Starting Friday, American Airlines will get rid of a feature that let customers lock in airfare for 24 hours without having to put any money down. Instead, it will switch to the model most other airlines follow: Travelers will now have the ability to cancel a flight and receive a full refund as long as they cancel within 24 hours of booking.
Under federal law, airlines have to offer travelers the option to cancel a reservation and receive a refund within 24 hours or to put a flight on hold at the current price for 24 hours. American said it is switching to the model that most other airlines use to minimize confusion for travelers.
Under the outgoing system, some customers who booked flights with American and then called to cancel their trips within 24 hours were upset to learn that a refund was not an option, said Josh Freed, an American Airlines spokesman. “Up until now, we’ve done it a little differently than other airlines,” Freed said. “Reasonably enough, people assumed the policies were the same.”
But having the option of putting a flight on hold also came with benefits:
Without having to spend any cash, customers could put a 24-hour hold on any reservation for travel that was more than seven days away. If the price of the flight went up, travelers would have until midnight the following day to purchase the flight at the lower fare.
And if the flight became less expensive, consumers could go ahead and book that new, cheaper flight. Or they could put that less expensive flight on hold — after canceling their previous hold — buying them yet another 24 hours to keep shopping for flights. (Not a bad option for people with the time and desire to keep searching for deals.)
Freed says the hold option isn’t going away completely. Travelers will still be able to place 24-hour holds on trips when booking flights with rewards miles. And customers booking flights through the carrier’s website will be able to use holds for the time being, until the feature is phased out.