Flags and other funny ways around the 24-hour rule

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By | August 20th, 2014

To get an idea how much airlines hate, hate, hate the 24-hour rule, consider the unbelievable case of Michael Kalman’s recent attempted ticket purchase on XL Airways.

The 24-hour rule, for those of you just joining us, is a relatively new federal regulation that says airlines must refund your ticket if you cancel within a day of your purchase, with certain exceptions for last-minute fares.

But airlines want to keep your money, even if you’re making the reservation in the United States and the purchase falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation.

XL, it seems, “has gotten awfully creative about how it defines a website,” says Kalman. “And they also take remarkable liberties when it comes to what’s being marketed to U.S. consumers.”

When Kalman visited the XL Airways site for the first time, he saw several national flags: A US and a British flag with a “Welcome Aboard” link and a French flag with “Bienvenue a bord”. By the way, he recommends using Chrome or Firefox. The page didn’t work for him on IE 11.0.

“When you follow the American flag, prices are quoted in euros and there is no ‘hold’ button,” he says. “And as I found out the hard way, reservations subsequently made are not held for 24 hours.”

Never mind that XL Airways posts the following “customer commitment” on its site.

On www.xl.com/uswebsite and for flights from/to te[sic] USA where travel is more than one week from the date of purchase, we will allow you to hold your reservation at the quoted fare for twenty-four hours without payment. If you choose this option, make sure to note your booking reservation number which will be needed to issue your ticket within 24 hours.

And here’s the ridiculous part.

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The “commitment” doesn’t apply when you enter the “www.xl.com” website and click “Welcome Aboard” — which is associated with both a U.S. and British flag — and which keeps you on www.xl.com.

“If you want U.S. laws to apply you have to explicitly type ‘www.xl.com/us’ in the browser address bar at the start of your session,” he says.

I couldn’t believe that. It should be your geographic location, not your URL, that determines which laws apply. But apparently not.

Kalman tried to make a reservation and returned less than 24 hours later, only to find that it had been canceled. He emailed XL to seek clarification. Here’s its response:

The Office-Identification number, on your booking (X4RLSL) shows that you was on the European version of our website (which is available in both French and English). As the “pay later” function is not mandatory in France, this feature is not provided on this page but only on the USA version of our website. The booking on our French website require an immediate payment.

(Mind the English, please.)

In other words, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. If you use our site, we’ll apply whatever rules we like.

I wondered what the DOT might have to say about this. So Kalman checked. In response, the agency forwarded his complaint to XL, but he says it’s done nothing in the way of enforcement.


“I’m very disappointed in the DOT’s response,” he says. “They seem to treat this as a he said-she said case, where the facts are unclear.”

Did Kalman enter the XL site through the wrong door? Possibly. Is XL doing everything it can to ensure the 24-hour rule doesn’t apply to it? Definitely.

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We already know that airlines don’t always tell you about the 24-hour rule. Should it come as any surprise that they’ll interpret this rule in a way that favors them?

I think it’s a little ridiculous, but the only solution is for the EU to adopt a similar 24-hour rule, which would apply to XL’s ticket purchases in Europe, too. Ah, but asking for more government regulation is the fastest way to start a brawl in the comments.

Uh-oh.

Update (10 a.m.): Just heard from Kalman, who notes a partial resolution to this case.

I had sent a follow-up correspondence to the DOT requesting clarification on several points. I did not hear anything back from either DOT or XL Airways for two weeks, but then I learned that my case had been forwarded to another DOT agent for further investigation and that they had also requested additional information from XL Airways.

At that point, I finally got a call back from XL Airways. Augustin (the same rep I was speaking to before) conceded that my scenario was problematic and he suggested that he would seek to change the website to fix this.

I respectfully requested that I deserved reimbursement for the difference between the fare I eventually paid and the fare that I legitimately believed I had placed on 24-hour hold.

He suggested he would do so, and I gave him my account information. I had not received confirmation from him but I just checked and I see that my account was recently credited by XL. The credit is for $25 less than what I expected ($138.71 instead of $163.71).

I am going to call my bank to verify that the $25 is not some sort of international fee on their end before I follow-up with XL Airways to ask about that.

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Update (1/29/2015): Here’s how the story ended, according to Kalman.

XL Airways did in fact change their website, I believe sometime last October, so that they now clearly distinguish the UK and US portions of the site.

For a long time, they didn’t respond to me about the $25 discrepancy in the amount they credited back to me. I recently circled back to the DOT analyst assigned to my case, not especially about the $25, but to ask if the DOT had any hand in requesting the website change, and to find out if they had validated my complaints about the original website.

The analyst explained to me that they “did not receive a lot of complaints about this issue”, and that they don’t judge a carriers’ compliance with a particular requirement unless there is a certain threshold of complaints about it. I had no idea about that — I suppose that’s a good reason why passengers should submit DOT complaints whenever they encounter a genuine compliance issue. It can help your fellow passengers!

