The airlines don’t like to publicize it, but starting in 2012 the Department of Transportation required US airlines to make refunds to passengers who cancelled their non-refundable tickets/reservations within 24 hours of making them.
That is a great consumer right.
One New Yorker, however, needed to take an emergency flight in the next day or two, so he bought a ticket on JetBlue. His plans shortly changed, and within 24 hours he contacted JetBlue to cancel the reservation. They said he did not qualify for a full refund. What?
JetBlue’s contract of carriage states this:
“Following receipt of payment from a Passenger, JetBlue will allow a reservation to be held at the quoted fare for 24 hours, if the reservation is made at least one week prior to the flight’s departure. [Emphasis added.] If such reservation is canceled within 24 hours of booking, Passenger will receive a full refund without assessment of a cancellation fee.”
Sure enough, the fine print of the DOT’s regulation provides:
Allows “passengers to hold a reservation without payment, or to cancel it without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.”
A check of some other airlines’ policies and a call to U.S. Airways suggest that their cancellation policies don’t impose that seven-day in advance purchase requirement to get a full refund.
As always, don’t assume. Ask your airline if you indeed have the unrestricted right to cancel your ticket within 24 hours of purchase.