Last year American switched to offer 24 hour refunds when purchasing travel a week or more in advance and eliminated the commitment to offer 24 hour holds instead.
American’s website will often still give you the option to put an itinerary on hold for 24 hours. Their telephone reservations center will not. American has that web hold will eventually disappear.
American’s 24 hour cancel policy has been less generous than Delta and United who both allow 24 hour refunds regardless of how far in advance you book travel. The Department of Transportation only requires offering 24 holds or refunds for travel purchased a week or more in advance.
Last year American’s policy was to be minimally compliant with DOT standards, the least generous among major US airlines.
In May American loosened its policy to allow 24 hour refunds as long as you purchase 2 days prior to travel instead of requiring 7 day advance purchase. And the courtesy cancel policy was explicitly extended to award tickets.
However there’s a loophole American uses to get out of honoring these refunds in certain cases.
If you use credit from a previous cancelled ticket to pay for your reservation American tells me that they will not honor 24 hour cancel/refunds. They claim that when you pay for a new reservation using the residual from a cancelled ticket (whether partial or full payment) then it “isn’t a new reservation” so DOT rules under 14 CFR 374 don’t apply. Even for cancellations made less than 15 minutes after purchase, and for reservations that were newly created.
American apparently considers this to be a reissue of your old reservation. And I see the certain logic to it. However that doesn’t appear to be the policy on American’s website,
If I cancel my trip within 24 hours of purchase, can I get a full refund?
You have up to 24 hours from the time of ticket purchase for a full refund if you booked at least 2 days prior to departure. You must cancel your trip for a refund.
There’s no caveat about how you pay for your tickets. There’s no caveat about creating a new reservation online and placing it on hold and then calling to apply a previous ticket as payment voiding this policy.
You would think that American’s customers would be able to rely on the statements made on its website. Indeed you’d think they could rely on those statements specifically as it applies to the airline’s adherence to Department of Transportation rules. American does not, however, seem to take that position.