When You Want to Book American Tickets Through Online Travel Agencies Instead of AA.com

American has eliminated courtesy cancellations of tickets booked within 7 days of travel (they only offer 24 hour ‘holds’ of reservations that are booked at least a week in advance). American may think this encourages booking full fare refundable tickets when buying close to departure. But it actually just encourages booking American flights through an Online Travel Agency. Here’s why.

DOT rules require for non-refundable tickets purchased at least 7 days in advance that airlines offer either:

  • free cancellation within 24 hours of purchase or
  • the ability to ‘hold’ a reservation for 24 hours prior to purchase.

This rule applies to online travel agency websites geared towards US consumers as well. And it applies to US domestic travel, and also international travel originating in the U.S.

Most airlines and websites allow you to purchase tickets and cancel without penalty for 24 hours (or until midnight the following day, often local time in the city of origin for the itinerary, which gives you more than 24 hours).

American instead lets you put tickets on hold without purchasing them for 24 hours, provided travel is at least 7 days in the future.

American’s policy for travel inside of 7 days was different, they didn’t offer holds but instead allowed free cancellation within 24 hours of purchase.

    If you prefer a 24 hour post-purchase cancellation, instead of 24 hour pre-purchase hold, use an Online Travel Agency instead.

    When American honored ticketed reservations for its recent business class China mistake fare, it unsurprisingly did not honor ‘held’ tickets. Folks unsure of pulling the trigger should have booking through an online travel agency giving themselves 24 hours to cancel instead of merely holding the tickets for 24 hours at AA.com

Note that within a week of travel these cancellation policies are voluntary and not required by the Department of Transportation.

It appears that American has changed its policy. They still offer 24 hour holds for travel that’s seven days in advance or greater. They no longer offer 24 hour courtesy cancellation of reservations within a week of travel.

This means you should book American Airlines tickets within a week of travel using an Online Travel Agency like Expedia or Orbitz. (If you’re an elite frequent flyer, be sure to contact American after doing so to add upgrade requests if desired.)

Online Travel Agency sites will still give you 24 hour courtesy cancellations.

(HT: sukn)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Last weekend I spied a good fare on a NYC-ORD RT on AA. But, because it was last minute, I didn’t have the opportunity to hold it. Long story short, the price went up by the time I lined something up and I ended up not going. If they had the hold or courtesy cancel in this instance, I’d have taken the flight and they’d have gotten revenue. Instead, I was perfectly fine in NYC and they got nothing.

  2. Jim you’re wrong.
    Someone else purchased the same ticket at the price you found.
    Now AA will get even higher revenue on the next ticket.

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