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Need to change a flight booked in error or want to put a fare on hold for a bit? Here's how

By George Hobica

Ever see an amazing fare on, but you had to call your husband/wife/brother/posse to coordinate plans? Or just want to shop around for a bit to make sure it's a good deal? Sure you have. And while you waited, that $312 round-trip tax-included fare to Berlin  suddenly jumped back up to $1000. Or perhaps you hit the wrong button and booked the wrong dates or even the wrong destination. Are you stuck with that boo boo fare? Good news. Many airlines allow you to hold a fare, or if you change your mind, cancel and get a full refund or amend your booking if you chose Venice Beach instead of Venice, Italy, within 24 hours of booking.  

Slight variations exist among the major legacy carriers, and keep in mind that whatever the official rules, exceptions can always be made if you plead nicely. Continental, American, United and Delta make it easy to cancel or change fee-free via their websites. Other airlines require that you make a phone call, which might incur a booking-by-phone fee. 

Virgin America states in its contract of carriage that they "are pleased to hold your itinerary for 24 hours when booking through our Call Center. If you purchase a ticket and need to cancel within 24 hours of the original purchase, a full refund will be provided in your original form of payment" (which suggests that this amenity isn’t available if the reservation is made online).

JetBlue doesn’t allow fee-free changes or fare-holds at all, but there's a good explanation:  they are the only airline that doesn't overbook flights, and allowing consumers to hold reservations they might not use would mess up that business model.  

Air Tran only allows changes within a four-hour window, and any refund comes in the form of a travel voucher.

American’s "hold" feature, unlike most of its competitors, doesn't require that you pay for the fare in order to hold it, but as explains, "Actual 'Hold' period depends on fare rules. Some fares require purchase by a specific time."

Like American, Frontier Airlines will hold reservation made by telephone and the associated fare for 24 hours without payment "as long as the rules of the fare are met" (in other words, if the fare requires a seven-day advance purchase and you hold it for a day and now have only a six-day advance purchase window, you're out of luck).

Continental has also recently launched a service called FareLock allowing you to lock in your fare for 3 days for as little as $5 or 7 days for $9. This goes above and beyond their 24-hour cancellation policy, which remains in place for free.

Alaska Airlines used to allow fare holds without payment, but that policy changed effective May 12, 2010. Now you can you hold only after paying, and change your reservation at the original fare once during the 24-hour period, or get a full refund.

Southwest Airlines is a different animal altogether. They do offer a 24-hour fare hold, according to their latest customer service commitment document (last updated July, 2010), but only on reservations made by telephone (which may be an issue, since some of their lowest fares are labeled "internet only"). But you can always change a Southwest reservation any time before your flight and get a credit good for a future flight. You can even re-bank your fare payment and have the ticket re-issued in another person's name (although this policy may be changed), all without a fee.

If you've bought from an online travel site such as Expedia or Priceline, you'll have to be even more patient. Recently, we received an email from a reader about her experience trying to cancel a ticket booked on Priceline, and in short she wasn't able to reach a representative in time and was stuck with a ticket she no longer needed. Under Priceline's rules, if you phone them by 11:30 p.m. Eastern on the day that you book, you can get a full refund. But as our reader discovered, it's easier said than done. If you can't get through by phone, send them an email (which records the time it was sent) or better yet you might have luck calling the airline directly to see if they can do anything. However, this policy doesn't apply to "name your own" price (bidding for travel) Priceline fares, which cannot be changed or cancelled.

Orbitz offers a 24-hour courtesy cancellation on certain reservations, which can be processed online. Exclusions are package deals, paper tickets, and "certain airlines". Typically, a courtesy cancel button will appear at the end of the booking process if the reservation qualifies.

Check out our handy chart showing the cancellation refund policies for some major U.S.-based carriers and online travel agencies.


Airlines' courtesy fare-hold and 24-hour cancel/change policies

By George Hobica

(updated Jan. 1, 2014)

Here's some very useful information about changing or canceling an airfare within 24 hours of booking, as well as tips about getting a refund or making a change outside the 24-hour window. If you use Twitter or Facebook, please do hit the "Tweet" or "Like" button at the top of this post, because I'm pretty sure your followers will find this essential information.

