Airline Award Ticket Hold Policies

Filed Under: Awards

One of the challenging aspects of booking award travel is that award space is often incredibly fluid.

Piecing together an award ticket can be complicated, so my preferred approach is to put the long haul flight on hold whenever possible, then add the shorter segments as I go. This takes more phone calls, but I’d rather that than have award space disappear on a product I’m excited about.

However, not every airline allows holds on award tickets, while other mileage programs do allow award ticket holds under varying circumstances.

Some will allow award ticket holds for a day, some for a few days, and some only if you already have enough miles for the ticket in your account.

American AAdvantage allows award holds of up to five days

This is particularly helpful if you need to transfer points from a flexible points currency like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Starwood Preferred Guest, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Given that, I thought it might be helpful to consolidate the award ticket hold policies of the various airlines into one place. This isn’t comprehensive, but these are the airlines I’m asked about most frequently.

Mileage ProgramHold Policy
Air Canada AeroplanDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Air France/KLM Flying BlueDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Alitalia Millemiglia• Alitalia-only awards can be held for up to 14 days
• Partner award holds are very dependent on the agent
American Airlines AAdvantage• Between 330 and 15 days prior to departure - 5 day hold
• 14 days or fewer prior to departure - 1 day hold
• Within 24 hours of departure - up until 2 hours prior to departure
ANA Mileage Club Doesn't allow holds on award tickets
British Airways Executive ClubDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Delta SkyMiles Doesn't allow holds on award tickets
Iberia PlusDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Korean Air SkyPass• Partner awards - 5 days
• Korean awards - up to 2 days prior to departure
Lufthansa Miles & MoreUp to 5-day holds for Lufthansa Group Airlines and select partners
[Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, Croatia Airlines, Asiana, Ethipian, Jet Airways]
Qantas Frequent FlyerDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
Singapore Kris FlyerDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
United Mileage PlusDoesn't allow holds on award tickets
US Airways Dividend Miles• Between 335 and 4 days prior to departure - 72 hour hold
• Between 96 and 24 hours prior to departure - 24 hour hold
• Within 24 hours prior to departure - 3 hour hold
Virgin Atlantic• 24 hour holds

Bottom line

Understanding airline hold policies can be incredibly valuable, given how fluid award space is. Being able to hold an award ticket before ticketing certainly makes my life easier, so I do what I can to stick to those programs as much as possible.

  1. @ Gary – I’ve been able to get a regular 5 day hold on awards that are purely IB metal. I haven’t tried with IB/AA combined.

  2. With AA, will they take action against you if you put an award ticket on hold, then cancel it the next day and put the exact same award ticket on hold again, then cancel it the next day and put it on hold again, etc. etc.?

  3. AA is not a AMEX partner, I know you can transfer them to SPG and then to AA – but its a terrible waste of points to do that,

    Is there another way to transfer miles from American Express Membership Rewards to American Airlines that I don’t know about?

  4. I just had an interesting experience with AA hold policies. I have been planning a trip to Europe for next summer and found the outgoing flights first. A few days later, I was able to put the return flight on hold, so I essentially had two separate flights on hold. When I went to go book, I asked them if they could merge the two holds and make it a round trip given that I was going to fly with an infant so the 10% fee was drastically different if booked as two one way flights versus a roundtrip. Turns out, they can’t merge two record locators so my only options was to cancel one reservation and hope that the agent can pick it back up. Well, they couldn’t. So after 2 hours of being on the phone and trying multiple things with 3 different agents,i finally managed to get my flights. There has to be an easier way to do this….

  5. Hey Ben, it would be helpful if you specified whether these policies apply to all partner segments. My understanding is that hold policies vary – obviously airlines have 100% control over holding seats on their own metal but isn’t their a risk that partners will not respect holds?

  6. @ snowtigr — No there isn’t. But depending on what you want to book, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to British Airways and then redeem through them for travel on American. In many cases that can be a great deal.

  7. @ Luis — Unfortunately they’re correct, there’s no way to merge. If your outbound ticket was only on hold and not issued, you could have added the return to the same record. But if you have tickets on two separate records, they can’t be merged.

  8. Any comment on Hawaiian airlines hold policy. Also if they don’t allow hold and I book using Korean Skypass on Hawaiian then what’s the policy regarding that?

  9. Cathay Pacific/Asia Miles doesn’t allow holds on award tickets as well. However, in some special case, they will allow you to hold confirmed itinerary for up to 48hrs, to await the “upcoming” miles into your account.

  10. @ Shaan — I’m not aware of the policy when booking through them. That being said, if booking through a partner, their policy would prevail.

  11. Regarding this: “my preferred approach is to put the long haul flight on hold whenever possible, then add the shorter segments as I go.”

    If I take this approach with AA and don’t have status, I have to pay $150 when I add the shorter segments, since that is changing the origin and destination, right?

  12. @ italdesign — Not if the ticket is just on hold. You only get charged that if changing the origin or destination once the reservation is ticketed.

  13. @Mike, problem is space isn’t always released back to the award bucket when canceled, so you risk losing the award.

  14. Years ago Amex had a special arrangement where their partners would allow holds if you didn’t have enough miles in your account and you were transferring from MR. It was never well publicized and often the airline agents didn’t even know it existed until you pointed it out to them but once they looked they could usually find out how to do it.

    Does anyone know if this still exists? Like I said it wasn’t part of the airline’s rules but a special deal with Amex.

  15. Beware–US Airways only lets you hold an award reservation (for 3 days) if you book it by phone, NOT if you book online. Learned that the hard way.

  16. Hi Ben, I have a hold for 5 days on 2 JAL award tickets in First Class. However, I’m waiting for my Citi AA Plat card to arrive in the mail so that I can activate it to get the 10K AA miles redemption. I don’t think the card will arrive before the hold is up.

    Question is, is it worth the risk to cancel the hold and try to rebook the award? I checked on expertflyer and it seems like the only 2 seats booked on the flight are the ones I placed on hold. Does that mean that the awards will be available if try to rebook? Will the agent be able to pick it up right away?


  17. @ LL — No right answer there, unfortunately. The space might go back into inventory, the space might not. Can’t know for sure. I guess it depends how many miles you have, but I probably wouldn’t change it if your dates are set.

  18. Does AA ever change the amount of miles needed for an award itinerary WHILE you have it on hold? Or are you pretty much guaranteed the number of miles on the hold reservation will not change over the five days?

  19. @ Opie — Unless there was a pricing error, the mileage cost is guaranteed for the extent of the hold.

  20. We just used flying blue miles to book with delta for award flights to Hawaii for a family of six from Denver, CO. Every flying blue agent we dealt with held award tickets for 24 hrs, no problem; we had no points in our flying blue account when they placed the hold.

  21. FYI, I was just able to hold three award tickets on Virgin Atlantic for 72 hours … just enough time for my MR points to post and transfer! 🙂 Whew!

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