This week I was busy making travel arrangements for my spring and summer travels, which will include a stop in South Carolina. On occasion when I’m traveling by myself and airfares are really cheap, I like to leave myself two flight options by making two different reservations. One flight option is always to go where my son Jack is, which is why in this case I booked a ticket to fly from South Carolina back home to Los Angeles. In this case, I also found low fares from South Carolina to Florida where my dad is, so I made a second reservation on a flight there to visit him. As I often do, I planned to hold this reservation using American Airlines’s 24-hour policy and officially book it at a later time.
One thing I love about American Airlines (AA) is that they allow you to hold a reservation for a day without a credit card. The other airlines also let you cancel a U.S. reservation within 24 hours as long as the trip is not within seven days, but you have to put down a credit card and then call or go online to cancel. AA will just cancel the reservation at midnight local time the following day if you don’t lock it in. Usually, I make these no-credit-card flight reservations, hold them and remake them until the prices go up—and then I buy it.
But one thing really irked me this week: I kept holding the reservation on my flight to Florida from South Carolina, but when I would check back the next day I’d find it had been canceled. I kept scratching my head and thinking I’d miscalculated the 24 hours, and then simply reserve the same ticket (since the price hadn’t changed).
Then when the price of the flight did finally change by $40, I went to buy it—but AA.com told me that my reserved fare had been canceled. I already had a ticket that day to fly to Los Angeles, it said. I understand that most people don’t operate the way I do, but some (mainly business travelers) do. When I called AA’s Executive Platinum desk, the agent told me he couldn’t honor the rate I had on hold since it had been canceled.
After some back and forth I politely asked to speak to a supervisor, and the guy told me he was one. He started giving me a little attitude, so I basically said, “For $40 do you really want to risk losing a valuable customer?” He told me that was my prerogative (or something like that). I hung up and was seriously about to switch all of my business to Delta or United over the principle (Delta has already matched my elite status). But since I like AA and they fly to a lot of places I go, I held back. I sent a tweet to their Twitter team about the situation, and they responded within minutes as they always do agreeing to reinstate the reservation. I did, however, have to cancel my South Carolina-L.A. ticket.
Long story short: If you want to hold multiple reservations on the same day, you better use different airlines or you’ll risk having one or both canceled. AA told me that even if I had booked the original Florida ticket—instead of simply putting it on hold—they still would’ve canceled it and not alerted me. They said the duplicate policy is relatively new. I just wish they’d made that better known, or at least let me know when they canceled my reservation. Here’s AA’s hold terms and conditions.
This is another reason to add to the list of why you should always keep checking existing reservations and seat assignments. Sometimes (though rarely), the airlines make changes without letting you know.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.