Non-refundable airfares are much cheaper than refundable ones, but if you cancel or change your flight, you'll pay a hefty fee. But there are some loopholes and workarounds.

If you are booking an airfare in the United States, U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that, as long as you've booked a non-refundable ticket 7 days ahead of your flight, you're entitled to hold your reservation and the fare and change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking, without paying a cancellation fee (typically $200 on the remaining large "network" carriers for a domestic fare, but much more (up to $450 for some international fares), a bit less on other airlines, as this chart shows.

You can either cancel the reservation entirely, or change it, within the 24-hour window. If you change it however, a fare difference may apply, but there is no change penalty. This applies not just to U.S.-based airlines, but any airline selling airfares in the U.S.

You still have to pay for the airfare, and then get a refund without penalty, except that American Airlines is a bit different in that it allows you to hold your seat and the fare for 24 hours without paying for it. On American, you should NOT pay for the fare, but merely choose the 24-hour hold option without payment. If you pay for the fare rather than holding it, you will be hit with a change/cancel fee on American! Also, American sells fare "add-ons" starting at $68 round-trip that allow you to change your flight for free at any time, and the add-on includes a checked bag round-trip and priority boarding. Something to consider.

Southwest Airlines lets you change or cancel a fare within the 24 hour window without penalty, but it also allows you to change or cancel a reservation anytime before flight time and get a credit for the full amount of your fare, applicable to future travel within a year of the original reservation. You will have to pay any applicable fare increase, however.

Alaska Airlines now allows free changes/cancels if made at least 60 days prior to travel.

Allegiant Airlines is a bit more specific, stating in its rules that you may cancel as long as your scheduled flight is at least 168 hours (24 x 7) away at time of booking.

In order to take advantage of the 24-hour cancel or change rule, it's best to book directly with airlines, either online or by phone, rather than through third-party websites.

And it goes without saying that you can cancel a fully refundable ticket anytime and get a refund, although if you change rather than cancel there may be a fare difference if the fare has changed.

Frequent Flyer Award Tickets, Too?

Does this apply to frequent flyer tickets? I've been able to cancel frequent flyer reservations within 24 hours of booking, and get all fees refunded and miles re-instated without penalty, most recently on British Airways, however the DOT rules are unclear on this, and US Airways clearly states that the 24-hour cancel rule does not apply to frequent flyer tickets.

Other Ways to Get a Refund

One more thing: many people don't realize that in airline contracts of carriage, there's a rule (often called Rule 260) about "involuntary refunds." Basically it states that if the airline refuses to carry you for any reason, or if your flight is delayed more than a specifed amount of time (121 minutes or greater on AA for example) or the flight is canceled, you can apply for a full refund, even on a non-refundable ticket. Here, for example, is Hawaiian Airlines' Rule 260. United calls their rule on this something else, which you can see by wading through their contract of carriage.

So let's say you buy a fare you no longer can use and the DOT 24-hour rule doesn't apply. You can avoid the change/cancel fee is if your flight is canceled or severely delayed. It may or may not be worth your time to show up for your flight and pray it's canceled or significantly delayed (you do have to check in for the flight).

The Schedule Change Loophole

And you can also get a refund if there's a significant schedule change before your departure (let's say they change you from a 9 a.m. departure to a 6 a.m., or your new flight requires a much longer layover or an overnight stay, or even from a nonstop to a connecting flight). Here, for example, are the rules on this from American Airlines (this info is provided for travel agents, but applies no matter how the fare is booked). The airline may not notify you of a qualifying schedule change, so if you've purchased a non-refundable fare that you would like to refund, be sure to check the flight schedule to see if it has changed in any way and if it has, call the airline and request a refund, explaining that the schedule no longer works for you (obviously, a change of just a few minutes won't qualify).


You might also like: Your Rights When You Fly


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Fare of the Day: Philadelphia to Las Vegas $209 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, April 18, 2011

Fly from Philly to Vegas for $209 round-trip, including all taxes, on a United codeshare with US Airways and Continental. Available for travel 7 days a week, with a 330 day travel period, and no minimum stay.

