Planning travel can be complicated, especially if you’re trying to redeem miles & points. Award availability is often limited, and there are lots of moving parts. In that sense, being able to hold an award reservation for free before ticketing can be extremely valuable.
In this post, I wanted to recap the frequent flyer programs that still let you hold award tickets, as it’s an opportunity that has become increasingly rare.
In this post:
What is an airline award ticket hold, and why does it matter?
Airline award space can disappear quickly, especially first & business class award seats over peak periods. There’s huge value sometimes in just being able to place an award ticket on hold for some amount of time prior to ticketing.
There are several reasons this could come in handy:
- It could be that you want to make sure you can lock in award space or get time off work before ticketing an airline award reservation
- It could be that you have transferable points (like points with Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, etc.), and getting them into an airline frequent flyer program isn’t an instant process (though many points convert instantly nowadays)
- It could be that you’re trying to piece together a larger award itinerary, but need some time to work on that, and don’t want the most important flight to be snatched up by someone else in the meantime
Back in the day a vast majority of frequent flyer programs allowed award tickets to be placed on hold for some amount of time before ticketing. Unfortunately nowadays it’s rather rare.
Which frequent flyer programs allow award ticket holds?
Which airline frequent flyer programs allow award ticket holds nowadays? Below I’ll recap the programs that allow holds, for how long award seats can be placed on hold, and how you can request a hold.
Let me note that the policy is generally based on the program you’re ticketing through, rather than the airline you’re actually traveling with, in situations where you’re booking partner award travel.
With that in mind, the following airline frequent flyer programs allow award ticket holds:
- Air France-KLM Flying Club — hold award tickets for up to three days, but only by phone
- All Nippon Airways Mileage Club — hold award tickets for up to two days, but only by phone
- American AAdvantage — hold award tickets for up to five days, directly on aa.com
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles — hold awards for up to three days, but only by phone
- Emirates Skywards — hold award tickets for up to one day, but only by phone
- EVA Air Infinity MileageLands — hold award tickets for up to one day, both online and by phone
- Lufthansa Miles & More — hold award tickets for up to five days, but only by phone
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer — awards can potentially be held, but only by phone
- Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles — hold award tickets for up to two days, but only by phone
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — hold awards for up to one day, but only by phone
As you can see, American AAdvantage wins by a long shot here, for allowing award holds of up to five days directly online. All other major airline programs only allow award holds by phone, so this is a significant advantage, in my opinion.
Let me also note that for the airlines that only allow award ticket holds by phone, it’s very much a case of “your mileage may vary.” That’s to say that some phone agents will allow holds without issue, while others say it’s not possible. Even when they do allow them, it still seems to come down to the agent as to how long holds are allowed. So never count on those holds being possible 100% of the time.
If I missed any airline frequent flyer programs that allow award holds, please let me know in the comments section.
Are award ticket holds as important as in the past?
Back in the day I valued programs that allowed award ticket holds immensely. While I still think it’s valuable, a couple of things have changed that make this a bit less important than in the past, in my opinion:
- Airlines generally have policies allowing you to refund your ticket within 24 hours of booking, with certain exclusions; while this technically only applies to travel to & from the United States, many major frequent flyer programs have adopted this rule across the board (make sure you always double check the rules before relying on this, though)
- Following the pandemic, we’ve seen some frequent flyer programs eliminate change & redeposit fees on awards, which is a game changer for locking in award travel; for example, Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, and United MileagePlus, no longer have award ticket change or redeposit fees
This certainly doesn’t cover all situations, but for many of the best programs, locking in important award segments is less costly than it was in the past.
Understanding airline hold policies can be incredibly valuable, given how fluid award space is. Unfortunately so few programs allow this nowadays, and American AAdvantage is really the star, as the program allows five day holds directly online.
With some airlines having eliminated change and award redeposit fees, combined with a 24 hour refund policy, this isn’t quite as important as in the past. But still, there sure is value in this, especially if you’re transferring points from a partner.
What has your experience been with airline award ticket holds? Any programs I missed?