If you thought we’d vanquished the evil 24-hour “hold” option for airline tickets, meet Sapan Parekh.
Parekh assumed — incorrectly, it turns out — that Turkish Airlines would refund his tickets if he canceled within a day.
Turkish is one of the holdouts that allow customers to “hold” their tickets for 24 hours instead of buying and getting a refund. If they purchase a ticket, there are no refunds.
Parekh recently paid $1,398 for tickets for himself and his wife to fly from Atlanta to Istanbul via Rome and back. Shortly after making the reservation, he learned that his wife couldn’t make the trip. So he tried to cancel the tickets, assuming that he could invoke the Department of Transportation’s 24-hour rule.
And he did. Sort of.
DOT allows two options:
1) Refund of a fare paid within the previous 24 hours (with certain exceptions).
2) Hold a reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment.
Turkish had the “hold” option, which is highly unusual. Parekh believed Turkish had the refund option. The airline site apparently did not make the difference clear to him.
After Parekh learned that his money was gone, he asked for a one-time exception, explaining:
I understand that Turkish Airlines policy on ticketing and cancellations within 24 hours is slightly different than other carriers. I found out within 24 hours that my wife and I will not be able to travel on these dates and would like to cancel the reservation for a full refund as is the policy with all other carriers in the U.S. and the policy recommended by the US DOT.
To which Turkish replied:
We’re reviewed your request for a refund you booked on our website, www.turkishairlines.com.
We regret that we cannot accommodate your request for a refund in these circumstances. Our policy (the “24 Hour Policy”) is clearly stated on our website:
When you make a reservation on a flight to/from the U.S. one week or more prior to your flight departure through any of the Turkish Airlines sales channels based in the U.S. (call center, ticket offices, website) we will allow you to hold your reservation at the quoted fare for 24 hours without payment. During this time you may cancel your reservation without any penalty. If at any time you pay for your reservation and a ticket is issued, the fare rules will apply.
The 24 Hour Policy is available in our Customer Service Plan (attached) and in the booking path when you make a purchase.
When you make a reservation with Turkish Airlines through a U.S. sales channel, you are given at least 24 hours to ticket (i.e., purchase) the reservation at the quoted fare, provided that the reservation is made at least one week before the flight’s scheduled departure date. Our policy is based on DOT rules.
In contrast a review of your record shows that your reservation was ticketed (paid for) the same day. Our 24 Hour Policy permitted (but did not require) you to take up to 24 hours to ticket your reservation, but does not grant you the basis for a refund of a ticketed reservation.
When you ticketed your reservation, you agreed to be bound by the fare rules applicable to the ticket you purchased, and the 24 Hour Policy no longer applied. Our fare rules vary based on the class and type of fare that you purchase, and those rules explain applicable refund, cancellation, and change policies and fees.
Thank you for your understanding, and we appreciate you choosing with Turkish Airlines.
In other words, it’s our money — and you’re not getting a penny of it back.
Turkish took a page from the American Airlines playbook. Over the years, its inadequate disclosure of its “hold” policy resulted in untold reservations that couldn’t be canceled and untold millions of dollars lost by customers.
There are two fixes. Either Turkish can voluntarily change its policy, or the DOT can force them to do so. But I’m sure Parekh isn’t the only passenger duped by this policy. And I’m sure he won’t be the last.