February 23, 2022

The 24-Hour Rule: Why It Pays To Be Impulsive When Booking Cheap Flights

By Paul William

February 23, 2022

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links which means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through them.

Imagine this: You’re playing around on Google Flights and spot an insane deal to your dream destination.

Maybe it’s $200 roundtrip to Hawaii. Or $300 roundtrip to Paris. A really good deal.

It’s way cheaper than any flight you’ve ever seen to your dreamland, and your heart is pounding in anticipation.

Of course, you want to book this NOW before someone else swoops in and buys the last seat…

But then you remember there are some questions you need to answer:

Can you get the vacation days off work? Can your partner? Are these the same dates as your cousin’s wedding you’re supposed to attend?

All worthwhile questions to ask.

The problem is, by the time you check into all that and get the OK, the once-in-a-lifetime flight deal has already disappeared — scooped up by more trigger happy travelers who saw the same great fare and didn’t delay.

I got burned like this several times until I learned about a better cheap flight booking strategy that let’s you “book first and ask questions later.”

So today, I want to tell you all about:

The Federal 24-Hour Rule for Booking Flights

The U.S. Department of Transportation has several official rules that govern booking and refunds for flights. The one that’s most applicable here is generally refered to as “the 24 hour rule.”

The 24 hour rule states: If your flight meets the following criteria:

  • Flight is going to or from the United States
  • Booked directly with the airline
  • Reservation made at least 7 days before flight departure

… you are allowed to cancel your ticket within 24 hours of booking with ZERO charge or penalty.

The 2 massive advantages of the 24 hour flight rule

There are two ways this can really help you:

Book fast with no regrets and no pressure

This goes back to the situation we first talked about. Rather than waiting to get all your ducks in a row and then book, you can simply book right away, knowing that you have 24 hours to check whether or not the trip will actually work for you.

If it turns out you can’t get the time off work, or the dates don’t work for any other reason, you can simply cancel within 24 hours and it’s like it never happened.

If the price drops, capture the difference and get cash back

Have you ever bought something just to see it go on sale the next day?

Kinda sucks, right?

The good news is, with the 24-hour rule, you’ll never have to worry about this when it comes to your flights.

Basically, if you book a flight to London for $700 at 9pm, and then see the same flight is only $550 the next morning, you can book the new cheaper fare, cancel your original ticket, and pocket the $150 difference.

Who doesn’t want some extra walking around money for their trip?

Some important points and considerations

  • This rule only covers flights booked directly with the airline. If you book with an online travel agency like Expedia or Priceline, they are not required to honor the same policy. Online travel agencies have their own policies, which in some cases match the 24-hour rule, but it is not required.
  • Airlines have the option of offering you a free 24 hour price hold on a reservation without payment in lieu of the standard 24-hour cancelation policy, but this is fairly rare. It’s much more common that you’ll pay up front and then get your money back should you want to cancel.

Final thoughts

Hopefully now you know what the 24-hour flight booking rule is and what your rights are as a traveler.

Take advantage of these rules to jump on cheap fares before they disappear, and if you notice your flight price drops the day after booking, get some money back to spend on another fun part of your trip!

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