Make a Mistake Booking Your Flight? There May Still Be Hope
I have some exciting news to share: my wife and I will be heading back to visit Hong Kong this spring! This business trip will include a stop in Atlanta and a 14.5 hour flight to Incheon, South Korea before we land in Hong Kong to cover the opening of the new Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. As for the flight back, we had intended on departing April 2nd yet, when I received my itinerary, I noticed we were actually set to leave on April 1st — and no, this wasn’t some bizarre April Fools joke that airlines like to play.
After panicking for a moment, I soon recalled that Delta and other airlines allow you to make changes to your itinerary or even cancel your reservation within the first 24 hours of your booking without penalty. While Delta presents this as their Risk-Free Cancellation policy, it’s actually the result of a federal law. According to the Department of Transportation, carriers must “hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment or allow a reservation to be canceled within 24 hours without penalty.” This means that, although you might have to dig a little deeper into your airline’s FAQ to find this info, you shouldn’t have to pay a change fee if it’s been less than a day since you initially booked your flight.
That said, it’s important to note that you still may have to pay more to change your flight even if it is in the first 24 hours. That’s because the flight you’re changing to might have a higher fare than the one you originally booked. In such cases, you’ll have to pony up the difference. Thankfully, in my case, this only came to about $10 per person — a small price to pay for an extra day in Hong Kong, so says I. Meanwhile, if the new flight is cheaper, you should receive a partial refund.
Something else I should note is that there are airlines that go above and beyond this rule. In addition to airlines that offer refundable reservations (typically for a much higher fare), there are those such as Southwest that allow you to make changes to your reservation without any fees. Furthermore, I’ve been able to “rebook” the same flight on Southwest when the price went down and get the difference back in the form of a credit.
The bottom line is that, if you do somehow make a mistake when booking your airfare, it may not be too late to get it fixed! Although making changes to your non-refundable ticket can certainly be expensive, the 24-hour rule mandated by the Department of Transportation at least gives you a bit of time before those massive penalties go into effect. So, while it’s one of those things it’s best to not have to use, at least you know that this option is there if you need it.