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What is the 24-hour Rule on Booking Flight Tickets?

Most travellers are quite unaware of the regulations of airline carriers that operate throughout the globe. Actually, their regulations are always very long and no person bothers to read them all. If you are one of them, you may be missing out on some valuable information about what lies in these regulations or travel policies of airlines. One such policy that is important for all travellers to know is their 24-hour rule when booking flight tickets for your trip. You can also check cheap tickets on the best online travel websites.

In this blog post, we will be covering all the necessary details with regard to airlines’ 24-hour rule and how it affects travellers.

What does the 24-hour Rule in Air Travel Policy Mean?

In 2012, the “24-hour rule” was issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to both U.S. and foreign airline carriers that serve to and from the U.S. with regard to compliance with this regulation.

The main purpose of this rule is basically to allow travellers to change, modify/update booking information or even cancel their trip within 24 hours of booking tickets that were purchased at least a week ahead. Also, the type of ticket purchased, change or cancel fees charged or fees exempted play a key role here, whether you are travelling on a domestic flight or an international flight. However, fees will not be charged if you purchased non-refundable tickets and decide to change or cancel your ticket not later than 24 hours of booking. This rule applies to both US-based airline carriers and foreign air carriers as well that serve flights to and from the United States.

However, this rule does not apply to airline carriers that do not serve flights to and from the United States. As such, these airline carriers may have other travel policies specific to their flight bookings, corrections/updates or trip cancellations and within a limited time frame. Also, the fees charged may differ or perhaps, not charged at all.

Thus, to put this in simple words, we can say that the 24-hour rule provides travellers a time-frame within which you can either change/correct/update your reservation information or simply cancel your entire trip with or without paying fees.

24-hour Rule Issued by the U.S. DOT

The following is an excerpt of the travel policy issued by the U.S. DOT that reflects to all domestic and international airline carriers that serve flights to and from the U.S.

“The 24-hour reservation requirement is mandated by the Department of Transportation’s consumer rule “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” (14 CFR 259.5(b)(4), 76 Fed. Reg. 23110, 23166, Apr. 25, 2011). It applies to all reservations made seven days or more prior to the flight’s scheduled departure time. To comply with the regulation, carriers may not deceive consumers about the 24-hour reservation requirement. If should be automatic. Travelers should not have to inquire about cancelling or changing a reservation within 24 hours and making or paying for that reservation. Airlines should offer any changes free of additional fees.

This guidance also clarifies that the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office) considers the failure to notify such consumers of the 24-hour reservation requirement to be unfair and deceptive in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 41712. It also considers the failure to offer a passenger a full refund in the original form of payment in the event of a cancellation request covered by the 24-hour reservation requirement to be an unfair and deceptive practice.”

Exceptions to the 24-hour Rule on Booking Tickets

In the above, we learned about the 24-hour rule and how it is applied to the purchase of flight tickets. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule though.

Given below are a few exceptions where this rule does not apply:

Flights booked within seven days of travel

The 24-hour rule does not apply to flight tickets that were purchased within seven days of your travel date. The rule only covers free cancellations or changes for certain flights, for example, all US-based flights and some foreign airlines that serve destinations to and from the U.S. Also, the rule covers only those reservations that were booked directly with the airline’s via their website and at least seven days in advance of travel.

However, if you purchase a flight ticket in less than seven days in advance, the rule will not be applicable here.

Flights that do not serve to and from the U.S.

There is an exception to the 24-hour rule with regard to international flights that do not serve to and from the United States.

For example, if you are flying from Kenya to Cairo, this rule is not applicable here because the flight neither originates from or serves to destinations in the U.S. Therefore, the U.S. DOT does not consider this flight service in their rule.

Airline offers a free 24-hour price hold

Another important exception to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 24-hour rule is with regard to airlines that offer a free 24-hour price hold on flight bookings rather than offering 24-hour cancellation. This means you can hold the price up to 24 hours only, but after you have made the payment for the flight’s booking, the airliner’s cancellation fees will become applicable on the airfare.

There are many airline carriers that offer the option of free 24-hour cancellation and only a few airlines will offer a free 24-hour hold.

Tickets purchased from online travel agency (OTA)

If you purchased your flight ticket through an online travel agency (OTA), then the airliner’s 24-hour rule will not apply here. Instead, the policy issued by the travel agency will be applicable.

When you visit an online travel agency’s website on your computer or smartphone device, you will most certainly also find their policy somewhere at the top or bottom of the site’s homepage. So, it is likely that these third-party travel agencies selling flight tickets to you online may have their own 24-hour rule, which may also include change or cancellation charges and the required time-frame.

There are many online travel agencies that you can find online. However, there a few popular ones, such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Travelocity, CheapOair, Priceline and many more.


The 24-hour rule on flight bookings within seven days of travel can also be seen as an advantage, especially for travellers that need to make certain corrections on their itinerary. Other than that you are also given the option to cancel your trip without having to pay additional fees, provided that the cancellation is carried out no longer than the specified 24 hours window.

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