Rumor: American Eliminating Tickets Holds As Of April 1, 2016

Filed Under: American

The Department of Transportation requires that airlines operating to the US offer a 24 hour reservation guarantee, where you can lock in a reservation and then have 24 hours to change your mind. This applies to all tickets booked seven or more days in advance. Airlines have two options for how they can approach this:

  • They can allow you to hold a ticket for 24 hours with no obligation before having to ticket it
  • Alternatively, they can offer a refund within 24 hours of booking

While Delta and United allow you to refund your ticket within 24 hours, American instead lets you hold a ticket for 24 hours before having to ticket. In reality it’s actually often more than a 24 hour hold, as the hold is valid through midnight the following day in the timezone your ticket originates in.


As has been discussed on FlyerTalk (and several reliable sources have verified), rumor has it that American will be eliminating complimentary 24 hour holds as of April 1, 2016. That means as of that date American will instead allow you to refund your ticket within 24 hours of purchase, assuming you’re booking at least seven days in advance.

No changes will be made to award ticket holds, and American will continue to (generously) allow AAdvantage members to hold award tickets for up to five days.

I’d definitely consider this to be a negative change, though at the same time it’s something I really can’t blame American for — if I were running an airline I’d probably do the same thing. I hold revenue tickets on American all the time, and it’s such a handy feature. I know many people will hold tickets day after day as a means of locking in the price without having to ticket, and then seeing if the fare drops later.

While that’s a great feature to have as a consumer, I can’t blame the airline for wanting to eliminate that. At least in theory, I imagine this also has the potential to skew inventory a bit, though perhaps that’s not as big of a deal when holds are only possible seven days in advance.

A while back American was testing paid holds for a longer amount of time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that expanded when American eliminates free holds.

I do wish airlines would make it easier to refund tickets within 24 hours. A 24 hour hold is easy since you can just let it expire, while most airlines which let you refund within 24 hours require you to call, which is a pain. That’s probably by design since it creates more of a barrier to canceling tickets, though it’s annoying nonetheless. I’d be less miffed about the change if it were possible to easily cancel tickets online.


Bottom line

While it hasn’t been officially publicly confirmed, it seems fairly reliable that American will be eliminating free holds on revenue tickets as of April 1, 2016, and will instead offer the option to refund a ticket within 24 hours.

While I consider this to be a negative change, it’s not one I can fault American for. Now we can just hope that they allow passengers to refund reservations online, rather than requiring one to call.

How will you be impacted by this potential policy change from American?

  1. It was probably hard being the odd airline out on this. Since (aa your noted) most (all?) other US carriers allow the 24 hour cancellation, they probably had a few angry customers who thought that policy applied to AA as well.

    Given that it’s probably better from them on a business level, it makes a lot of sense in my opinion.

  2. I only recently discovered the ability to “hold” a ticket for 24 hours, so I won’t be too adversely impacted. I use the time to firm up plans with travel companions. Now, I’ll just have to text them when I find an airfare which I am thinking of booking.

  3. For people in the know, this is probably a slightly negative change. For the average American who books the lowest price ticket without much regard to airline, this is a great move. I doubt many knew about this feature and how AA was different than other airlines. I bet AA had lots of angry customers who didn’t know about 24 hour hold versus 24 hour cancellation policy. People make mistakes in bookings all the time with names, dates etc. With every other airline, you could review your confirmation email (or send it to your spouse) and have time to catch these mistakes. With AA, if you bought the ticket outright, you didn’t get a chance to fix any mistakes.

  4. Wow that stinks! I know ultimately it won’t make a big difference, but it sure was a nice feature if I wasn’t 100% sure on buying the ticket! I don’t look forward to the hassle of a refund process if I have to go that route within 24 hours. Come on American, do something to make yourselves better than the rest–not just like them!

  5. Yeah not too happy on this. I used the free hold all the time. I handle all purchases for my travel for work. I would frequently use the 24 hour hold to hold a flight then would verify dates and times with work and then purchase. It made it way easier to hold it. About 60 percent of the holds I made I would buy. Now if I buy a ticket and then run it by work and need to change it I will have to request a refund. This seems like a waste of not just my time but Americans as well as an agent will have to process this. Looks like not only a loss for the consumer, but an increase in refund requests from travelers who know this rule will result in increased customer service hours.

  6. Many of those who held the Beijing fare last year probably had wished AA made the change before then.

  7. I actually don’t mind this change, as I frequently make mistakes on booking the wrong dates. While it is nice that AA allows a 24 hours hold, AA only holds the seats, but not the fares. I have been screwed a few times that while the seats are available, the fares have gone up. I don’t see that 24 hours courtesy hold particularly useful, unless AA can hold the fares. I much prefer the 24 hours rules.

    It seems like AA is going through a major period of changes this year.

    Thanks for the updates!


  8. I just booked a ticket and had to cancel on AA…about 4 days ago. It still shows “pending” on my CC…will have to see what happens.

  9. @Adrian – AAs 24 hold does garuntee both the seat AND fare. If they did not garuntee the fare as well they would be in violation of the DOT rules.

  10. Why can’t you blame them? Just because they are the odd man out? A more critical point of view against the airline would hold a lot more water.

  11. @ Adrian that is incorrect the fare is held with the current 24 hour system. You can check Americans website to confirm this. If they raised your fare that is shenanigans. That is why they offer the hold rather than the refund to be compliant.

