American Airlines has historically been the only major US airline to allow complimentary ticket holds. In mid-September, the airline ran a trial whereby it eliminated that option for some customers. The good news is that this trial has ended, so all customers should once again have access to this feature. Let’s recap all the details.
American trialed eliminating 24-hour ticket holds
For the past several weeks, American Airlines has been running a test whereby most customers no longer had the option to hold revenue tickets for free for a period of 24 hours. Historically this has been available to all customers when booking at least seven days in advance, while during this trial many customers no longer saw this option.
American Airlines stated it would analyze the results of the test and decide whether to eliminate the hold feature permanently. This didn’t apply to award tickets, where American continued to have the most generous policy in the industry, allowing AAdvantage awards to be held for up to five days.
American initially stopped guaranteeing 24-hour hold all the way back in 2016, but since then the airline fully restored this option for customers.
The United States Department of Transportation requires all airlines to 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.
American has given customers the best of both worlds, as you could hold a ticket for 24 hours, and then you could still cancel it within 24 hours, as long as you booked at least two days before departure.
American has brought back the ticket hold feature
As mentioned above, American’s trial of eliminating the 24-hour ticket hold is over, so all customers should once again see that option for eligible itineraries. While the trial is over, American hasn’t stated one way or another whether this trial could be made permanent or not.
Presumably American is analyzing the results of the trial, and perhaps the airline is even now running a new kind of trial where all customers once again have access to this option. So while I’d view 24-hour holds being restored as a positive, I wouldn’t assume this means that they’re here to stay forever.
Will American eliminate ticket holds permanently?
It seems like in the United States, airlines generally go the route of offering as little as they have to. That’s especially true of American Airlines. So I find it interesting that even though the airline stopped promising holds over six years ago, this feature has stuck around.
The only conclusion I can draw is that clearly American has some data that shows that this is actually a smart business decision:
- On the one hand, I imagine many people will hold a ticket with American because of this feature, and then end up ticketing it, when they might have otherwise considered another airline
- On the other hand, it ties up some inventory and it allows people to potentially lock in a lower price for 24 hours
Clearly American has decided (at least up until now) that this feature makes sense. I wonder if American is reconsidering this since change fees have been eliminated on most ticket types.
Booking an airline ticket is no longer quite as big of a commitment as in the past, and perhaps that also takes away some of the value of ticket holds — you can always speculatively lock in a ticket, and then apply that credit toward another ticket if your plans change.
For the past several weeks, American Airlines has eliminated 24-hour ticket holds for most customers, as part of a trial. That trial is now over, and American has restored ticket holds… for now. It remains to be seen if American is once again committed to keeping this around, or if the airline is just analyzing the results before making a final decision.
While it would be a shame to see this feature eliminated, it’s not quite as big of a deal as in the past, given that tickets come with a lot more flexibility nowadays.
What do you make of American potentially eliminating holds on revenue tickets?