Stupid Tip of the Day: How to Extend a 24-Hour Risk-Free Airline Reservation Cancellation

Note: Stupid Tip of the Day is a not-so-new regular feature of The Gate which will not be featured regularly — if at all — after today…or maybe not. Does anyone really read these disclaimers, anyway?!?

irlines based in the United States typically have a policy where you may cancel your flight reservation within 24 hours after you book it — regardless of how restrictive is the terms of the airfare — with no penalty whatsoever. This is a result of the guidelines pertaining to the protection of the consumer of commercial aviation as set forth by the Department of Transportation of the United States on May 31, 2013 which allows you to change your mind when initially booking a flight.

One good advantage of this policy is reserving a low airfare which may exist for a very limited time: reserve now; then ponder the logistics and scheduling during the next 24 hours to see if the trip is feasible. You can also use this policy to secure a flight before comparing alternative flights operated by other airlines in terms of schedule, price and convenience…

…but did you know that you could extend that 24 hours to as many as 47 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds?

Let us look at the official policy of Delta Air Lines as an example:

Cancellation request must be made by midnight of the day after the eTicket is purchased or midnight of the departure date of the first flight, whichever comes first.

“Cancellation request must be made by midnight of the day after the eTicket is purchased” means that if you book your flight just after midnight, you may cancel your flight by midnight of the day after you purchase your ticket.

This means that you can book your reservation at one second after midnight and have up to 47 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds to cancel the reservation without any penalty whatsoever — essentially giving you just shy of two days to change your mind.

If you decide to take advantage of this policy to its fullest extent, first ensure that you are aware of the rules of the specific airline from which you are purchasing your ticket.

4 thoughts on “Stupid Tip of the Day: How to Extend a 24-Hour Risk-Free Airline Reservation Cancellation”

  1. caveman says:

    One of the most confusing things is which time are we talking about like EST or CST and so on. Usually for airlines, I thought they go by EST but my current award reservation on hold for 5 days by AA says CST. In the past I had another one way AA award ticket on hold from AUH-SFO which clearly said midnight AUH local time which is about 11 hours ahead of PST. I called to confirm it way past local AUH time deadline but there was no issue because probably they went by some US standard time.

  2. Mike says:

    In my experience delta does use central standard time

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is interesting, Mike — it has always been Eastern time for me…

      …but if I recall correctly, it depends on what time zone in which you are located…

  3. Rich says:

    If you plan to use this, be 100% sure you know the policy of the airline in question. I’ve had it explained to me several times by UA that their 24-hour clock is exactly that, to the minute–if you issue your ticket at 12:00:01 a.m., your ability to cancel it will end around 12:01 a.m. the next day. (I’ve never tried to cancel a UA ticket after 24 hours and before the second midnight, so I haven’t actually seen this enforced.)

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