A federal bankruptcy judge blocked the proposed severance payment the airline was preparing to give Chief Executive Tom Horton.
The judge ruled the payment would exceed limits for such rich "golden parachutes" that Congress set for bankruptcy cases in 2005.
The judge did, however, leave the door open to reconsider the request in the future. And the airline says it will keep pushing for the payoff.
Horton will be replaced as American's CEO once the company's merger with U.S. Airways is finalized.