Airline Award Ticket Change & Cancellation Fees

Airline Award Ticket Change & Cancellation Fees

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Airline ticket flexibility is more important than ever before, and fortunately airlines have largely adjusted their policies to make travel more flexible. Even so, one huge advantage of booking an airline award ticket rather than paying cash is the flexibility that you get.

Why? Generally you can redeposit the miles for an airline award ticket for a very small fee, or with many programs for free. Even when revenue tickets have flexibility, typically that comes in the form of a credit you can use toward a future ticket, normally with an expiration date.

In this post I wanted to compare airline award ticket change & redeposit policies, because this is an area where we’ve seen lots of improvement since the start of the pandemic.

Comparing airline award ticket change & redeposit rules

How do airline award ticket change & redeposit rules compare between airlines? Let’s compare the policies of some major frequent flyer programs. Below I’ll provide a consolidated list, and then we’ll discuss the policies in more detail below, since in some cases there’s some nuance and/or exceptions. Here are the policies of some popular programs (costs are all per person):

  • Air Canada Aeroplan charges up to 100 CAD for changes, and up to 150 CAD for cancellations
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue charges €50 for changes, and €50 for cancellations
  • Alaska Mileage Plan charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • American AAdvantage charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • Avianca LifeMiles charges $150 for changes, and $50-200 for cancellations
  • British Airways Executive Club charges $55 for changes, and $55 for cancellations
  • Delta SkyMiles charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • Emirates Skywards charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • JetBlue TrueBlue charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • Singapore KrisFlyer charges $0-50 for changes, and $50-75 for cancellations
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards charges nothing for changes, and nothing for cancellations
  • United MileagePlus charges up to $125 for changes, and up to $125 for cancellations
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club charges $50 for changes, and $50 for cancellations

A few important things to note:

  • You should be concerned with the policy of the program that you booking your ticket with, rather than the airline you’re actually flying with (in situations where you book a partner award)
  • A change fee refers to situations where you’re trying to change the date or time of your flight, while a redeposit refers to a situation where you’re trying to just have the miles put back in your account after cancelling a ticket
  • I won’t be covering all frequent flyer programs (after all, there are hundreds), but rather will focus on programs that are either really popular due to redemption options, and/or programs partnering with major transferable points currencies
  • For awards to & from the United States, you can generally expect that you can cancel them for free within 24 hours of booking, which provides flexibility for changes you need to make shortly after booking

With that out of the way, let’s look at the policies of each program in more detail.

It’s worth understanding airline award change & cancellation policies

Air Canada Aeroplan

While Air Canada Aeroplan is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs, it doesn’t have a particularly generous or simple policy when it comes to ticket changes and redeposits. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect that a ticket change on a standard award will cost you 100 CAD, while a ticket redeposit on a standard award will cost you 150 CAD.

Fees are potentially lower if you’re booking a higher priced award, and you can also expect to pay more to refund a ticket through the call center (though there’s no reason to do that, since you can easily redeposit awards on aircanada.com). Also note that fees are per direction of travel, so you’ll pay even more if you’re traveling roundtrip on one itinerary.

Aeroplan award change & redeposit fees

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

Air France-KLM Flying Blue charges €50 to either change or redeposit an award ticket, so the cost is the same regardless of what you need to do with your award ticket.

Redeem Flying Blue miles for KLM business class

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska Mileage Plan no longer has any change or redeposit fees on award tickets, making it a solid program for locking in an award, especially given all the great uses of Mileage Plan miles.

Redeem Mileage Plan miles for Cathay Pacific business class

American AAdvantage

American AAdvantage no longer has any change or redeposit fees on award tickets. So this is a great program for locking in speculative awards, especially given all the great partner awards that can be booked with AAdvantage miles.

Redeem AAdvantage miles for Qatar Airways business class

Avianca LifeMiles

The Avianca LifeMiles program is a popular program for Star Alliance first & business class awards. Making a change to a LifeMiles award ticket will cost you $150, regardless of what the change is. Redepositing your ticket, meanwhile, will cost you $50-200. You can expect to pay around $50 for a short haul economy award ticket, while you can expect to pay $200 for a long haul first or business class ticket.

Redeem LifeMiles for Lufthansa first class

British Airways Executive Club

British Airways Executive Club offers lots of great partner award redemption options. You can expect that making a change to an award ticket or redepositing the Avios for an award ticket will cost you $55 if done online, with an extra $25 fee for doing so via the call center.

Note that the fee varies based on where in the world you are. For example, at the moment you can expect to pay €42.50 in the European Union, or £35 in the United Kingdom.

There is one interesting quirk to canceling Avios awards, which is that you don’t have to necessarily pay the full cancelation fee to redeposit an award ticket booked with Avios. You either have to forfeit the taxes & fees or pay the fee to get your Avios refunded.

In other words, if you booked an award within the United States on American, you’d generally only pay $5.60 in taxes & fees. So rather than paying $55, you could just forfeit $5.60, and get your Avios back.

Redeem Avios for American first class

Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles has also improved its policy on award tickets, and no longer has any change or redeposit fees on SkyMiles reservations. The only exception is when booking basic economy tickets with SkyMiles, as those don’t offer the same flexibility.

