Over the past few years we’ve seen airline award tickets not only get more restrictive, but also come with increased fees for changes and cancellation.
One of the more generous programs when it comes to award ticket change and cancellation fees is American AAdvantage.
American AAdvantage cancellation/redeposit fees
In order to redeposit an AAdvantage award ticket, American charges $150 for the first passenger, and $25 for each additional passenger on the same record locator. In other words, if you need to redeposit an award ticket and have three people on the same record locator, you’d pay a total of $200 in cancellation fees, which is quite reasonable.
American AAdvantage change fees
American doesn’t charge any fees to change award tickets as long as the origin and destination and award type remains the same. You can change the routing, dates, times, airlines, etc.
If you do change the origin, destination, or award type (like switching from a standard award to a saver award, downgrading from a business class award to economy award, etc.), the change fee is the same as it would be to redeposit — $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger on the same record.
One exception — American doesn’t charge you to upgrade AAdvantage award tickets
There’s one really cool exception to this rule, though, that most people don’t know. You can upgrade your award type to a higher class of service without paying a change fee — you’d just pay the difference in miles.
Say you book a Cathay Pacific business class award ticket from New York to Hong Kong 11 months out for 55,000 miles, and then a month before departure want to change to first class. You could upgrade for just 12,500 miles without paying any change fees.
This exception isn’t publicly published anywhere, but in my experience is offered pretty consistently. In the event you get an agent not familiar with the rule or unwilling to waive the fee, I’d suggest just hanging up and call again.
It’s a policy that not many people are familiar with — and that I even forget sometimes — but that can be incredibly valuable if trying to redeem for a longhaul award ticket.
With award space as limited as it is nowadays, it’s valuable to be able to “lock” something in far in advance and then tweak it as the departure date approaches. American, United, and US Airways all charge fees for changing flights, so American’s policy is by far the best.