Most travelers know it is possible to cancel a flight for free within 24 hours inside the U.S., but most don't know it is also possible to do for flights departing outside the U.S.
Unbeknownst to most travelers, Expedia.com offers free 24-hour flight cancellation for flights outside the U.S. This is pretty specific to the .com version of the site (not .co, .uk, .ca etc.), so close that browser tab if you're on any version of the website but the American one.
The most important thing to note is that it does not apply to all airlines, only some airlines. As a general rule, don't expect this to work for the budget airlines (get dem miles!).
This will work with flights no matter what the originating departure country is. Even the destination doesn't have to be anywhere in the U.S.
Luckily, Expedia is pretty clear on the website on which airlines and flights qualify for this free cancellation.
This is a particularly useful trick to keep in mind when a flight departure date may change, or proof of onward travel may be required.
Blogger Nick Wharton who has used the Expedia cancellation trick several times has this to say on the subject:
Whenever we’ve booked and cancelled a flight on Expedia.com it usually hasn’t even shown up on our credit card statement. The flight is simply refunded before the charge ever comes through. The refund is always for 100% of the cost of the flight, so we have never lost a penny.
(That's not completely true in our experience, since the credit card charge did show up on our bill almost immediately.)
He points out that only verrry occasionally Expedia may bury a hidden booking fee, so you know, like all things, read that T&C pretty carefully.
London to Paris... for proof of onward travel?
To see how this fares in action, we looked for a London to Paris one-way ticket on June 20.
The cheapest flight rung up at $65. The cheapest flight that qualifies for this free cancellation rung up at $93, a spread of $28, or a 43% increase.
Since we didn't feel like putting that much on the credit card (in case the trick didn't work!), we kept looking until we found a $75 flight that qualified for free cancellation.
Here's a quick slideshow showing the booking process.
Then we booked the flight.
Some 12 hours later, we decided to cancel it just to see if it would work.
Once we hit the link to cancel the reservation, this screen flashed on the computer.
Though several other people have reported that cancellation was a pretty simple online affair, when push came to shove, our particular itinerary indicated that we would have to talk to an Expedia agent (1-800-280-7112) to get it sorted out. Using the free toll number trick, we were able to connect quite seamlessly to an operator from London.
Once we called the phone agent, the cancellation went through completely fine and the agent indicated that the refund would be processed within three to five business days.
Though it was only marginally more cumbersome in that we had to speak to a real human, that's what we call a successful hack, yeah?