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As we know, DOT rule allows a free 24hr cancellation for a purchased flight, as long as it is purchased more than seven days in advance. My understanding was that it only applied to US-originated or US-bound flights.

However there seem to be nothing in 14 CFR 259.5 limiting this to US-related flights; the plain reading of rules seems to be that ANY flight (such as domestic flight Mumbai-Delhi) is covered, as long as the carrier itself is "covered carrier" under 14 CFR 259. And a "covered carrier" is any airline, which "operates to, from or within the United States".

QUESTION: Is this correct understanding that if an airline has any flights to or from USA, all their flights must offer free 24hr cancellation (if purchased more than 7 days before flight), even if those flights do not originate, connect or terminate in the USA?

And, if you know, does the flight need to be purchased from the USA to be eligible, or it could be purchased, for example, from India?

PS. I called Delta to check, and they confirmed they offer free 24hr cancellation on a NRT-PVG flight (which flies from Tokyo to Shanghai and is Delta-operated). However Delta is a US-based airline; I wonder whether anyone had experience with airlines like China Eastern or Air India, which are not US-based.

Note: this question is not about Orbitz/Expedia which offer 24hr free cancellation on almost all flights, including those airlines which don't fly to USA.

  • Both China Eastern and Air India display customer service plans on their English language websites that comply with the 24 hour refund rule, however Air India's version has a sub-heading of "for flights to/from the USA". Both are verbatim copies of the regulation text. But based on Air India's version it seems for foreign carriers it is only mandated for flights to/from the US. – user13044 Dec 10 '16 at 3:29
  • Thanks @Tom. So they still may offer it, just not mention it on a website. Unless I missed something in CFR 259.5, I don't see how they can escape this. Anyway I called their US line, but it was not helpful; they do not know if this rule applies to non-US flights (told me to write a letter to HQ). – George Y. Dec 10 '16 at 3:34
  • It is difficult and basically inappropriate for a US based regulatory agency to dictate rules for domestic business policy of a foreign company. They can lay down policies for flights coming to or departing from the USA or sold in the US (from a ticket office or travel agency, not online), but not internal ones. – user13044 Dec 10 '16 at 3:45
  • One of the reasons why forcing foreign carriers makes sense is to level the playground. If foreign carriers were excluded, this would put US-operated carriers (who'd have to offer free cancellation) into disadvantage if non-US carriers don't have to. DOT seem to be wanted to have uniform rules. – George Y. Dec 10 '16 at 4:05
  • My reference about inappropriate foreign interference was in reference to domestic only sales, ie: Mumbai to Kolkata by Air India to a person living in India. US carriers don't compete in that market, hence the DOT has zero reason to interfere. – user13044 Dec 10 '16 at 4:08
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The applicability of the section of regulations you quote is found in 14 CFR 259.2, which states:

This part applies to all the flights of a certificated or commuter air carrier if the carrier operates scheduled passenger service or public charter service using any aircraft originally designed to have a passenger capacity of 30 or more seats, and to all flights to and from the U.S. of a foreign carrier if the carrier operates scheduled passenger service or public charter service to and from the U.S. using any aircraft originally designed to have a passenger capacity of 30 or more seats, except as otherwise provided in this part. This part does not apply to foreign carrier charters that operate to and from the United States if no new passengers are picked up in the United States.

The way I read this is that the regulation only applies to foreign carriers' flights within, to or from the United States, but it applies to any flight of a U.S. carrier anywhere in the world.

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