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I am in the middle of booking a getaway trip to Europe for late summer – part of my planning 2015 trips.  Like most trip plans, it went through several different iterations.  First, I was planning on using United miles round-trip, transferring some from Chase Ultimate Rewards

(SEE ALSO: Chase Ultimate Rewards: 5 reasons I think they’re the best miles out there)

But then I realized I wanted to save some of my Chase miles for a separate trip, and that my “free” one-way on United wasn’t exactly free. So my next thought was to go one-way on United / Star Alliance and the other way on American / oneworld

(SEE ALSO: Introduction to Air alliances)
(SEE ALSO: [QUIZ] – Can you name the 27 Star Alliance alliance members?
(SEE ALSO: [QUIZ] – Can you name the oneworld alliance members?)

But THEN I saw that there was amazing availability in business-class on Aer Lingus throughout the summer.  And because Aer Lingus is a British Airways partner, you can book them using British Airways Avios.  And due to British Airways’ distance-based chart, you can book a flight from Boston to Dublin, Ireland for only 12,500 Avios one-way, and 25,000 miles in business class.

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Though keep in mind that the price for business class is going up to 37,500 Avios as of the end of this month due to the British Airways devaluation.

Executing on an American Airlines hold reservation

So while I was trying to find availability through American Airlines, I kept seeing the flights that I wanted to book disappear on me.  I’d see a flight with 2 seats of business-class availability, but then the next day BOOM, the flights would be gone.

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I was clearly suffering from Analysis Paralysis as it pertained to booking my trip, for sure!  I was also waiting for US Airways and American to combine their mileage balances, but when they finally did, the tickets I was looking for were GONE!

I talked to Jason Steele, who gave some great presentations at the Family Travel for Real Life conference on tips and tricks for booking award tickets

(SEE ALSO: #FT4RL Live-blog – next up: Jason Steele on award booking)

(SEE ALSO: Family Travel for Real Life (#FT4RL) 2015 #3 – Jason Steele on the current state and sweet spots in the miles and points world)

He reminded me that I should have put the tickets on a free hold.  DOH!

Rules for putting an award on American Airlines on hold

From the American Airlines FAQ page:

The time we’ll hold an award reservation depends on how many days before departure you book:

  • Hold for 5 days when you book 15 – 330 days before departure
  • Hold for 1 day when you book 1 – 14 days before departure
  • Hold up to 2 hours before departure when you book within 24 hours of departure

You do NOT have to have enough AAdvantage miles in your account to put do an American Airlines hold on your reservation.  You can put an award on hold online (if the award is able to be booked online) – you just go through the whole procedure like you’re going to pay and then on the final screen, you’ll see something like this:

american-airlines-hold-reservation-award

You can also call the American Airlines customer service desk at 800-882-8880 to have American Airlines hold your reservation.  Be advised that you might be subject to a phone booking fee if you’re not an American elite, though I’ve had pretty good success with getting them to waive that if the ticket is not bookable online.

American AAdvantage ticket change rules

The reason this 5-day hold is so powerful is that American offers UNLIMITED changes to an award ticket, as long as the origin and destination remain the same.  You can change the routing, the dates or just about anything else.

So in my case, I have tickets booked from Rome to Cincinnati, but I am connecting through London.  Ideally I would connect somewhere else, but that was all that was available. The reason I don’t want to connect through London is that you get charged the UK Air Passenger Duty. Not quite as much since we’re just connecting (as compared to if we were originating in London), but it still made the taxes and fees over $100, as compared to about $30 when connecting through Dusseldorf.

(SEE ALSO: 4 ways to not pay UK Air Passenger Duty (APD))

It is apparently super common to not actually fly the award ticket that you originally bought.  I know that I’ll be continually looking for alternative arrangements, even up until my plane takes off!

(UPDATE: my flight times changed and I was able to get 16 extra hours in Rome for FREE!)

What about you?  Have you ever put an award on hold?  Any good tips or tricks to share with the rest of us?  Leave a note in the comments!

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