The analyst also explained that the DOT can’t force carriers to compensate a passenger or to resolve a complaint in any particular way. But they can force carriers to reply promptly to their customers. So he sent XL Airways a follow-up note to respond to my question about the $25 discrepancy. I received $25 from XL Airways several days later.



  • polexia_rogue

    wow xl airlines is super cheap. but that comes at a price.it is odd that the default site brings up UK, and France. but the US link that you provided brings up UK,France and USA.

    oh well, you get what you pay for.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Wait a moment. Let’s be fair. If someone was buying something on a US site, we would expect US law to apply regardless of where the purchaser is located. It seems only reasonable that the converse should apply. Someone buys something on a European site, shouldn’t the European law apply?

  • Bill___A

    I’m confused. I didn’t think that the 24 hour rule meant you could hold the reservation 24 hours. It was my understanding that it meant you could get a refund within 24 hours. In fact, I believe United charges a fee and lets you hold it even longer, so I doubt they hate that process. Air Canada makes this quite clear on their website, I’ve had to use it once (but bought another ticket) and they didn’t quibble about it at all. To take an obscure, relatively unknown airline that isn’t based in US as an example and state that “airlines hate the rule” is a stretch at best. Is this the most illustrative example you can come up with? Do United, American, and Delta quibble about this rule? I’m guessing they do not. Since it is equally applied to all airlines, it is not an impediment to completion.

  • sirwired

    The DOT allows airlines to choose if they’ll hold the reservation for 24 hours or if they’ll refund within 24 hours. To avoid credit card fees, most (all?) airlines choose the “hold” option.

  • sirwired

    On the one hand, I do not believe that US laws should apply to European websites, even if there is a US website available. On the other hand, yeah, XL is being intentionally obtuse here by not doing a location check and redirecting the user to the appropriate site.

    That said, prices being quoted in Euros should be a big hint that something is going wrong and you aren’t about to be making a purchase under US jurisdiction.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I doubt that the airlines hate the rule. Up on recently, American Airlines allowed you to hold any ticket for 24 hours at no charge, even if the flight was less than a week away. And if the price was lower at the time off purchase, AA charged you the lower price

  • Kairho

    I gently disagree (although I agree the whole issue is difficult). One scenario: if a US citizen, currently in Europe, decides to purchase a US domestic flight (for whatever reason), logically US law should apply to all aspects of the transaction rather than European law. Similarly, someone in the states wishing to purchase a flight on an airline which does not fly nor necessarily actively market to the US (eg. Ryanair) should be governed by whatever laws cover that airline.

    The Internets make economics needlessly complex. The poll asks whether the EU should adopt a 24-hour rule. I suggest a valid counter to that would be should the US not adopt a 24-hour rule. International commerce should be governed by common rules.

  • SnowWheet

    Thank you…I didn’t understand in the article why the rule was being discussed in context with the OPs issue. This helps a lot.

  • FQTVLR

    I think this is a stretch to be complaining about the 24 hour rule here. It primarily applies to refunding a ticket within 24 hours of purchase. It is probable that the LW made an error on the website. I have looked at XL in the past to see if they are less expensive than some US carriers (not much usually.) I have always been quoted in dollars and been given the option to hold for 24 hours before paying. Being quoted in Euros should have been the indication to the LW to start the process over again.

  • John Baker

    My feeling on the internet is that the laws of the area in which the business is based should apply.
    So … a business based in Europe with no US offices … European rules apply. Business with a US headquarters… both the laws of the State where its located and US laws apply.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where the user is located…

  • Common sense

    Quite right.

  • MarkKelling

    Only airline I am aware of that offers the “hold” option is AA. I was not aware there was a “hold” option until I booked a flight on AA and they would not refund my purchase and told me I should have just held the reservation (turned out the flight worked for me after all so I didn’t lose anything).

    What I have noticed is that the airlines I fly just don’t send in the purchase completion for the transaction until after the 24 hour window (UA and WN place a 48 hour authorization hold for the amount of the transaction on your account). That way if you cancel, the authorization hold on your account just goes away and no one gets charged anything.

  • MarkKelling

    The UA fee to hold the reservation for up to 7 days is a non-refundable extra cost to the flyer. If you choose that option and pay the fee, you don’t get the fee back if you decide to not purchase the ticket nor is it deducted from the total cost of the ticket. UA doesn’t quibble about that because they are getting income from the option. The only airline I would expect to quibble about it publicly would be Spirit since they seem to like to quibble about everything.

    The main issue for airlines with the 24 hour rule is that they want to charge your credit card right away to guarantee the funds (even though they place an authorization hold on the funds). But if they do that and then you cancel they pay a fee to the credit card company twice – first for the purchase and second for the refund they have to generate. This costs money.

  • MarkKelling

    No mention of where the LW was flying to/from is made. The only time I feel the US 24 hour rule should apply to airlines is if they are selling a ticket that either begins or ends in a US city no matter who is buying it or where the purchasers are physically located when buying it.

