You can’t make duplicate reservations on American Airlines

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 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.


2 Comments On "You Can’t Make "Duplicate" Reservations on American Airlines"
  1. Jess R|

    Thx for the heads up on this so-called “recent” policy change. Many biz travelers like myself frequently hold multiple reservations since our plans are fluid. I’ve experienced that it may take a few hours for the system to recognize and cancel, but doesn’t generally survive overnight. Reservations for identical routing are blocked in real time (eg. you can’t proceed past “Continue”) to Hold screen but I’ve found you can Hold multiple res if different departure or return or classes.

    I agree that the 24h HOLD is a unique and fantastic option from AA. And – I’ve also had success ‘holding’ for more than 24 hours by paying for the flight and then requesting a refund within 24 hours from the time of ticket purchase so long as booked at least 2 days prior to departure.

  2. Loraine Whitehead|

    The 24-hour rule is a US Dept. of Transportation requirement. Until recently, I thought it was a “convenience” offered by the airlines in goodwill for the “benefit” of their customers. That is, until I read that the airlines were lobbying for an end to the rule. Here’s that news article which also lists other regulations carriers want ended:

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