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Business

American Airlines may end a real customer advantage for a sad, twisted reason

When your airline is offering something better than, say, Delta or United, why would you change? Because of this?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
Part of American Airlines plane.

Will anyone truly notice? Perhaps.

American Airlines/Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk

It's easy to think all US airlines are the same.

Mostly the same.

Well, so similar that sometimes it doesn't make that much difference which one you fly.

Yet each has small pockets of difference that -- given four of them own more than 80% of all airline seats -- can truly stand out.

Southwest's no bag-fee policy, for example. Or Delta's extra attention to customer service. (I know, this used to be the case. You're still allowed to dream.)

Then there's American Airlines. It's big and, well, it's big. It flies to a lot of places and sometimes gets you there on time.

But there's one little quirk that, for many customers, is a true positive with American -- the ability to hold a fare for 24 hours without actually paying for it.

This can be very useful when you're not quite sure you want to fly, but the price seems quite attractive. Or when you want to surprise your most loved one, and you've no idea yet how they'll respond.

Now, though, American may choose to eliminate this fine, people-friendly perk.

The Points Guy reports that the airline has been testing whether to only offer customers the ability to cancel within 24 hours -- and get a full refund.

The courtesy of a courtesy hold may no longer be offered, which seems such a desperate pity.

You might wonder whether money must be the reason. To which the answer may be yes and no. You see, the Points Guy suggests American wants to reduce the number of people calling its reservations lines.

Wait, I hear you cry, too many people wanted a little customer service with their holds, which frustrated the airline?

In essence, some customers want to use flight credits for their held flights, which often entails making a phone call. And phone calls are the one thing airlines have really not wanted for a while now. Unless it's phone calls from the government giving them free money.

Over the last long while, too many people called airlines' customer service line, too many people complained, and airlines don't want to hire too many more customer service staff.

I find myself quite sad about this. I've used this benefit in the past, and it's worked very well. Equally, I've flown other airlines that wanted to charge me, say, $20 to hold a booking for 24 hours. Which seems a little cheap of them.

I want to mutter, "So if I tried to buy this flight tomorrow you'd really raise the price by 20 bucks?"

Oh, no. You just got there, didn't you? You're now worried American will start charging for the privilege. I wouldn't dream of suggesting such a thing.

Yet it makes one wonder just how much American might feel it's costing it in phone time, weighed against how many people truly appreciated the hold option in real life.

One awaits the result of American's experiment with excited breath.

Still, airline passengers often quickly learn to live without things they'd always assumed were normal. You know, like legroom in economy class or seats wide enough for humans -- also in economy class.

When so many airlines are so similar, it's easy to work out you have very little choice.

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