    I recently experienced a similar situation. I purchased a ticket to fly from Barcelona to Madrid on a European based airline thinking I had the 24 hour cancelation option. The website I used was in English, I got charged in USD, and everything went well. But when I went back to the site to cancel since my plans changed, there was no option to request a refund. So I learned to check those things out now before I purchase tickets. This was not an issue with the company, but rather my issue because I made the faulty assumption that the 24 hour rule was world wide.

  • MarkKelling

    So EU261 should not apply to any airline not based in the EU? DOT airworthyness laws should not apply to airlines not based in the US?

  • jim6555

    I didn’t vote. Since I don’t reside in the EU, it is not up to me to urge them to pass laws that will affect their citizens and visitors. As for XL Airways, they made a conscious decision to fly to and from four US airports (JFK, MIA, LAS, SFO). Therefore, they must abide by US laws and FAA rules for passengers departing from the US. That includes abiding by the 24 hour rule. If they don’t like the rule, they need to decide whether to hold their noses and conform to the US rule or to abandon the US destinations and to begin service to other nations that don’t have a similar rule.

  • S363

    I’d never heard of “XL Airlines”. Can I assume this is an airline that specificially caters to “persons of size”?

  • John Baker

    Honestly Mark … I think applying EU261 to non-European carriers is sketchy at best but I’m happy to take it.

    DOT Airworthiness regulations should apply to planes flying within US airspace…. attempting to apply them to foreign carriers flying in non-US airspace simply because they have an American on board shouldn’t occur. How do you think US airlines would react if the opposite was true? How about if different foreign agencies issue contradictory regulations and expect US carriers to follow both.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The issue isn’t the citizenship of the purchaser, that’s almost never an issue. You note that neither of your scenarios turn on the citizenship of the purchaser. You could substitute Martian and get the same results. Thus the question is two-fold. 1)Where did the transaction take place and 2)where will performance occur.

    The article appeared to be primarily addressing point #1. I suggest that when I buy something on an American site I expect my US consumer protections to apply. If I buy on a foreign website I expect the laws of that jurisdiction to apply.

    Now, #2 muddies the water as performance (i.e. the flight) occurs in another jurisdiction.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    According to the article, the DOT didn’t seem that concerned. I don’t understand the “he said, she said” as the lack of a hold button should be fairly easy to establish.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s partially correct. However, if the goods will be shipped to, or services performed in another jurisdiction (state, country, etc.), even if just once, the seller must adhere to those laws. Enforcement of course is a different matter.

    It’s why Ebay had to block the viewing of items which are deemed inappropriate under French law, e.g. Nazi memorabilia.

  • pauletteb

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  • John Baker

    @carverclarkfarrow:disqus I was talking to what should occur not what does… Current situation could easily result in a mom & pop having to buy licenses in thousands of jurisdictions to operate even though they don’t operate or reside there…. I’ve always thought that the transaction should occur on the seller’s side of the computer not the purchasers side. Without doing that, your basically forcing mom & pops out of business because they won’t be able to compete.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why would that require a mom and pop to buy thousands of licenses?

  • Michael__K

    Carver, what’s your definition of “[web]site”?

    This business has exactly one internet domain: xl.Com.
    [As an aside: .Com happens to be a US-based domain]

    When you point your (non-IE) browser to the root HTTP folder of this internet domain (with no cookies from a prior visit) then you reach the screen attached below.

    The rectangular region with a US and British flag is clickable. If you hover over the US flag and click on it, would you believe you are on XL’s “European website”?

  • Bill

    So based on the poll… should the US airlines have to adopt EU261? If I take a flight on Delta… PDX-AMS_JRO and the flight from PDX is delayed should I be entitled to compensation based on EU261? After all part of the service is delivering me to Europe so their laws should apply correct?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Wait a minute. Let’s unravel that.

    The current state of the law hasn’t run Moms and pops out of business and its been this way for decades if not longer.

    Mom and pops generally operate locally, but in general a license (I assume you mean business license) is only required if you have a physical presence in a jurisdiction.

    The canard of jurisdictional taxation complexity is false. Modern software handles sales tax in the same way it know to charge sales tax on pencils, not on milk, and a deposit on soda cans.

    But in any event, the state has the right to control what happens within its borders. Just because you transaction something in one state doesn’t mean that another state has to honor that transaction if its illegal in that state.

  • justmeeeee

    Doesn’t the 24-hour rule allow you to CANCEL a booking made within 24 hours? That’s different from making a reservation and not paying for it until 24 hours later…quite different.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why do you want a definition of website? I offer that the term website has a commonly understand meaning and that further definition is unwarranted. Please feel free to offer a specific one if the need arises.

    When I went to the website a pop-up gave me the blended US/UK flag. That suggests language, not country, to me as I am not in the UK. In fact, multiple flags always suggest language to me, nothing more. At no time did I believe that I was on a US site.

