’t want to waste time, but would love to save money; and hate when we realize that the price dropped right after we purchased our ticket. Because fight prices can change rapidly, we feel as though we should check in several times before booking, just in case we can get our ticket cheaper. It’s a constant mind game. “Should I book now or wait?” Well, the 24-hour rule can help ease buyer’s remorse. This is one way you can use the rule to your advantage to potentially save lots of money over time:

Use an online price alert tool to notify you by email of changing fares even after you have purchased your ticket online. Then, if the flight you just booked goes down within 24 hours, call the airline to cancel your flight and rebook the one you want at a lowered rate.

I like Kayak’s price alert tool the best to do this. Simply search for your route, and then click on the green “Create a price alert” button on the top left-hand corner. If you are not signed-in on the site, you may need to click the “More Filters” Tab on the lower left-hand toolbar. Then, click on “Price Alert” to set it up.

Remember that only airlines are required by law to honor the 24-hour rule, so if you book your flight through Kayak or another booking engine, this won’t apply. I love using these tools though to search through fares before hopping over to the airline’s website to book with my frequent flyer numbers. You get the best of both worlds that way.

It’s also important to know that all airlines have different ways they comply with the 24-hour rule. They can either: allow you to cancel your flight within 24-hours free of charge (for flights more than 7 days in advance), or allow you to hold the flight without payment.

Because they don’t have to follow both rules, each airline does it slightly different. However, they are all required by law to disclose their cancellation policy on their website. Just make sure you check your airline’s rules when booking. Jet Blue and Spirit for example, allow you to cancel or make changes to a flight free of charge within 24 hours for flights more than 7 days in advance.  But, Delta and US Airways don’t impose the 7-day rule and will give you a full refund. American Airlines is one of the few that complies with the rule by allowing you to hold a flight free of charge for 24 hours!

No matter which airline you chose or how you use the 24-hour Reservation Requirement, knowing that it exists can possibly save you a good bit of money over time. So next time you book a flight, remember the 24-hour Reservation Requirement and use it to your advantage!

Feature Photo Credit: Thinkstock/istock/eriksvoboda

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