Seats for summer dates are a little scattered. You'll have better luck searching in May, and into the fall. For booking info, see our Fare Details page.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

10 reasons to visit London in the spring

By David Landsel

O, to be in London, now that spring is here (to paraphrase Robert Browning). It's the time of year when the green and pleasant land becomes green and pleasant once more – everything's bluebells, crocuses, daffodils and Easter bunnies – this year, a royal wedding, to boot. This is a great time to be in London, too, with the city undergoing some serious changes in the run-up to next year's Olympic Games. Sure, we wish that airfares were lower (see a list of current fares from your city), but this might be a great time to use some frequent flyer miles (like those earned with British Airway's 100,000-mile bonus offer, if it's still good by the time you read this). Here a glimpse at what's what and what's now.

A SHOREDITCH THING Just steps from the dull as dishwater financial district around Liverpool Street, Shoreditch is easily one of the coolest addresses in town, with just the right mix of flash and grit to please a broad selection of Londoners. And while it's a major draw for nightlife, Shoreditch is even more fun as a place to slip off the grid and waste a day. Start by hopping the beautiful new East London Line, an sleek new elevated train – part of the Underground network -- that will make any New Yorker or Chicagoan green with envy. Take it over to Shoreditch High Street, then clip-clop down hip Redchurch Street to the Albion, a sleek, all-day caff, part of the Conran empire but oddly authentic and cool. It's as perfect for Tuesday morning breakfast as it is for a lazy Sunday brunch – everything's good, and the atmosphere's top notch (2-4 Boundary St.). Lunchtimes belong to the Rochelle Canteen, a a secret-ish spot for outstanding mod-Brit cooking in a disarmingly casual setting in a decommissioned school now inhabited by artists. Proprietress Margot Henderson is the wife of local food luminary Fergus Henderson, he of the expanding St. John restaurant empire – you won't find any guidebook clutchers over here, though (Arnold Circus). Follow up with one of the city's best espressos at the tiny coffee bar located in the doorway of Present, a popular concept store in Shoreditch High Street catering to the hip young things that live nearby (140 Shoreditch High Street), then maybe move into a little afternoon drinking; around here, you're certainly spoilt for choice, as the English say.

RETURN TO GLORY Quick, what's the most incredible abandoned building in Central London? If you answered "George Gilbert Scott's crazy red brick Midland Grand Hotel up in front of St. Pancras Station," you would be right – that is, if the question had been asked a few years ago. That's right – when the Eurostar upped stakes and moved from Waterloo to the renovated St. Pancras station (now St. Pancras International, la di da) 2007, it paved the way for the rebirth of the Victorian wedding cake-y Midland Grand, beautifully constructed in the 1870s and (tragically) shuttered in the 1980s. As of this month, the old girl is back; check in to the St. Pancras Renaissance London [] and make the convenient-to-all station your base of operations. Careful, though – proximity to those speedier-than-ever trains to Paris may in fact lead to sneaking off to Paris. Good thing the travel time's been reduced to 2 hours and 15 minutes -- you can get there and back so fast, nobody will ever know.

HESTON'S IN TOWN! For years now, everyone has been saying the food in London is better than it's used to be, and that's usually been true. These days, though, things are on a whole new level – seems that what started as wishful thinking has become reality: This is a really great city in which to be eating right now. Believe it or don't, but it's true – these days, there is so much to eat, it's hard to know where to start. Most locals, if they haven't already snagged one, are jonesing for a table at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal [] a sleek new 140-seater at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. If you didn't know, Blumenthal is one of the top chefs in Europe right now, revered for his talent in marrying British tradition with the very modern art of molecular gastronomy. Getting in to try the cooking can be tough, though they are open for lunch, too; if you strike out, take our advice: Book a good hotel and make your concierge do all the work. Of course, you could always hop out to nearby Reading; not far from the train station in the tiny village of Bray, Blumenthal's flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck [], is as good as ever. Not that it's any easier to get in.

