American Eliminates Award Close-In Ticketing Fees

Filed Under: American

On the surface this would appear to be a very exciting development… but I’m skeptical, as always.

American AAdvantage eliminates close-in ticketing fees

For years, American Airlines has charged a $75 fee for award tickets and mileage upgrades booked within 21 days of departure. The exception has been that elite members — including AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum — haven’t been subjected to this.

Well, effective immediately, American has eliminated AAdvantage close-in ticketing fees for all. This is reflected when doing award searches online.

American says they are “always looking for ways to make AAdvantage award redemption easier for our customers, and this update offers more flexibility when booking award travel and requesting mileage upgrades.”

What’s the catch?

Airline frequent flyer programs typically don’t “give.” When they make an enhancement to the program, it’s typically accompanied by an “enhancement.”

Well, at this very moment there doesn’t appear to be a catch. It doesn’t appear that this is part of any larger change.

However, I would recommend being highly skeptical, especially when you look at the precedent for this:

So I wouldn’t say “there’s no catch for now,” but rather I’d say “we don’t yet know what the catch is,” or “the other shoe hasn’t dropped.” Take your pick.

I also find the timing of all of this weird. As of now American doesn’t have any press release about this improvement, while I would have expected them to announce this in advance. This makes me wonder if some system was simply updated earlier than it was supposed to, and the other changes will be coming shortly.

Bottom line

American AAdvantage has eliminated close-in ticketing fees, which on the surface is great news. However, I simply have to assume there’s a catch here. Will American increase award costs last minute? Are bigger changes about to be announced?

There must be something. Boy these programs have made us cynical, eh?

AAdvantage management: please prove me wrong! Can an enhancement just be an enhancement for once, with no strings attached?

What’s your theory on this?

Comments
  1. As with United, I expect this to be bad news for elites. It shouldn’t be long before close-in bookings cost more miles, and even CK and EP members will pay the higher prices. One more benefit of loyalty disappears…

  2. Hasn’t the shoe already dropped? As of recently, AAnytime prices are sometimes astronomical. If you’re close to a flight date and AA doesn’t really want to sell a saver, they’ll make it AAnytime only. Cha-ching

  3. Considering that this fee originated in the days of paper tickets, to cover the cost of expedited Fedex shipping, I’d say this change should have come about 20 years ago.

  4. I soooo hope I am wrong but with the recent award seats starting at 5k miles I so hope there will not be a change to all dynamic pricing with no more award chart.

  5. Nun – What AA wants you do to nowadays is book a Web Special, which can be 30K or so below AAnytime close in. This change helps those kinds of bookings (though prices are still up over all from prior years)

  6. Close-in bookings are most likely to be the most expensive bookings. Makes sense for American not to disincentivize them.

  7. This no doubt is to incentivize people to book Web Special awards. Since those awards are non-changeable, I can only imagine that people booking a Web Special award 10 days out who then have to change it are pretty angry about the “privilege” of paying $75 to buy a highly restricted award redemption, to then get blasted with another fee for changing/cancelling the thing a day or two later.

  8. @Doug: United already implemented that- Dynamic award price and it always requires more miles for close-in bookings.

  9. When is someone going to call out AA on the fact that their award pricing no longer reflects their published award mileage chart. Just to point out one example – PHL to LIS for a business anytime award has a published chart mileage of either 110K or 135K. A search for the month of October shows award pricing of 110K all the way up to 300K (!!!), the majority of days being priced at 180K. (And don’t get me started on the fact that there isn’t a single business saver award seat for the entire month.)

  10. @Ex- 1K United – For now UA charges more for a Premium Economy seat in miles than they do for Saver Business, since PE doesn’t have the two levels. It is likely only a matter of time before the two levels go away. For now – the partners are generally cheaper, but only until those agreements changes.

    .

  11. It was nice of American to wait until AFTER they had the November/December holiday rush to collect millions in extra fees before announcing this change. :/

    I actually got a very reasonable one way business class fare come up while searching both American and United after Christmas, but went with UA because my credit card eliminated the close-in fee. So the award rates are not always sky high even less than 48 hours before departure. Let’s see if this says true going forward.

  12. For the moment I’ll give credit where credit is due. I have often criticized steps AA has been taking, but this is a positive for now. It does devalue my Avios a bit, as I’ve them considered them a worthwhile hedge against needing to book AA flights within the 30-day window.

  13. If they weren’t so dumb they would have charged a booking fee for early tickets, not late ones. They can’t predict empty seats three months in advance, as easily as they can for the coming week. Do cruise lines raise the price on cabins, when many are available a week before the ship sails? Not that I have noticed.

    The fee for non-status passengers was probably meant to create the appearance of a benefit for those with status. My guess is they finally figured out that many customers with high mileage balances don’t have status because they seldom buy tickets.

  14. Quick FYI…just booked a ‘web special’ previously ORD > SJD RT was 12,500 OW = 25,000 RT
    NOW 20,000 RT on ‘web Special’ not a whole lot of ‘savings’ but still + 5,000
    No changes, post booking requirement…

  15. The mileage requirements already are higher since they’re basically dynamically priced on AA. I’m sure they’ll add another 25K miles each way if you book less than 21 days out. They currently charge twice the amount of miles for a non-stop out of DFW, now that’ll be even more.

  16. @Ross-I am with you. It seems to me that early bookings are more than likely changed often as better routes and connections open during the year. Last minute bookings are helping them use up “debt” and fill seats on a plane.

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