On March 20 I wrote that American would be eliminating free 24 hour reservation holds on April 1 and switching to 24 hour refunds instead.
American reached out to tell me that wasn’t accurate, they were still considering the change and would provide advance notice before putting it into effect if they adopted it.
There is not a final decision on this. Moving to refunds instead of a hold policy is something we are looking at, but it has not been decided.
There are some issues and implications we need to sort through before we do anything – which may be nothing at all.
There are some emails and meetings about all of this, and it looks like someone was eager to share the news.
If something officially changes, we will let customers know in advance. Nothing has been decided as I write this at 7:32am on Monday.
It turns out though that my first post was accurate, as American spokesperson Joshua Freed confirmed to me today:
- They are making the change
- It does go into effect tomorrow, April 1 after all.
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. 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).
Effective April 1, American will offer refunds instead of holds.
- They will not ‘conform to the rest of the industry’ though, they will conform to DOT requirements only. Unlike United and Delta, 24 hour refunds will not be offered for purchases made within 7 days of travel.
- While the policy is 24 hour refunds, in practice refunds will be available until 11:59pm the following day.
- Even though the policy changes April 1, free holds at AA.com will not disappear right away. It will still be possible to hold paid reservations online using the American Airlines website for some period of time. It will not be possible to do this via American’s call center. For as long as holds remain available at AA.com, you actually get both — American’s policy is 24 hour refunds, so you should be able to hold a reservation online, ticket it by midnight the next day, and then cancel by midnight the following day.
The change to no longer offer a 24 free hour hold option will not affect the sale of extended holds. And this does not affect placing awards on hold.