HACK INTO HACKNEY Once mostly a must-miss for visitors, the East London borough of Hackney is easily now one of the city's hottest zones; get introduced on Saturdays with a visit to the lively Broadway Market [], London's hippest, sitting in a prime spot between Regent's Canal and leafy London Fields Park. Whether you come for the old-fashioned (jellied eels at F. Cooke!) or the new (artisanal coffees at Climpson & Sons), definitely make time for people watching. If the crowds get to you, duck into London Fields; up on the other side, on quiet Wilton Way, the small, unmarked cafe at No. 63 is one of the East End's coolest daytime hangouts; a local indie radio station sometimes broadcasts live from the front window. 

PARTY IN THE PARK It may be spring now, but summer is just around the corner; that means excellent outdoor festivals all across the United Kingdom. But you don't need to trek out to Glastonbury or the Big Chill (though you certainly might like to) to get your mud-meets-music fix. Right here in London, there is the outstanding Lovebox [] festival, held in Victoria Park, just a hairsbreadth from the growing Olympic Park out in East London. Lovebox takes place July 15-17 and features an excellently eclectic lineup from Snoop Dogg to Swedish club fave Robyn to the Scissor Sisters. If you miss that, not to worry – the park gets even more indie with the Field Day [] festival on August 8, featuring another great lineup that includes lots of indie acts, along with exemplary DJ types like Detroit techno heavy Carl Craig. 

BET ON BERMONDSEY Hate to break it to you, but the once un-missable Borough Market, for a long time one of the top reasons to visit London at all, with its acres of tempting snacks and appealing food shops and oyster bars and coffee bars and fancy restaurants and the people watching…well, it has become a bit of a must-miss. Why? Basically, because it turned into one of the top reasons to visit London, and as such has become a bit of a depressing tourist trap. These days, seems everyone there is a tourist. Accordingly, rents have shot up; the organic feel of the place is basicallygone. Testy about the increased cost of doing business, some market icons are testing the waters elsewhere nearby; on Saturday mornings, the relatively hard to access Bermondsey area just east of Borough (which, if you didn't know, is right near the south end of London Bridge), is home to the Maltby Street Market [], which features baked goods from St. John, cheese from Neal's Yard, coffee from Monmouth and other goodies – right now, it's crowd free and very neighborhood-y. Much like Bermondsey itself. Worth the hike from the nearest Tube station, for certain. (And don't tell anyone.)

THE LITTLE MUSEUM THAT COULD Not everything worth seeing in London right now is a slog involving multiple train changes and lengthy walks. Some of the city's best-kept secrets are right under your nose in the middle of Touristville. We know people who have been to the city multiple times over a stretch of years that still haven't heard of, let alone stepped foot into the Courtauld Gallery [], for example. Tucked inside the massive Somerset House complex, right off the noxious Strand strip on the edge of ticky-tacky Theatreland, the Courtauld is a jewel of a thing, beautiful room after beautiful room, much of it dedicated to both Impressionist and Post-Impressionist classics. There's plenty more, too, from Medieval to Modern – worth every penny of the admission price of about $10. (Go Mondays before 2pm, and you'll get in free.) Afterwards, reward yourself for doing something civilized by retiring across the street to the superbly grown-up bar in the lobby of the chic, still-got-it One Aldwych [] hotel, another stellar oasis from the hurly-burly that's right in the thick of it.

LET'S NOT GO DOWN THE PUB Speaking of civilized drinks, if you haven't been around town much lately, you may be surprised to find that cocktails are trumping beer as the tipple of choice for many a Londoner. That's right – the land of lager and crisp packets has fallen hard for the same mixology crazy that's swept better cities all across North America in recent years. While there are plenty of faux-speakeasies and sort-of-members-only shoeboxes that specialize in making people feel like they're more awesome than they actually are (before charging them an arm and a leg for a gimlet, of course), some of the city's best bartenders can be found at the much more democratic Hawksmoor [] in Covent Garden, a very good spot for classic cocktails that also happens to be a very good spot to eat dinner – burgers at the bar or some of London's best steaks in the back dining room, take your pick. (Note: This is the second location of a very popular restaurant in East London's Spitalfields nabe – you can't go wrong over there, either, whether thirsty or hungry or both.) If wine's more your thing, right now it is all about Brawn [], an earnest but excellent bottles-and-charcuterie type place in the thick of Columbia Road, once known best for its Sunday morning flower markets but now home to all manner of hipness. If you don't feel like the trek out to Bethnal Green, their sister spot, the excellent (if a bit dowdy) Terroirs [] wine bar is a true find just steps off touristy Trafalgar Square.

