Maximizing American Airlines’ 24-Hour Hold Policy

Chances are you are familiar with American’s 24-hour hold policy: unlike other major US carriers, you have the option to hold an itinerary, for free, for 24 hours. But is it really 24 hours? No! Keep reading and I will show you how to double that to a 48-hour hold.

Imagine this scenario: You want to book a trip from New York to Los Angeles, you find a great fare on American’s website. But you want to play the waiting game to see if the fare will drop tomorrow, so you exercise your option to put a free 24-hour hold on the reservation:




You can read about American’s hold policy here. Here’s what they don’t tell you: 24 hours doesn’t actually mean 24 hours. In reality the hold expires at 11:59pm on the day after you place your hold, with the time zone based on where your departure city is located.


In this example, the hold will expire at 11:59pm Eastern, because you are departing from New York (it doesn’t matter where you live or where you are going, the time zone is based on where your initial flight is originated). So, if you hold this reservation at 11:30pm on a Saturday night, the hold will expire on Sunday night at 11:59pm, and you are looking at about about 24.5 hours of total hold time, assuming you want to wait until the last minute to book. However:

If you wait just half an hour and hold this reservation at 12:01am (which would make it Sunday morning), it will instead expire on Monday night at 11:59pm, for a total of almost 48-hour hold time!


The hold on this itinerary was placed at 12:01am on Jul 04, 2016.


Personally, I take advantage of this all the time. I have locked the price in, and I still have 2 days to wait for the airfare to drop, or another flight with better timing comes down in price. Also not having to pay for the hold is a big win. Other carriers like United also have hold policies as well, but they are not free and the hold fees are not credited toward your purchase. This gives you a peace of mind that you have 24-48 hours to commit to your itinerary.


A few things to note:

  1. If you try to hold multiple, identical reservations, American’s system will automatically cancel, surely but not instantly, your previous reservation on hold (and you will not get an email about it).
  2. Don’t forget about the time zone is based on your departure city. For example, if you are on the west coast looking at a trip leaving from the east coast, you should place the hold at 9pm; and if you decide to book, make sure you book by 9pm Pacific, not midnight.
  3. If you prefer to pay for the ticket immediately, you can still get a refund if you cancel within 24 hours of booking, which is standard practice of all US carriers per DOT rules.
  4. This won’t be around forever. American is in the process of phasing out the hold policy, however it appears holds on at least US domestic itineraries are still working.