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.
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.