CANAL PLUS Need to clear your head? For such a densely packed city, London has got an awful lot of space in which to unwind. And while the often rather industrial Regent's Canal may not possess the obvious appeal of, say, Primrose Hill or St. James Park, it certainly possesses a charm of its own. Snaking its way from bucolic Little Venice, right near Paddington station, on over to the Thames out near the Docklands area, the canal has become a popular commute route for London's growing number of cyclists. Bikes are definitely a great way to explore the miles of towpath – not to mention the widely varying selection of neighborhoods you'll be cutting through en route. Rent a nifty, versatile folding bike from Velorevolution [] centrally located right in Soho; for five extra pounds, they will deliver the bike to your hotel.

STAY UP LATE If you haven't been to London lately and happen to be roaming the streets after midnight, you may be surprised to see actual bars and restaurants open and conducting business. Sometimes even past (gasp) 2 o'clock in the morning. With the advent of 24-hour licensing laws, it is now possible not only to stay out way past midnight; sometimes, depending on the neighborhood, you can even get something to eat. How modern. Sure, the Tube still shuts down around midnight, but good night bus service and the usual preponderance of minicabs (any venue can help you get a number to call for pickup) make it easy to get out and stay out. Late. If you are staying in Central London, it is easy to get in on the fun; for example, slap down the after-11 p.m., five quid cover charge for late seating and enter Chinatown's low-profile but welcoming Experimental Cocktail Club. A smart offshoot of a Paris hit, this tarted-up former dive with some serious talent behind the bar is open until 3 a.m., six days a week (Closed Sundays.)  

David Landsel is the Travel Editor of the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter @davidlandsel.

Fare of the Day: New York to Raleigh $150 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Friday, April 15, 2011

Fly from New York to Raleigh, North Carolina for $150 round-trip, including all taxes, over Memorial Day weekend.

Similarly low fares are also available from both Delta and JetBlue. For more info, see our Fare Details.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Frontier Airlines lowers some of its fees


Frontier Airlines has made some changes to the fees it charges customers for various services, for tickets purchased after April 13, 2011.

Most significantly, it has reduced the ticket change fee on its lowest "Economy" fares from $100 to $50, which is among the lowest in the industry (although competitor Southwest Airlines doesn't charge of this service).

It has added a $5 discount on the fee for the first checked bag charged on "Economy" fares,  if booked online. Frontier continues to sell more expensive "Classic" and "Classic Plus" fares which allow two free checked bags (read more about Frontier's fare types).

If you travel with a bicycle, you might want to consider Frontier next time. Rather than charging an extra fee for bikes, Frontier now lets you include a bike as a regular checked bag.

In addition, Frontier allows you to change the name on a ticket so that if you can't use it, you can let someone else use it. Previously, according to Frontier's website, the fee for this service was $50 on Economy fares, $25 on Classic fares, and $0 on Classic Plus fares (it continues to be free for "Summit" level frequent flyers traveling on any fare). Now it appears that name changes will cost $50 on Classic fares and fees on other classes of fares remain the same. Passengers must pay the difference, if any, however, between the time the ticket was purchased and the then-current fare when the change is made. (On Southwest Airlines, incidentally, you can effect a name change by cancelling your current reservation, getting a flight credit, and rebooking the ticket in someone else's name, although, again, you'll have to pay any fare difference if the fare has increased between the time you bought the original ticket and the time you requested the new one in a different name; all other airlines do not permit name changes).

Official press release.

Frontier FAQs.

Fare of the Day: Los Angeles to Grand Junction $108 RT including all taxes

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fly from Los Angeles to Grand Junction for $108 round-trip, including all taxes, on Allegiant Air. This fare is available for travel on select dates through August. No minimum stay required. When booking on Allegiant, be sure you've selected the 'Flight Only' option to grab the lowest fare, then choose from the fare calendar that follows.

