How You Can Use the 24-Hour Cancellation Rule to Help in Bad Weather

winter travelI have a work trip coming up that is the day after a work event.  So I’m flying on the first flight out the day of the event to get there.

That’s usually my normal MO.  I’m flying from one thing to another so I cut a relatively tight schedule (but still giving myself  14-16 hours to get somewhere usually).

DCA now has a storm predicted for the day I’m supposed to leave for this event.

I called US Airways to reschedule the flight and was told that the storm wasn’t recognized by US Airways yet, so I was SOL.  But I really needed to ensure I got to that event.

Since Thursday is two days ago, I figured if US Airways was going to add DCA to the list of affected airports, they were going to do it in the next 24 hours.

So I took advantage of the 24 hours rule.

That is, most airlines will let you cancel a flight within 24 hours.  (I say most because there’s a loop hole where you can *hold* a flight for 24 hours on some airlines instead of buying and canceling).


Here’s Keri’s list of what to think about when doing the 24-hour cancel.


Delta lets you cancel tickets the next day by midnight.  So when I saw a last-minute fare on Delta for ~$300,  I booked it quickly.  ($300 for a last-minute ticket is incredible!)

I felt really secure in having a backup.  But a little while after I booked my Delta flight, I find out my new flight has been cancelled.  Luckily, I was rebooked on a more desirable (but originally more expensive) route.


I was basking in this when I got another call.  My second flight was cancelled.

And I was protected on a third flight.

I tried calling to discuss that third flight but there was a six hour (I wish I were joking) wait time on Delta.

Soon, US Airways issued a weather advisory, and I was able to move my flight up sooner.  So I cancelled my flight with Delta–after waiting six hours for them to call me back.

So even though there was a lot of back and forth over the flights, I never was really worried about missing my flight event.  Just worried about earning Sky Pesos.  (I AM KIDDING, RENE).

So if you are worried about making a flight for an important work trip, try booking a back-up one with a 24-hour cancellation policy to make sure you can get where you need to be.

But make sure you understand the rules around the 24-hour cancellation policy.

American is much less flexible than Delta.   And also pay attention to whether you need to call or not.  The only reason I couldn’t cancel my Delta flight online is because the changes to my flight made things a bit more complicated.

Edit:  Make sure you read the rules first for each airline!  The law technically says that they do not have to do this when a ticket is bought less than a week out, but many airlines have looser rules.  But again, make sure you know the rules of that airline before booking!

How have you utilized the 24-hour rule?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Note that the Official 24 hour rule only applies if you are booking a trip more than one week out.

  2. My concern about using the 24 hour cancel rule is that the DOT regulation mandating the cancel policy stipulates that the trip must be 7, or is it 14? days out in advance? Maybe you could list how each airline handles this? There is nothing stopping a given airline from always honoring a 24 hour cancel policy, but they are only required to do if the travel will begin 7 to 14 days or longer in advance of the booking date. Also using a tool like Egencia (Expedia corporate) you can still hold a reservation without actually ticketing it for 24 hours.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      It’s 7 days by law, but it varies from airline (on the side of the passenger). I’ll throw together how to do it airline by airline then link back to it. Thanks! Great idea.

  3. How is American less flexible? Their 24 hour hold policy is amazing for situations like this — or grabbing a ticket after the fare has gone up. You don’t have to pay to hold, or spend six hours on hold with Delta. Were you drinking that wine while writing this?

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Delta gives you over 24-hours to cancel and you can cancel the day of your flight. (If you book at 12:01 AM, you get until midnight the next day, almost 48 hours). American, you have to know to put a hold on it. It isn’t possible to cancel if you book. You and I know to put a hold on American, but I want to flag it in case people see this and just book a flight on American. I want them to read the rules.

      And I wasn’t drinking wine, but at that point, I really a glass.

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