There’s one quick and easy task you can do that will more than likely save you money on your next flight. Less than 24 hours after you’ve booked your plane tickets, hit up some airline websites and check fares. You’ll thank us later.
We received an email from airfare-analysis website Hopper today that reminded us of something very important: U.S. travelers can cancel or change all plane tickets within 24 hours of booking, as long as those tickets are booked more than seven days ahead of departure. This largely unsung yet very consumer-friendly policy has been the law since 2011. The Department of Transportation (DOT) says so. If you’ve dropped some cash on a plane ticket and are having regrets, there’s an easy way out for at least a day. File that factoid in the back of your brain and put it to use when you’re planning your next trip.
Hopper also told us more than “two out of three ticket prices will drop at some point within 24 hours of the original search or booking, with an average saving of 14 percent.” Further, “about one in six times the airfare will drop by at least 20 percent during the cancellation window.” That’s according to Hopper’s data science team, which analyzed the booking information for more than 15,700 flights in 100 markets over a two-month period.
We like those odds for saving money on airfare. Hopper’s findings clearly show why travelers should continue checking ticket prices after booking. It can’t hurt to shop around for a few minutes within a day of booking.
There’s one exception to this rule, however. When you book with American, the airline offers the option to put a flight on hold at no charge for 24 hours. If you don’t select this “hold” payment bubble when booking with American online, you aren’t eligible for a no-charge refund within the 24-hour period. American’s practice is confusing to consumers, for sure. But it’s not illegal. The carrier is taking advantage of “or” in this DOT clause: “[This rule] requires carriers to hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty (the ’24-hour reservation requirement’).” (Read the full DOT rule here.) American does the former, not the latter, and it’s the only major carrier that does this. Keep in mind, too, that if you forget to cancel or book your fare within 24 hours, American will charge you a hold fee.
Like American’s sneaky hold charge, those “fare lock” products so many airlines offer nowadays are a sham. United, for example, says it will hold an itinerary for 72 hours for a nonrefundable charge of $6.99. If you really need 72 hours to deliberate for some reason, then I guess the fee makes sense. But, practically speaking, you can already put a hold on a ticket for 24 hours at no charge, as long as you’re comfortable with having that amount charged to your credit card. Your airline will issue a refund right back on your card if you happen to change your mind.
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