    Curiously, I first learned of XL last friday from a friend.

  • emanon256

    Before the 24 hour rule, UA let me cancel a reservation up until midnight the next day, giving me a minimum of 24 hours and up to almost 48 hours to cancel with no penalty. I used this a lot when I was consulting. Clients will want me, and the next day change their mind. Of course under theri new management, without the 24 hour rule, I suspect they woudl no longer allow cancellations at all, so I am grateful the rule exists.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m told the airline can do either. Personally, I prefer the hold option, especially when I’m not sure.

  • cowboyinbrla

    The problem with this interpretation, Carver, is – “where” is the website? It’s possible to host a British website (with a .co.uk URL) on a webserver in New York, just as it’s possible to host a US .com website on a server in Malaysia or Australia. And how would anyone know whether the server’s physical location or its URL should determine “where” the transaction takes place? Would the average user even know that the letters in the URL can determine if a site is “American”?

  • justmeeeee

    Many companies offer an English option on their non-US and non-UK websites because English is now a lingua franca, so that a Spaniard buying from a German website, for example, can conduct his business in English since he’s more likely to know that language than to know German. If I wanted to be sure I was headed to a US website, I would be looking for the US flag (if flags are offered), not just the English language, which is offered in all kinds of places. I’d say this one is Mikey’s fault.

  • John Baker

    @carverclarkfarrow:disqus The issue becomes attempting to comply with literally thousands of municipal and state regulations on any given business. Some of which maybe contradict regulations in other municipalities and states…

    There’s a reason why Amazon changed its view on the whole sales tax on the internet laws. They realized that the cost of the software and compliance would be more than most small businesses could bare. Can you imagine have to comply with thousands of sales tax regulations in thousands of municipalities and states and comply with each ones filing requirements? Much easier for Amazon to do than a mom and pop….

  • justmeeeee

    Yes, it applies and should apply if that airline wants to fly to/from the EU. So if you’re an airline and don’t like the rule, stay out of Europe. Simple.

  • emanon256

    I do like the 24 hour rule, but I will leave it up to each country / union to determine their own rules.

    I did some sluting on XL. Apparently they went under a few years ago, and recently re-incorporated under the same parent company. They have very limited schedules such as 1 flight once a week between some destinations, so if you miss your flight, you have to wait a week. They also don’t have staff at the airports and contract everything out, so if there is a mechanical problem, there is no new plane or mechanic, and it can take days for the repair. There is a news article about them stranding 300 people in Paris and telling them too bad.

    I woudl stay away form this airline at all costs.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The location of the actual server can be important for a limited class of items, particularly for virtual transaction such as online gambling, internet porn, etc. I once had a case where the defendant used Paypal to further his scheme. I used the fact that Paypal servers were in Silicon Valley to get the case closer to me.

    But for other transactions that have a physical component, the location of the server is generally not that important. For example, if I buy something online from outside the US, US law will control once its shipped to the US. But if I buy something online from France to be shipped to London, that would be complicated. Depending on the specifics, US, French, or British law might apply to different parts of the transaction.

  • Michael__K

    I would have thought it has a commonly understood meaning too, but apparently not.

    I submit that people typically think of a “website” as an internet domain. Especially when all the web pages on that internet domain share the same navigation and look and feel.

    For example, I think of elliott.Org as one website. I wouldn’t refer to elliott.Org/ and elliott.Org/shop and elliott.Org/newsletter as 3 different websites.

    The blended American flag and a .Com (USA-based) internet domain suggests to me that I am on a website that is marketed to US consumers. Which as far as I understand is the relevant standard.

  • Michael__K

    I would have thought it has a commonly understood meaning too, but apparently not.

    I submit that people typically think of a “website” as an internet domain. Especially when all the web pages on that internet domain share the same navigation and look and feel.

    For example, I think of elliott.Org as one website. I wouldn’t refer to elliott.Org/ and elliott.Org/shop and elliott.Org/newsletter as 3 different websites.

    The blended American flag and a .Com (USA-based) internet domain suggests to me that I am on a website that is marketed to US consumers. Which as far as I understand is the relevant standard.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Amazon is not a good comparison. There was much more going on. Amazon had distribution centers and partners in many states which substantially muddied the water. It wasn’t calculating the tax that was difficult. That’s a simple zip database.

    The problem was determining whether or not taxes had to be collected in the first place particularly with the inclusion of partners. That was complicated because amazon did not have a uniform presence.

    Amazon would still to collect different taxes depending on the jurisdiction. What Amazon wanted was consistency in when taxes had to be collected and one major issue was how to account for its partners.

    A mom and pop store won’t have that problem because it will have a uniform presence throughout the country, i.e. none.

    It’s the same as when there was mail order.

  • Michael__K

    I would have thought it has a commonly understood meaning too, but apparently not commonly understood enough.

    I submit that people commonly think of a “website” as an “internet domain.” Especially when all the web pages on that domain share the same navigation and look and feel.

