Is American About to Eliminate Its Free 24 Hour Hold on Tickets?

There’s some interesting speculation going on right now on this FlyerTalk forum on how American will be eliminating its free 24 hour hold on revenue (paid) tickets effective April 1. Thanks to JonNYC for pointing the link out!

Airlines are required by the Department of Transportation to allow a period by which a consumer can cancel a ticket within 24 hours without penalty:

  • United and Delta both offer the option to purchase the ticket and then receive a refund within 24 hours of ticket purchase.
  • American offers the option to hold a ticket for 24 hours without the need to pay for the ticket or provide a credit card. After 24 hours, the hold expires and the reservation is canceled automatically, no harm, no foul. If the flight is within 7 days, the fare must be purchased and can then be canceled within 24 hours.

In fact, it’s possible to hold a reservation for longer than 24 hours if you’re savvy.

I really like American’s system. As I’m searching for fares online, I can simply put one on hold without even thinking about it – even selecting seats to make sure I get something good. If the flight is not one I want to take, it canceled automatically without me having to worry about a refund.

That said, I can understand the frustration from American’s side:

  • I’m sure there are consumers who aren’t in tune to the free 24 hour hold and who actually pay for tickets and then call within 24 hours to expect them to be canceled for free.
  • It’s possible to place several reservations on hold, thus tying up seats. While American’s IT system is fairly wise to not allow more than one hold for the same route, I’ve found in many cases it’s possible to still place several awards on hold if they’re at different times, routing through different cities, etc., etc.

American does offer the option for extended holds (for a fee) on select routes.

MadPhil offers a great proposal:

The best option would be for them to offer both. The 24 hour refund for those who pay immediately would eliminate the problems with those who don’t know that AA doesn’t offer it and a hold option with no refund after purchase would satisfy those who find the hold very useful. It wouldn’t seem to be too difficult to implement and manual processing of refunds must be more trouble than allowing people to cancel a hold. Otherwise some of us will need much higher credit limits!

It’s tough to say whether the April 1st rumor is in fact true:

  • Agents appear to be receiving training.
  • American has been, as of late, “doing what Delta and United do.”

There’s really no talk about how (or if) this will effect award holds, which, as of today, are allowed for a period of 5 days.

Anyways, some interesting rumors to say the least. I hope things don’t change, but I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.

Hat Tip: JonNYC 

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