Which airlines allow award ticket bookings?
Planning a trip can be complicated, especially if you’re trying to redeem miles and points. The availability of rewards is often limited and there are a lot of moving parts. In this sense, being able to hold a free reservation before the box office can be extremely valuable. In this article, I wanted to recap the frequent flyer programs that still allow you to hold award tickets, as it is an opportunity that has become increasingly rare.
What is a flight award ticket hold and why is it important?
Airline reward space can disappear quickly, especially first class and business class seats during peak periods. Sometimes it is very useful to be able to put an award ticket on hold for a certain period of time before the ticket is issued.
There are several reasons why this might be useful:
- You may want to ensure you can lock award space or get time off from work before ticketing an airline reward booking
- You may have transferable points (like points with Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, etc.), and integrating them into an airline loyalty program is not an instant process (although many points convert instantaneously these days)
- You may be trying to piece together a larger reward route, but need time to work on it, but don’t want the most important flight taken by someone else in the meantime. .
At the time, the vast majority of frequent flyer programs allowed award tickets to be put on hold for a period of time before the tickets were issued. Unfortunately nowadays it is rather rare.
Which frequent flyer programs allow award ticket bookings?
Which airline loyalty programs allow award ticket bookings? Below, I’ll recap which programs allow suspensions, how long assigned spots can be suspended, and how you can request a suspension.
Let me note that the policy is generally based on the program you are using, rather than the airline you are actually flying with, in situations where you are booking partner award travel.
With this in mind, the following airline frequent flyer programs allow award ticket bookings:
- Air France-KLM Flying Club — hold award tickets for up to three days, but only by phone
- American AAdvantage – store award tickets for up to five days, directly at aa.com
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles — hold rewards for up to three days, but only by phone
- Lufthansa Miles & More — keep your award tickets for up to five days, but only by phone
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer — rewards can potentially take place, but only over the phone
- Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles — hold award tickets for up to two days, but only by phone
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — hold rewards for up to a day, but only by phone
As you can see, American AAdvantage wins by far here, as it allows rewards to be stored for up to five days directly online. All other major airline programs only allow reward bookings over the phone, so this is a significant advantage, in my opinion.
Let me also note that for airlines that only allow award ticket bookings over the phone, it’s basically “your mileage may vary”. That is, some phone agents will allow holds without a problem, while others say it’s not possible. Even when they authorize them, it still seems that the officer determines how long the holds are authorized. So never count on the fact that these catches are possible 100% of the time.
If I missed any airline frequent flyer programs that allow reward suspensions, please let me know in the comments section.
Are award ticket bookings as important as in the past?
At the time, I really liked the programs that made it possible to book award tickets. While I still think it’s valuable, a few things have changed that make it a bit less important than in the past, in my opinion:
- Airlines generally have policies allowing you to refund your ticket within 24 hours of booking, with certain exclusions; although this technically only applies to travel to and from the United States, many major loyalty programs have adopted this rule at all levels (be sure to always check the rules before relying on them , however)
- Following the pandemic, we’ve seen some loyalty programs eliminate change and deposit fees on rewards, which is a game-changer to lock in reward travel; for example, Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage no longer have fees for changing or depositing award tickets
This certainly doesn’t cover all situations, but for many of the top programs, locking in large rewards segments is less expensive than before.
At the end of the line
Understanding airline hold policies can be extremely valuable, given how fluid the reward space is. Unfortunately, so few programs allow this these days, and American AAdvantage really is the star, as the program allows five days of direct online booking.
With some airlines having eliminated award change and redeposit fees, combined with a 24-hour refund policy, this is no longer as important as it once was. But still, it certainly has value, especially if you’re transferring points from a partner.
What has been your experience with flight award ticket bookings? Any programs I missed?