    For example, I think of elliott.Org as one website. I wouldn’t refer to elliott.Org/ and elliott.Org/shop and elliott.Org/newsletter as 3 different websites.

    The blended American flag and a .Com (USA-based internet domain) suggests to me that I am on a website that is marketed to US consumers. Which as far as I understand is the relevant standard.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That was the same impression I got last week when I checked them out.

  • Kairho

    True. Actual citizenship is irrelevant. Substitute simple ‘person’ and the implications remain the same.

  • MarkKelling

    Trying to start a new airline is tough. Not everyone has the funds to buy or rent a couple dozen planes from the get go. But yes, this particular airline seems a bit sketchy beyond the initial start up issues and I would avoid them. .

  • MarkKelling

    I would believe I am on an English language version of the merchant’s website. I would make no assumptions about which part of the world that merchant is operating within. And if I got my final price quoted in Euros I would be completely sure I was NOT on the US version (if one even exists).

  • MarkKelling

    Your statement was that the rules only in the area where a business is based should apply. Therefore, EU261 should not apply to non European based airlines. US DOT air rules should not apply to non US based carriers. A carrier base in any third world country should only follow the rules for that country. And so on.

    Whether or not those rules make sense is irrelevant if any are to apply because then all should apply to any airline’s flight flying into that jurisdiction. You can’t pick and choose which rules/laws to follow and which to ignore. And I in no way indicated that airlines whose planes never enter the US should have to follow any US rules or laws. There are many airlines flying today that come no were near the US. Whether they are as safe as US based airlines to fly on is up for debate (all I can say is some are very scary).

  • DavidYoung2

    I think most people are missing the point. If an airline will go to such lengths to skirt a consumer-friendly law, why on earth would you book on that airline? Don’t reward scammers and schemers with your business.

    If they’ll be scumbags on their website, what do you think will happen once you book the trip? What kind of customer service do you think you will get if there’s a problem?

    The airlines that will clearly screw a customer for a dollar (or euro) – yeah, I’m talking to you Spirit and Ryan Air – should be on your personal Do Not Fly list. Otherwise, be ready for a very disappointing customer experience.

  • Michael__K

    I believe the applicable standard is whether or not the site is marketed to US consumers.

    They make it very clear they are operating from France, that’s not the issue. Even on what they call their “US website” they refer to themselves as “XL Airways France” and their only contact address is in France.

    What makes things even more confusing is that they represent on xl.Com that they honor 24 hour holds for all flights from/to the USA, 7+ days prior to travel. But then they argue that this representation doesn’t actually apply to most of xl.Com (a gotcha which is not disclosed).

  • Guest

    duplicate comment removed (sorry)

  • emanon256

    Warren Buffet said it best. How do you become a millionaire? Make a billion dollars and then buy an airline.

  • bodega3

    Do note that the hold option doesn’t guarantee the fare.

  • Travelnut

    Since they’re based in France, not likely!

  • sunshipballoons

    This complaint reflects a misunderstanding of the rule. The airline must EITHER allow you to hold a reservation unpaid for 24 hours, or to cancel the booking within 24 hours if you did pay. It does not require them to offer a passenger both options. DOT did nothing because this person did not show that he could not have purchased a ticket and then cancelled within 24 hours. It has nothing to do with the website URL, notwithstanding the effect of the URL on XL’s policies.

  • bodega3

    We have always had this option. Nothing new for us. But fares are not protected until ticketed!

  • $16635417

    It does on American Airlines. Interestingly enough I made a reservation last night and placed it on hold. The email confirmation states the fare is guaranteed 24 hours.

  • MarkKelling

    We still don’t know which cities the flight was for the LW reserved. Just because he is an American citizen does not mean the flight would include a US city meaning the 24 hour rule may not apply anyway.

    I do agree, and it appears from the update just posted so does the airline now that DOT is involved, that the website needs to be much clearer as to what jurisdiction you fall under.

  • bodega3

    That is interesting.

  • $16635417

    I held a reservation on aa.com last night. This is part of what I received from them via email after I held. Note they say Fare are only guaranteed up to 24 hours.

    Fare Summary Average Fare per Person – 86.51 USDTotal Price includes Choice EssentialPassenger Type Used in PricingFare per PersonTaxes and Carrier-imposed Fees per PersonTotal Price1 Adult86.51 USD20.59 USD107.10 USDTotal Price107.10 USD Please note the following:
    • View Fare rules.
    • Fares are only guaranteed up to 24 hours.
    • Additional foreign taxes may apply.
    • Additional fees may also apply for tickets not purchased on aa.com.

  • MarkKelling

    AA has chosen to not offer the 24 hour refund option but to allow a 24 hour guaranteed hold. Confusing to those who are used to the other way around that most airlines have chosen.

