Update: American says they’re still just considering this and the change isn’t final.
The US Department of Transportation requires US airlines to offer either the ability to hold a reservation for 24 hours without ticketing, or to allow full refunds on non-refundable tickets for 24 hours after purchase, for travel booked at least 7 days in advance.
For years and long before this DOT requirement American has allowed consumers to place reservations on hold. It’s not something they were forced to do.
Other US airlines offer 24 hour refunds, not the hold option. So some find American’s policy confusing since they actually compete by offering their own differentiated policy. But I like the hold option better than cancelling, not having to put down a credit card and make payment and then track to make sure a refund actually posts (and follow up if for some reason it does not).
Plus since American has offered the hold option, you get the best of both worlds.
- If you want to hold a ticket for 24 hours, reserve through American.
- If you want to buy it and have the option of a refund book through an online travel agency that offers 24 hour refunds like Orbitz does. (Note that I do not believe that the DOT requires online travel agencies to offer this, but in general they do offer it anyway.)
Effective April 1, however, American will be conforming to the rest of the industry. They will no longer free 24 hour holds and instead will offer only 24 hour cancellation. (HT: sukn)
The change to no longer offer a 24 free hour hold option should not affect the sale of extended holds. And this does not affect placing awards on hold.
I do not know whether:
- In practice they will allow free cancellation until midnight the following day rather than just 24 hours as is standard in the industry.
- American will honor 24 hour refunds for tickets booked within 7 days of travel. United and Delta do, but the DOT does not require this. American’s 24 hour holds were only offered for travel that was at least a week away. Within a week, they used to allow 24 hour cancellation but they eliminated that last summer.
I’ve reached out to the airline to clarify.