American Airlines has eliminated the option for customers to place a flight on hold for 24 hours prior to ticketing. While the big 3 airlines (American, Delta, United) have grown more alike over the past 10 years this was one of a very few areas that American differentiated themselves in a positive light from their competitors. Now, that seems to have come to an end.
Why American Airlines’ 24-Hour Hold Policy Was So Critical
In the absence of a 24-hour hold, American will still allow a full refund within 24 hours of ticketing as required by US law. That’s better than nothing, but nowhere near as helpful as the 24-hour feature.
The ability to put a reservation on hold is a critical feature for business travelers. While I don’t fly AA as much as I used to, this is something I used repeatedly over the years (probably hundreds of times). There are a number of reasons why it’s so helpful versus the ability to request a refund after the fact:
- When planning a more complex trip, the ability to place a flight on hold for 24 hours means you can arrange for hotels, rental cars and excursions for special trips before purchasing your ticket.
- For business travelers, you may need to coordinate with others on a schedule. On trips where I needed to meet up with colleagues I would frequently put a flight on hold and check with everyone else on schedule.
- Refunds after the fact are just plain messy in a business setting. Depending on corporate reimbursement policies, you may have extra time on your hands to explain to an accounting department why you have extra charges and cancellations when plans change.
- As Gary notes in his story, there are a number of critical instances where you need to work with a reservations agent to ticket a reservation. Being able to put a reservation on hold saves time when explaining the situation to an agent.
- Long hold times can prevent you getting through when you really need to. My podcast co-host actually lost some AA systemwide upgrades because of long hold times. Being able to put the reservation on hold can save you.
The Final Two Pennies
It seems for now that the five-day hold on award tickets isn’t going away. That’s good news for the average traveler who only takes a few trips a year. However, business travelers will miss the 24-hour hold on revenue tickets if it’s gone for good. I’ve always believed that differentiating themselves from their competitors was a big value proposition for American Airlines. Unfortunately, the road ahead looks a bit more similar to their competitors.
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