  12. I was talking to an agent today about my ticketing for work. I usually fly to one city on Monday, fly to another city on Wednesday and then fly home Friday. Normally for Continental US the ticket averages around $600. All of a sudden these are pricing at anywhere between $1300 and $1900 for coach. She told me that they recently changed mixed fare pricing. I now have to book 3 seperate one ways to get the pricing a around $600. Beware of Multi-City bookings going forward

  13. The guy who first reported this on flyertalk called into book. When the person booked by the phone the American website and systems were being updated. A message would pop up stating the hours and such. I couldn’t book online because of this.

    Tonight I was able to hold 3 trips for late summer.

  14. I do not frequently fly American but I consider this change to be positive for the following reason. Flying on United, I have the option to purchase lowest available economy fares using a corporate credit card. Within the following 24 hours I can go to the United site or call an agent to request a reface with greater flexibility or in a premium cabin using my personal credit card. Because premium cabins are sometimes times marginally more expensive than economy fares in today’s world, the ability to change a confirmed and ticked reservation offers me a significant advantage over a hold and ticket paradigm.

  15. Come on people…this is obviously an April Fool’s joke. If you ever see ‘Rumor’ and “April 1′ at the same time, that should be the first thing that comes to mind.

  16. @Scottrick — Delta also lets you very easily cancel through midnight the next day online; I do it all the time.

    Really there isn’t much difference between the two systems. If you’re going to try to game the system and roll a ticket for a few days to see if it gets cheaper, the risk with AA’s system is that you forget to book a new hold and the price goes up. The risk with UA/DL’s system is that you forget to cancel one day and you’re stuck with what you’ve booked. But both are nice to have, and better than what you get outside the US.

  17. United is very easy to cancel online, and in my experience, if you cancel on the same day that you book, the credit card charge never even goes through.

  18. Not good at all, I usually hold tickets found off google flights and then call up to pay with my international credit card as I’ve always found it impossible to price an itinerary out the same when going through the respective international AA site.

  19. I hate this change, but fully admit that I probably abuse this somewhat, as others have admitted to as well, which is why they need to change it. Plus as Lucky mentioned there is zero barrier to cancelling right now but there is once we’ve already booked, especially if American makes you call in to cancel (and let’s face it, they are TERRIBLE at customer convenience so they are going to make you call in to cancel) so having that extra barrier is going to stop a lot of people from cancelling.

  20. This is fantastic news. After fighting with AA over a family member’s 2 cancelled tickets (cancelled within 24 hours of purchase, expecting similar behavior to most every other US airline) and having AA just say sorry, you’re out $400 in change fees, no exceptions, it’s about time this happens. The 24 hour hold might work for many people but to require someone to visit the website to hold a ticket and then go back to purchase is too much. Customer service needs to match the majority of the customers.

    And I agree with @MitchSogin – for some of us the holds just make things tougher to accomplish.

  21. This is a pretty neutral change (if not a positive one for most people) as far as I’m concerned. If they had gotten rid of award ticket holds, that would be one thing, but this just requires a change in behavior. Most people, especially people who don’t fly AA that often it will make their lives easier as they won’t have to remember that on AA you have to proactively hold the ticket instead of simply being able to cancel in within 24 hours as it is on pretty much every other US airline. I tend to make a lot of last minute bookings, and most of the time I end up keeping them. For me, this eliminates the extra step of having to go in and book the ticket I held every time I end up using it instead of only having to go in an cancel my ticket in the relatively rarer event that my plans change.

    I know people like to complain every time an airline changes its policy, and I can see how its annoying to have learn a new way of doing things for those that fly AA most often, but once you get the hang of it, its not really a big deal…

  22. I might have missed this comment, but I just tried to hold a ticket and was presented with a free 24 hour hold then four different paid options starting with a 3 day at $5.99 extending to a 7 day at $11.99

  23. I thought it was odd that they were releasing it on April 1st, too, but it’s really the earliest round date they could do (top of the month) after spring break travel peak. They are changing it more specifically to bring it in line with other airlines as the number of calls I get o the phone about passengers upset that it’s not refundable in 24 hours is insane. Now, if you made a miatake, we can fix that with no change charge, but you do have to say “I made a mistake” for us to do it. If you get a Legacy US Airways agent, most of the time they tend to waive it out of habit.

    Now, from what I’ve heard from higher up, the hold can still be placed online, but if you call in, it cannot be placed on hold at all. It will be an online only feature.

  24. @AAEmp – I told them it was a mistake and they still refused to waive the change fees. So much for that, I guess I’ll keep calling back until I get someone who will do it. Any special way to find a legacy usair agent?

  25. The first agent could have remarked the record based on what you said in the previous call, and it has to be within 24 hours of initial booking to make the change, and fare difference still applies.

    And there isn’t a special way to get a LUS agent, outside of asking when you get connected. All the calls dump into the same pool for everyone to answer.

  26. i’m glad..i had a problem with a recent AA booking dub-lax-dub and I called within 5 minutes to say I made a mistake and need to cancel..they basically said it was too bad because i didn’t do the 24 hour hold . In the UK / Europe AFAIK most other airlines (it might even be a law) have to allow 24 hour cancellation. AA seemed to find a loophole with their policy, so I’m glad to see the back of this. xx

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