I canceled my tickets within 24 hours, so where is my refund?

Chen Cheng books Air Canada tickets for his girlfriend and himself, but cancels them within 24 hours. Air Canada refuses to cancel the tickets because of an exception to the 24-hour rule. Since when is the 24-hour reservation requirement limited by an exception?

Question: I bought tickets for my girlfriend and me on Air Canada. The itinerary routed us through Montreal. Later that day I realized that there could be a problem going through Montreal. So I changed the tickets and routed us through Toronto.

A while later, but within 24 hours of booking, I found a better rate on a different airline. I decided to cancel the tickets. Air Canada refused to allow me to cancel. It said that I could get a refund or a change within 24 hours, but not both. I wasn’t informed that there was an exception to the 24-hour cancellation rule before I made the change.

Can you help me get a refund from Air Canada?– Chen Cheng, Rochester Hills, Mich.

Answer: You weren’t informed that there is a change exception to the 24-hour reservation rule, because there isn’t one. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s
24-hour reservation requirement requires airlines to do one of two things. One, an airline can allow customers to hold a reservation without payment for 24 hours. Or, two, an airline can allow customers to cancel a paid reservation without penalty, within 24 hours of booking.

If a reservation is cancelled within the 24-hour period, the airline must issue a refund in the original form of payment. The only exception to the DOT’s rule is for reservations made seven days or less in advance of flying. The rule requires an airline to allow a customer to cancel the reservation within 24 hours without penalty, not make a change within 24 hours.

In your case, Air Canada allowed the change to be made without incurring a change fee.

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The Air Canada Customer Service Plan provides:

If you wish to cancel simply contact Air Canada within 24 hours after purchase for assistance. You may cancel your purchase of tickets up to 24 hours after purchase and Air Canada will provide you with a full refund without penalty. This policy applies to refundable as well as non-refundable fares.

Changes made to itineraries more than 24 hours after purchase will be assessed the current change fee. Such changes could also be subject to fare differentials.

Air Canada’s terms allow you to change an itinerary within 24 hours of purchase, without incurring a change fee. Nowhere does Air Canada disclose that if you change your itinerary within 24 hours of booking, you lose your right to cancel the reservation without penalty within 24 hours of booking. And, Air Canada can’t create its own exceptions to the DOT’s 24-hour reservation requirement.

When you called Air Canada and made the itinerary change, you were told you could make other changes or cancel without penalty, within 24 hours of your original reservation. That seems consistent with Air Canada’s change policy and the DOT 24-hour reservation requirement. But, the Air Canada agent should have informed you that you could cancel the original tickets and rebook without penalty. That way, the 24-hour reservation requirement would have started over for the new itinerary.

You tried calling Air Canada customer service, but became frustrated because you couldn’t get past a sales agent. The Air Canada sales agent said he couldn’t transfer you to a supervisor or customer service representative. He couldn’t help you. And he wouldn’t get you to someone who could. That is frustrating.

You posted your issue with Air Canada to our forums which are staffed by industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates suggested that you contact Air Canada executives by email and explain your predicament. We list company executive contact information on our website company contacts.

You sent polite emails to Air Canada company executives. Initially, Air Canada was firm and refused to issue a refund. You also filed a consumer complaint with the DOT. The DOT informed you that it did not regulate changes, but would send an inquiry to Air Canada about the 24-hour cancellation policy. The DOT also said that the airline had 60 days to respond to the complaint. Our advocates contacted Air Canada on your behalf. Air Canada promptly replied that the 24-hour fare rules were misapplied, and it was issuing an apology along with your $786 refund.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

  • sirwired

    I agree that, assuming the cancellation was within 24 hours of the initial booking, the refund should have been straightforward.

    However, I don’t think a change should “restart the clock”. (It’s not entirely clear if the 24 hour rule was applied to the original booking or also the change.)

  • Bill___A

    Air Canada should abide by the law, that’s on them, and I think in general, that they do. The other issue at play here is that the OP, on at least two occasions, got tickets when they clearly weren’t ready to make a purchase decision. It is quick and easy to buy tickets online, but the decision process varies for many people.

  • jmj

    Like I posted on a previous post: Air canada is the worst. all canadians hate AC.

