American Is Beginning To Limit Free Ticket Holds

Filed Under: American

American adjusted their official ticket hold policy as of April 1, 2016. The Department of Transportation requires passengers to be able to change their mind on tickets within 24 hours, when booking at least seven days in advance. In practice airlines have the choice of offering this in the form of a 24-hour hold, or in the form of being able to cancel a ticket within 24 hours of booking.

Historically American allowed 24 hour holds (in practice they were actually longer, since you had until 11:59PM the following night to cancel, meaning you could hold tickets for ~47 hours if being strategic about it), but didn’t allow passengers to refund tickets once they’re issued.

However, as of about seven months ago, American’s new official policy was that they’d allow you to cancel your ticket within 24 hours, rather than allowing you to hold your ticket. However, they said that temporarily they’d continue to allow holds when booking through, which really gives us the best of both worlds — we can hold tickets for 24 hours while also being able to cancel 24 hours after ticketing.


Per ThreeJulietTango on FlyerTalk, American is no longer consistently allowing free holds as of November 3, 2016:

Effective November 3, free holds on will only be offered randomly for reservations which are made at least 7 days before departure and do not contain other airline space.

Availability of the free hold will be independent of elite status or fare inventory, and if a free hold is not offered, starting over and over again will not cause one to eventually be offered.

This change does not affect the availability of the Extended Hold product, and all tickets purchased at least 7 days before departure may be refunded if cancelled within 24 hours of purchase.


I just searched about a dozen tickets, and all of them showed hold options, so it seems like they’re starting slow. I suspect the reason they’re doing this randomly for now is that they’re doing some testing to see how consumer behavior differs based on whether or not the option is offered.

Regardless, we knew this was coming, and for the past seven months we’ve had the best of both worlds. For the most part we continue to have the best of both worlds, as most tickets still show a hold option… for now.

But if you don’t see the hold option on a ticket you’re booking more than seven days before departure, at least now you know why the option isn’t available.

Have you come across any itineraries more than seven days in advance that don’t show the hold option?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Perhaps the itnernational version of the site may offer hope if a ticket does not have a free hold option?

  2. Are we sure they actually changed anything? I have had mixed luck getting the hold option for a bit now but I always thought it was related to proximity to flight time than anything else.

  3. Just another reason to give up on AA. Between changes to their frequent flyer program and overall issues with their customer service standards, one cannot favor flying the airline. I don’t take this view lightly. I’m a 3 million miler on AA. Platinum for life, but, of course, that status is worth virtually nothing on AA. I have 4 systemwide upgrades that expire in Feb. I looked at dozens of itineraries (domestic and international) and dates between now and 2/28/17. Literally not one flight available to upgrade from a PAID coach ticket to Business class. Pathetic.

  4. I am very dismayed to hear this. being able to put a potential booking on hold is extremely important to me. I don’t have a credit card, so I need to arrange the ticket, click Hold, and zip out to the airport to pay in person.

    Thank you for publicizing this.

  5. I find it really funny that people with millions of miles keep saying “another reason to give up on xxxxxx”. How many options does a consumer really have when it comes to flights? Unless you are in a major hub like JFK or LAX, a consumer really has 1-2 options getting a less expensive flight.

  6. To BlueMountain: While domestic options could limited unless you flying from a reasonably large airport, there are plenty of options when connecting internationally. Personally, because of changes in AA earlier this year, I did fly paid business with JAL and paid first with China Eastern. I think my next trip overseas will be on BA – this will be the first time for me in 20 years to cross Atlantic not on AA metal. As a disclosure, I am 3MM with AA.

  7. I think it is not a very smart move by AA to stop offering free hold. Free hold was one differentiation AA had and it was only available on AA website, thus, generating additional traffic. Without the hold, one should always use OTA because of an ease cancelling tickets within 24 hrs and additional points. However, OTAs will also give you different options and other airlines. Thus, in effect, AA is pushing away booking traffic away from their website and towards the competition. Would they generate more sales without the hold? I highly doubt. Not very smart move at all!

  8. To Giving up on AA.

    I think you have overly high expectations for how SWUs work. They are not guaranteed at the booking.

    I have a 100% sucess rate on SWUs. None were available at booking. All cleared before departure.

    As for this change – we have only so-called “consumer advocates” to blame for. Not this blog, but several others were very vocal in saying AA’s policy of hold but no free 24hr cancel was anti-consumer. And AA bought it.

  9. Funny. And sad. With all the other dealbreakers I pondered leaving AA. But then I noted how great the 24 hour hold was. And now that’s gone? I am certainly open to shopping airlines again if so. Especially after the spend counter starts up and affects upgrades (for me at least) even more (as in getting them less).

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