American Airlines doubles down on its deceptive ‘hold’ policy

By | November 25th, 2015

Want more proof that the world’s largest airline doesn’t listen to customers? I’m not talking about its controversial but long overdue loyalty program reforms. No, I’m speaking of the way it doubled down on its customer-hostile “hold” policy for tickets.

Really, American?

They know plenty of infrequent travelers are confused by the AA policy, which, with the government’s apparent blessing, goes against the industry standard 24-hour refund policy.

And you know something? It’s not getting any better, no matter how much airline apologists claim they “love” the hold policy. People are getting duped. American knows it. American doesn’t care.

Cary Liao is among them.

Liao recently booked two nonrefundable round-trip tickets through American Airlines’ website and paid $518, plus $83 for seating assignments.

About 10 minutes later, Liao noticed a better flight option was available and attempted to cancel the reservation through the website.

“During this process, I did not see any disclaimer warning me that I would be penalized by canceling or that I wouldn’t be refunded,” she says. “So I assumed that American was abiding by DOT’s 24-hour reservation requirement and proceeded with the cancellation and rebooking.”

American allowed her to continue believing all was well.

“I received immediate email confirmation of my cancellation, which also did not indicate I would not be refunded,” she says.


But after checking her credit card statement the following week, Liao noticed the total of $602 was still being charged, along with the charges for the new flight.

“While researching the issue, I found websites stating that American differed from other airlines in that the customer needed to select a ‘hold’ button during reservation, instead of paying for the flight, in order to be refunded within 24 hours,” she says.

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American must know that some of its customers are confused.

Now, some of you are saying to yourselves, “Serves Liao right. She should have paid attention.”

But you are not consumer advocates. You are advocates for your own cleverness and your ability to pay attention to the details. I wish we all could be as smart as you are.

Those of you who can see through American’s old policy and its new “hold” money grab, which it is testing, know that Liao is right. American really should offer a 24-hour refund. If it wants to offer a “hold” too, it can, but it has no business pocketing your money after a little more than 10 minutes. None whatsoever.

“By hiding the ‘hold’ button in the list of payment types, I believe American is not clearly displaying the refund policy in violation of the 24-hour reservation requirement,” says Liao. “This rule was created to protect consumers, and by trapping a customer into not being able to refund a reservation that was canceled 12 minutes later, just because he or she entered a credit card number instead of finding a deceptively placed hold button, it is my opinion that the carrier is not abiding by the spirit of the requirement.”

Liao has pleaded her case to the Department of Transportation, and that’s exactly where it belongs. It’s time for the DOT to shut AA’s game down.

Should American Airlines be required to offer a 24-hour refund?

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