  • NotThatBrooklynGuy

    Thanks. That’s a great idea.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t know why you need to use this forum to bash the airline. This is a place to help consumers with problems. I can assure you that “all” Canadians do not hate Air Canada. I am a Canadian and I don’t hate them. Most companies have either annoyed or pleased me at some time or another. However, baseless ranting doesn’t help anyone. I have recently flown Lufthansa, WestJet, Air Canada, United… and I can tell you that although none of them are perfect, they do a pretty decent job. On Air Canada specifically, I have flown hundreds of thousands of miles. And I am the one who picks with what airline I fly.

    What is your point? I don’t even want to know.

  • Bill___A

    Good that you have a method that works for you and great you shared it.

  • PsyGuy

    YAY, this is really a CSR who was either newly or poorly trained. In my case I would have initiated a bank card dispute, and gotten the money back in way less than 60 days.

  • PsyGuy

    As I’ve posted before I have enjoyed the AC flight experience.

  • PsyGuy

    Thats interesting. If you change does the clock keep ticking or does the change start the clock over again? I think the DOT would say the clock starts ticking with the actual purchase, the rest to them is just scheduling, but then what if your change requires an increased or decreased change in the fair?

  • Fishplate

    You could cancel the original routing, and then start a new transaction for the new route/fare without penalty (other than a fare difference). Anything else is attached to the original purchase.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Amazing isn’t it.?….one just has to be a constant squeaky wheel to be treated honestly. Air Canada rots; as an airline employee I have dealt with them for years – unknowlegeable and stubborn – until escalated to a supervisor and even then we have to “push”.

  • Attention All Passengers

    You actually don’t get the point ? People have opinions. Some have been burned more than once with Air Canada. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world but we are still allowed to voice our opinions.

  • Bill___A

    Stating that an entire nationality hates them is an absurd statement. I also don’t recall any survey where AC, rated amongst their peers came out last or “the worst” It is an opinion with no basis and more or less, spreading lies.

  • John McDonald

    your statements imply that it’s a worldwide rule


    “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s
    24-hour reservation requirement requires airlines to do one of two things”

    Is incorrect, as the usdot has no jurisdiction outside u.s. borders


    “Air Canada can’t create its own exceptions to the DOT’s 24-hour reservation requirement.”
    is not strictly correct either.

    Air Canada CAN make up it’s own rules for flights ex Canada, subject to Canadian consumer laws.

    Thinking about it, if an airline wanted to stuff up another airline, it could easily make 1,000s of bookings & let them lapse, without any cost (EXCEPT PAYING SOMEONE TO DO IT)

    The 24 rule in USA should be abolished. It makes airfares more expensive for everyone else.

    Say for example, you get an email from an airline saying there’s a price reduction sale on.

    You try to book a certain route, but many people have beaten you to it (& have bookings on hold for 24 hours). In Australia, don’t think there’s any minimum requirement for how many eats must be on sale (sometimes it appears there are as few as 2/flight)

    Unless you continually go back & check, say 24 hours later, you won’t find the sale fares you were after, so you either pay more, or don’t go.

    If you can’t make a decision in life, YOU ARE A LOSER.

    There was an instance in Australia back in about 1990, after the Australian govt deregulated our skies, when a start up airline had it’s 1800 jammed with calls from computers, so it was almost impossible to get through (this was in the days before the internet)

    There were only 2 major domestic airlines in Australia & one or both, obviously saw the start up as a major threat to their very cosy duopoly.

    Of course this thing is illegal, but COMPLETELY impossible to stop & almost completely impossible to prove.

  • sirwired

    Whoa… slow down there… perhaps you meant to post as a top-level post, because your comment doesn’t look like it’s in response to mine.

    I will say that since the article is about somebody who lives in Michigan, we can guess that it did indeed fall within DOT rules, and I’m pretty sure the article wasn’t implying that the DOT has jurisdiction over flights that have nothing to do with the US.

  • John McDonald

    statements need to be qualified, such as , in the USA or for flights commencing in USA.
    This whole thing of U.S. being world police ? Where does it come from ?

    USA is hardly the centre of the universe.

  • sirwired

    I think you are reading a little much into it. I would have thought specifically mentioning it was a US DOT rule would have been good enough.

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