One-way fares are also available at half the cost of the round-trip. See our Fare Details for booking info.

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

Fare of the Day: Chicago, IL to Oakland, CA $200 RT

Posted by Ricky Radka on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fare of the Day: Chicago, IL (ORD) to Oakland, CA (OAK) $200 RT, including all taxes on American Airlines/Alaska codeshare.

Many summer dates are blacked out on this fare, but you can find availability in early May and then again in the Fall months. This fare is available any day of the week with a 330-day travel period. No minumum stay requirement, 21-day advance purchase restriction.

Found via

To learn more, visit Ricky Radka's profile on Google+

Categories: Airfare Tips

Want to be an elite flyer for life? Fly a million miles

By George Hobica

Frequent travelers know the benefits that accrue with their loyalty on one airline. Free upgrades. Priority check-in and TSA lines. Dedicated phone lines. Free checked bags. And when you hit the magic one million milestone, as George Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, did in 2009's “Up in the Air,”  the captain might even come out of the cockpit to congratulate you. Most importantly, however, you instantly become an elite level frequent flyer for life, no matter how much or how little you fly in subsequent years.

With all those recent mergers, airlines will usually combine the mileage of both airlines to help frequent flyers grow their balance. Still, there is no guarantee, and airline mergers can put frequent travelers' status in jeopardy.

History has been on our side in the past decade. American Airlines took the status and mileage balances of TWA flyers into account when it acquired the carrier. Delta did the same with Northwest combining the miles earned with Northwest and Delta for Million Miler status. Continental and United will follow suit. Any smart airline would do that lest they foment a revolt among their most loyal customers.

Airlines recognize that there is value in maintaining the loyalty of passengers and as baby boomers pursue their love of travel, the ranks of million miler flyers continue to swell.

Typically, airlines offer elite status for life to those who have flown a million miles. One million miles equate to the lowest level of status with most airlines (e.g., Lifetime Gold on American), two million miles moves travelers to the second level of elite status (e.g. Lifetime Platinum on American), and so on.

Not all of the airlines provide the benefit of lifetime elite status although most American carriers do (mainly the three mega carriers American, Delta, and United). Soon to be the fourth largest of the legacy carriers, US Airways recently announced their lifetime elite program for those who have flown a million miles. Their announcement was noticeably behind that of other airlines which have had such programs in place for a few years now.

Most airlines are very specific about what miles they count towards the accrual of elite status usually including only flown miles on the airline and its alliance partners. However, American stands out of the crowd to include any miles earned (such credit card spend and promotions) towards its AAdvantage program as part of its million mile status calculation. This makes it the easiest program in which to earn lifetime elite status. United counts elite levels from only its own UA-coded flights towards elite status whereas airlines like Delta and Continental also count its alliance partners' flights towards lifetime accrual.

Continental’s OnePass program (which will be combining with United's very soon) also offers the combined status to an elite member’s spouse although it is unclear whether this benefit will continue with the newly-merged United's program.
Either way, accruing status within one airline's mileage program is quite valuable as it leads to elite status over time even for travelers whose travel patterns may change, but still want to enjoy the benefits on certain airlines. With baggage and other airline fees clearly here to stay, reaching airline elite status can be a huge money saver. Consider your elite program wisely, and visit frequently for the latest in promotions and updates on your favorite program and sign up for fare alerts to learn about "mileage run" fares such as recent $118 round-trip trans-Continental fares that can add thousands of miles to your account with little cash outlay.

JetBlue Sale for Spring/Summer

Posted by Tracy Stewart on Monday, April 11, 2011

From JetBlue, save on spring/summer flights with their latest sale. Travel Mondays through Thursdays, and Saturdays through June 22. Tickets require a 14-day advance purchase. No minimum stay required.

Fares include:

Newark to Orlando $168 round-trip

Boston to Newark $98 round-trip

New York to Syracuse $128 round-trip

Austin to Orlando $198 round-trip

Hartford to Orlando $178 round-trip

New York to Chicago $198 round-trip

Boston to Pittsburgh $98 round-trip

Boston to Raleigh $128 round-trip

Buffalo to New York $118 round-trip

To learn more, visit Tracy Stewart's profile on Google+

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