  • $16635417

    Or are the other airlines confusing us because AA does it this way??? ;)

  • MarkKelling

    Yep, everyone should all do things exactly the way AA does them. ;-)

  • $16635417

    Maybe THAT should have been the law! Instead of offering choices for the airline to adhere to, just tell every airline to follow AA’s business model on everything!

  • Michael__K

    I am the LW. The itinerary began and ended in the USA.

  • MarkKelling

    Ah, thanks for clearing that up!

    Now I believe the airline is completely scammy when applying the rules, Glad you were able to get them to agree to the refund.

  • Michael__K

    Per the DOT, it most certainly does guarantee the fare when the carrier doesn’t offer the refund option.

    We note that if a carrier allows passengers to cancel a reservation within 24 hours and receive a full refund, it is permissible for the carrier to charge an ancillary fee for “fare lock” service that covers any number of hours. If a carrier chooses to comply with the 24-hour reservation requirement by allowing a fare to be held for 24 hours without full payment, it may offer a “fare lock” service for a fee to lock in the flight itinerary and price for any number of hours in excess of 24 hours but the offer should clearly disclose that during the first 24 hours the fare lock applies regardless of whether a “fare lock” service is purchased.

    [emphasis added]

    http://www.dot.Gov/sites/dot.dev/files/docs/Notice_24hour_hold_final20130530.pdf

  • Michael__K

    Your comment reflects a misunderstanding of the complaint.

    XL represents to offer the former option (hold a reservation unpaid for 24 hours) only.

    But they argued that neither option is available to customers who enter their “website” via http://www.xl.Com and click on the blended US flag or on “Welcome aboard” link. Even for travel originating and ending in the US.

  • Mike Z

    Where the website is located should not be relevant in any way. if a person in the US is purchasing a ticket for use on a US originated flight, then the US rules should apply, regardless of where the server is located.
    if you go on where a website is housed or where a product was made, we would all follow Indian, Pakastani, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean laws.

  • sunshipballoons

    This law doesn’t care what XL “represents,” it cares what it does. If XL allows the cancelling of a reservation within 24 hours — and nothing in this article or the complaint made to DOT suggests otherwise — then it is not violating the regulation, regardless of whether it allows 24-hour holds.

  • Guest

    (removed duplicate comment)

  • Michael__K

    XL does not allow for cancelling reservations within 24 hours. Period.

    If they did, they would have to disclose that they allow it. They don’t.

    They also made it clear in my direct conversations with them that they never allow for cancelling a reservation within 24 hours. They opt to offer the hold option only.

  • sunshipballoons

    Okay. I have no idea if XL allows 24 cancellations, so I’ll take your word for it. That has nothing to do with my comment. The complaint to DOT did not establish that XL violated the law, because to violate the law they would have to not have allowed him a 24-hour hold AND not allow him to reserve then cancel within 24 hours. The info the guy gave to DOT did not establish (or even suggest) the latter, so there was nothing for DOT to act on.

  • Michael__K

    “Him” = me.

    Don’t take my word for anything. Per DOT requirements, XL is required to publicly post their policy for complying with the 24 hour rule. They publicly disclose that they comply by offering 24-hour holds, not refunds.

    The DOT agent I first spoke to agreed with me — and even indicated in their correspondence to XL — that my complaint “appears to fall under one of our rules” (specifically 14 CFR 259.7(c)).

    In XL’s response, they claimed that I went to their European website which is not subject to the rule and which they implied I could not have reached by following a US flag (blended or otherwise).

    It appears that DOT initially accepted this response from XL at face value (they apparently didn’t scrutinize the screenshots I included) and marked my case closed writing back that “there appears to be a difference in facts.”

    When I followed up with more questions and referred to my screenshots apparently my complaint was revisited.

  • sunshipballoons

    There’s clearly some miscommunication going on here. The rule the DOT told you XL violated relates to responding to customer complaints. I would not be at all surprised if they violated a rule responding to your complaint, considering that their response about the website was plainly nonsense.

    It sounds like you provided DOT with more information — i.e., about XL’s lack of 24-hour refund policy — so it’s getting more investigation. Good.

  • Mark Carrara

    Since when is .com a US domain? While the people running a tld can put restrictions on the domain, .com does not have any

  • Lindabator

    French company based in France.

  • Lindabator

    Actually a nice airline, and can have some great prices as well!

  • Lindabator

    They are following THEIR country’s laws – not actually going to any lengths to circumvent our rules, as they DO NOT apply!

  • Michael__K

    Correction: the DOT cited 14 CFR 259.7(c) in their correspondence just to request from XL that they provide a response within certain deadlines.

    The rule cited per my complaint falls under 14 CFR 259.5(b)(4).

  • Cybrsk8r

    Yes. Sort of. The real issue here seems to be that the airline is trying to confuse customers into logging onto a site where the 24-hour rule won’t apply.

    “If you want U.S. laws to apply you have to explicitly type
    ‘www.xl.com/us’ in the browser address bar at the start of your
    session,”

    I’m guessing the airline isn’t exactly forthcoming in telling customers about the differences between their various web-portals.

