Did you know you can cancel almost any airline ticket within 24 hours of booking for a full refund? If you answered yes, this post is about stuff you already know. If you answered no, welcome to a new perk that greatly reduces the risk of jumping on great sale fares.
(Note: I saw “almost any” above, because my experience is limited to purchasing tickets through sites and airlines governed by US laws. I do not know if this also applies to tickets purchased in other countries or on other sites)
But yes, you can cancel your airline ticket (if booked at least a week in advance) for a full refund if you do so within 24 hours, something Jeanne and I have frequently done when we want to jump on a sale and can’t get ahold of the other person in time. We make our best guess as to their schedule and then cancel a few hours later if needed. I’ve also found this helpful when booking last minute trips over the holidays when inventory is extremely limited.
This works for tickets booked directly with the airline on sites such as USAirways.com, United.com, etc and through third party sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc. The one catch with booking on a third party site is that you do not get refunded any service fees. So if you purchase a ticket that has multiple carriers — like an outbound on US Airways and connects to Silver Airways — you can get the cost of the ticket back, but not the $6.99 service fee for booking more than one airline.
And usually the refund is immediate, in some cases the credit card transaction is still pending and just never goes through. 19 out of 20 times I never have a problem.
But occasionally its not automatic and you need to follow up. This happened to me with my upcoming Israel trip. I booked a ticket, realized I had a $200 voucher, so cancelled the earlier ticket within 24 hours and booked the new one applying my voucher.