While I understand that the perk can be abused (just like any perk), American Airlines is making a big mistake in eliminating revenue ticket holds from its website.
American Airlines Eliminates Ticket Holds – Why It Matters
The option for free 24-hour holds on tickets purchased through American Airlines’ website is now gone. An American Airlines spokesperson confirms this change, noting:
We continue to evaluate our product offerings to customers on aa.com and understand customers may need flexibility when booking travel plans. Customers whose travel plans change after they purchased a ticket with American can receive a full refund if they cancel the ticket within 24 hours of purchase.
But that’s not entirely accurate, as full refunds are only available for tickets purchased more than two days from departure (though in fairness, ticket holds were rarely available on tickets that close to departure, anyway).
View From The Wing speculates that this might be due to concern over tying up phone lines, as once a ticket is placed on hold, existing trip credit or e-vouchers can only be applied over the phone.
However, ticket holds make so much sense because:
- They allow coordination with others, reducing unnecessary credit card transactions
- Putting more complicated itineraries online which require agent assistance than calling in is so much more efficient than trying to start from scratch over the phone (the net result – less telephone time required)
- In my case, if I see an attractive reservation and place it on hold, I am much more likely to return to buy it after I fare shop – fares are so dynamic, they may well change even within an hour if not immediately held or purchased.
I guess that last point swings the other way and American Airlines is hoping you will simply buy right away, but that’s not generally the way I buy tickets, especially on American Airlines. I enjoy fare shopping and the net effect of this change will be fewer tickets purchased with AA.
Importantly, American Airlines is happy to charge your card immediately but warns that refunds may take 7-10 business days. In my experience, refunds come quicker, but that’s quite an imbalance when American can charge your card immediately but take almost two weeks to return your money, even if you quickly change your mind on the ticket within the courtesy cancellation window.
Now I concede that people can abuse holds. You can put multiple flights on hold and sometimes get away with it (I say sometimes, because the AA system also reserves the right and sometimes does auto-cancel double-booked itineraries, but often does not…). This ties up cheaper fares that others may skip over if being held.
Even though I understand why it makes sense to hold, say for example, an 8:00 am and a 12:00 pm flight from New York to Los Angeles because you’re not sure which one you’ll use, perhaps a compromise could be that AA only allows ticket holds for those who are logged into their AAdvantage account and in that case, only one at a time, regardless of whether they overlap or not. While not ideal, I would take that compromise.
At least for now, award tickets can still be held for five days.
American Airlines is not just taking away revenue ticket holds to be mean…it must have decided it did not make business sense. But I would encourage AA to rethink this plan and continue to allow holds in limited capacities, like one per customer at a time when being logged in. This policy change will impact my business with American and I suspect I am not the only one. Giving passengers the ability to hold fares not only reduces the need for refunds but builds long-term loyalty.