    And I’m just about as likely to throw the dice with an airline with a name like XL Airways as I am to book a ticket on Hooterville Airways.

  • Michael__K

    You are absolutely correct that anyone in the world can register a .Com domain.

    Since .US domains could not be registered until 2002 (long after virtually every other country tld) .Com has long served as a de-facto primary domain for US companies.

    It’s also maintained by Verisign Global Registry Services, located in Reston, VA.

    This is just a secondary tangential point, but I submit that XL’s use of a .Com domain exclusively (as opposed to a .Fr domain or a .Uk domain or a .Eu domain for example) is just one other small clue that their web content is aimed at US consumers (among others).

    And the DOT rule specfically refers to foreign carriers that have a “website marketed to U.S. consumers.”

  • Bill

    Now the OP is complaining about $25. Quite honestly he should be glad that he got any kind of refund. What exactly would happen to XL if they told him to go away and stop bothering them…. probably nothing.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    impose a stupid 24 hour rule & airfares will increase.
    Great that we don’t have this nonscience in Australia. What sort of losers(except for public servants, they can never ever make a decision) can’t make a decision.

  • bodega3

    I have been out online looking at all this. What confusion!

  • William_Leeper

    The big thing here is that the rule does not apply based on where the purchaser resides, nor based on his or her citizenship. The DOT standard is whether or not the flight originates or terminates in the US. If it does, the 24 hour rule applies, and if it does not, then the rule does not apply.

    All DOT regulations are based upon the origin and/or destination being in the US. They do not regulate foreign travel at all hence the 24 hour rule would not apply if a US citizen purchased a ticket from Rome to London online from his home in Florida. The travel is not in the US.

  • Michael__K

    XL does not refund any tickets within 24 hours of purchase. The DOT rule allows airlines to alternatively offer a 24-hour hold option. Which is what XL elects to do.

    How did you enter XL’s website?

    No need to take anyone’s word for anything. You can clear your cookies and go to http://www.xl.Com/ and click on the blended US/UK flag and verify for yourself that (at least right now) prices will be shown in Euros. If you go through the booking process, you get a PNR before you are routed to a different website for payment (an indication that the PNR is on some sort of hold). But this PNR is apparently held for minutes, not for 24 hours.

  • bodega3

    Why did you elect to fly this carrier instead? Was it the fare? The times?

  • Michael__K

    Mostly the fare. My preference was to use a different carrier and also to make the trip at a different time of year when fares would be lower across the board. My wife strongly preferred to visit family during this time period and a friend of hers reported positive experiences with this carrier.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I like Martian better

    :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Who they are marketing to has little bearing. Ok, in some cases but consider, imagine a US company that markets Florida tours to Brits. The company is in the US and all services are performed within the US. The UK would have a hard time asserting that said company must, in general, comply with UK law.

    Edited. Of course, the US being an 800ob gorilla gets to assert special rules which do not necessarily work the other way.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Ditto

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. The problem is that the term US site is not well defined. In general, although I have been unfortunately imprecise and inconsistent, I think of a US site as a site where the controlling entity is under the jurisdiction of the United States, e.g. a subsidiary. That can be overridden by sufficient adjective, e.g. British Airlines US site. But absent an adjective to the contrary, that’s my though when I hear a US site.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That is my experience as well. I’ve been using it for over 15 years without incident.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Question. Prior to the DOT rule, what did most airlines do?

    AA has my vote because its former 24 hour hold predates the DOT rule, applied to all tickets, and was almost always greater than 24 hours. If you held a ticket at 12:01am January 1, the hold didn’t expire until 12:00am January 3, basically 48 hours.

    If you booked a ticket to fly in 2 days, you still got the 24 hour hold. The only time you didn’t get the 24 hour hold is if you were traveling in less than 26 hours.

  • Michael__K

    The company is in the US and all services are performed within the US. The UK would have a hard time asserting that said company must, in general, comply with UK law

    I defer to your expertise on that issue, but I don’t believe it’s analogous. To be clear: the flights here are from/to the USA. This is a French company selling flights from/to the USA.

    Also, the DOT (800 lb. gorilla? ;) asserts the following:

    14 CFR 259.6 requires that each U.S. and foreign air carrier that has a website marketed to U.S. consumers post its customer service plan, which must include a commitment pertaining to the 24-hour reservation requirement, on its website in an easily accessible format.

    XL includes this commitment on a web page on xl.Com but it claimed (as I understand their argument) that said commitment doesn’t apply to all of xl.Com which it claims is actually multiple websites, not all of which are marketed to U.S. consumers. Which I claim is a ridiculous stretch.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was speaking generally about the jurisdiction issue.

    I understand why you cited that section. It’s a bit misleading. That section must be read in light of the entire statutory scheme. The DOT does not have jurisdiction over a foreign carrier that does not have a US presence.

