If there’s one regulation that airlines hate more than anything, it’s the 24-hour rule.
Can you blame them? In 2012, the Transportation Department required air carriers to allow you to hold a reservation without payment or cancel a booking without penalty for 24 hours after your reservation, with some exceptions.
That allowed passengers to fix mistakes, such as a misspelled name or a wrong date. They could just cancel the ticket and rebook, as long as their departure date was more than a week away. But this government-mandated “out” clause probably also cost airlines millions in revenue.
Now, regulators want to expand that rule to travel agencies, requiring that they also offer the same option for customers. A vast majority of agents already abide by the 24-hour rule, but a few travel retailers have discovered ways to weasel their way out.
It’s not just online agencies. Another reader, Christina Conte, was fare-shopping on the British Airways website when she noticed a pop-up window that cheerfully announced it offered “free” cancellations, as long as they were made within four hours. If she caught the mistake after then, but before her 24 hours were up, British Airways would charge her a “small fee.”
Clearly, airlines want your tickets to be completely non-refundable from the moment you push the “buy” button. So do online travel agencies.