    So for example, the US can exercise some jurisdiction of British Air because it has a US presence, e.g. flights to and from the US. The way I read the statute is that if BA has a site marketed to Americans, then that site must carry the appropriate notices.

    But say the BA site that markets to the Greek citizens, it need not carry the notices.

    The phrase foreign air carrier that has a website marketed to U.S. is necessarily limited to those foreign carriers that the DOT has jurisdiction over. I do not believe marketing to the US is in general sufficient to bring an airline, or any business, under the jurisdiction of the US government.

    Perhaps one of the other attorneys can chime in.

  • PsyGuy

    All the discussion not with standing, can we admit it’s a clever approach? If this was a US carrier they would have just lied to you and taken your money, the europeans at least try to finesse you with a little sophistication…
    The last time an American came up with such a ploy, it referred to and hinged on the definition of “is”.

  • MarkKelling

    I don’t know what most airlines did previously because I only flew Southwest for most of my flights that I had to change. WN have always allowed you to cancel and reapply your funds to another flight without penalty (until recently you could also apply those funds to buy a ticket for someone else, but they stopped that). Not the same as a refund, but just as useful if you flew more than a couple times a year. Most flights I had to change were well past the 24 hour window anyway.

  • Michael__K

    So if I follow along, I think you agree that the DOT rule is applicable to the particulars of my case because the carrier has a US presence (flights from/to the US) and also the flights were from/to the US.

    What about the same carrier’s flights outside the US? Do you believe their presence in the US subjects their non-US flights (when marketed to US consumers) to the DOT rule as well?

  • bodega3

    While you can purchase tickets for nonUS flights, DOT doesn’t have a say in those flights.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    To your questions

    Does the DOT rule apply? I don’t know (see below). Since XL does fly to the US some portion of its activities are under the jurisdiction of the DOT. That much is undisputed. As far as whether your case falls under the DOT rule, that gets complicated. The question appears to be “Does a portal with different entry points qualify as marketing to the US?” That’s the kind of question that’s not subject to a purely logical analysis. You cannot take general legal principals. You must have actual knowledge and see what the DOT and/or the courts have stated.

    I would guess that the answer to question number 2 is also depends (Yes, attorney hedging)

    An example, to make it easier. If British Air has a flight from London to Athens (my first European flight). I would GUESS that the site marketed to Americans (.com, dollars, English, etc.) would fall under the DOT jurisdiction, and the website marketed to Greeks would not.

    The problem is that you have at least three different entities claiming jurisdiction (US, UK, Greece). The rules may be different and possibly incompatible so figuring out jurisdiction can be a fight, sometimes the only fight.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Here’s part of the problem that you have.

    I’ve never heard of XL before last week at a random conversation
    I’ve never seen an ad for XL
    I’ve never seen their flights show up on any mega-engine such as Travelocity.
    I suspect that many others are in the same point of ignorance about this airline. And the price is shown in Euros

    The evidence that it markets to Americans is basically.

    1. usage of .com
    2. A blended UK/US flag

    They’re going to argue that they don’t market to Americans. That they are European airline with flights to the US, but that the marketing and clientele are European and thus the DOT rule doesn’t apply.

  • dave3029

    Is it just me, or does this article talk about two different 24-hour rules? It starts by stating the rule allows you to cancel a ticket and get a refund if done within 24 hours of booking, then goes on to talk about cases where consumers weren’t allowed to hold a reservation for 24-hours without paying for the ticket. What am I missing?

  • MarkKelling

    Same rule, two options. The rule allows each airline to choose to either offer a full refund for any tickets purchased for 24 hours from the time of purchase OR allow the customer to book a flight without paying right away and have up to 24 hours to purchase the flight at the original price. One or the other.

    It appears XL airline chose the hold option. But only if you connect to their web site a specific way.

  • Michael__K

    …see what the DOT and/or the courts have stated.

    Fair enough, but that’s why I cited the DOT’s statement of guidance asserting the “marketed to US consumers” standard.

  • H0M

    My point of view is that a website (entire website with the same domain. Xl.com and XL.com/us is the same website) is governed by its Privacy Policy and Terms of Use (yeah the long stuff that rarely anyone reads regardless how summarized is) which usually states which country/state’s law has jurisdiction over the site.

    Is up to the local government of where the consumer is located (not citizenship) to determine if they will grant the site permission to operate in their jurisdiction.

    In this case, no matter how XL plays with the links, the booking was made in the same domain and if they want to operate in the US, then they need to follow US law or disable the ability to make reservations from the US.

    For example, EU gambling sites are not allowed to operate in the US and US sites collecting personal info need to abide by EU privacy laws.

  • H0M

    Replied to wrong thread. Sorry.

  • H0M

    Maybe French law or any bilateral/EU commerce law?

  • BMG4ME

    Delta and American are great from this perspective. American allows you to hold a flight for at least 24 hours. Delta allows you to pay but cancel within 24 hours, I have used and benefited from both.

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