Redeem SkyMiles miles for Delta business class

Emirates Skywards

Emirates Skywards is the best program for booking Emirates first class awards. During the pandemic, the airline eliminated change and redeposit fees on awards. While it’s possible these will be reinstated at some point, there’s no timeline for that happening.

Redeem Skywards miles for Emirates first class

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue TrueBlue has improved its flexibility for award tickets, and no longer has any change or redeposit fees on TrueBlue reservations. However, the taxes & fees won’t be refunded to your original form of payment, but rather will be added to your JetBlue Travel Bank, and can be used toward a future flight. The only JetBlue awards that aren’t refundable are Blue Basic tickets with TrueBlue points, which are subjected to a $100-200 redeposit fee in the event you need to cancel.

Redeem TrueBlue points for JetBlue Mint

Singapore KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is the best program for booking premium cabin Singapore Airlines awards. The program’s fees differ depending on whether you’re booking a Saver or Advantage award (with the former being the lowest priced award):

  • Changing a Saver award ticket costs $25-50, changing an Advantage award ticket costs $0-25
  • Redepositing a Saver award ticket costs $75, redepositing an Advantage award ticket costs $50
KrisFlyer award change & redeposit fees

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards doesn’t have any change or redeposit fees on award tickets. This was the first major program to have such a policy, and the airline continues to take a very customer-friendly approach with this.

Redeem Rapid Rewards points for Southwest flights

United MileagePlus

United MileagePlus is the only US airline on this list to still have change & redeposit fees on most award tickets, which I find to be disappointing. The policy also isn’t especially straightforward. Here are the basics:

  • There’s no fee for changing or redepositing a MileagePlus award 31 or more days before departure; within 30 days, you can expect to pay up to $125 to redeposit an award (the cost is lower if you have status)
  • There’s no fee for changing a MileagePlus award within 30 days of departure, if you’re originating in the United States; for all other markets, you can expect to pay up to $125 to change an award (the cost is lower if you have status)
MileagePlus award change & redeposit fees

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has the following charges for award changes and redeposits:

  • Changing an award costs £30 in the UK, or $50 in the United States (or an equivalent amount in another currency)
  • Redepositing an award costs £30 in the UK, or $50 in the United States (or an equivalent amount in another currency)
Redeem Virgin points for ANA first class

Bottom line

Airline award tickets can not only unlock amazing first & business class seats for huge discounts, but also offer significant advantages when it comes to changing or canceling tickets. Nowadays many frequent flyer programs don’t even have change or redeposit fees for awards, which is awesome.

I tend to think that these policies are worth keeping in mind when planning travel, especially if it’s speculative in nature. Based on my own redemption patterns, I’m particularly happy about the policies of Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage.

If OMAAT readers have any award ticket change or redeposit experiences to share, please do so in the comments section!

Conversations (24)
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  1. Speedbird 007 Guest

    Great article, as always!

    One really important thing to remember when it comes to British Airways and their Avios: Cancellations must happen within 24 hours of departure or the Avios are forfeited. This is a stark difference from say AA.

  2. Klaus Guest

    I did call the German speaking MileagePlus Team and they confirmed that change and cancellation fees are still waived due to Corona.

    By the way, I highly recommend United’s German Helpdesk (they do speak English and most of them were relocated to Houston anyway) for booking awards and changing flights. They are experts.

  3. Dave Guest

    Ben, what is ANA award cancellation policy?

  4. Bob Guest

    You don't have ANA here but they charged me 6,000 pts to redeposit which they DID NOT waive at the start of the pandemic.

  5. Art_Czar Member

    Alaska charges a non-refundable $12.50 Partner Award Booking Fee.

  6. glenn t Diamond

    Avianca LM have the most onerous policy of all. And to make matters worse you need to negotiate their call centre/s to make changes.
    Making it possible to do online would be a major improvement and justify reducing the sky-high penalties.
    Can't really see any of this happenning, as the last revamp of their site took forever and still fell short in user-friendliness.
    Also their high fees are a cash cow for them.

  7. Weymar Osborne Gold

    Does changing cabin class count as a ticket change for these purposes? More specifically, I've got my mom booked in SQ J from LAX-NRT for next March, and am planning on upgrading that to F if an award seat is released (which they seem to pretty consistently do about a month and a half before departure). Although the cabin class is changing, it's still the same flight so I don't know if I'd have to...

    Does changing cabin class count as a ticket change for these purposes? More specifically, I've got my mom booked in SQ J from LAX-NRT for next March, and am planning on upgrading that to F if an award seat is released (which they seem to pretty consistently do about a month and a half before departure). Although the cabin class is changing, it's still the same flight so I don't know if I'd have to pay a change fee. Additionally, I'd appreciate if anyone knows whether I can call KrisFlyer and pay the miles difference between J and F if a seat opens up or whether I'd need to cancel the J ticket and book a new F award.

  8. Crosscourt Guest

    While I appreciate you can't list all FF programs, there should have been inclusion for qantas the biggest program in the pacific etc.

  9. PatrickK Guest

    Has anyone seen a cancellation policy for Aer Lingus? I filed a Chase Sapphire flight cancellation/interruption claim in May, and I was refunded only the tax portion of the ticket by Aer Lingus. After I filed my claim, Chase asked me to document the airline’s cancellation policy. Unable to find it online, I called Aer Lingus, and they said that they would e-mail the policy in 30-45 days and that it was irretrievable any other...

    Has anyone seen a cancellation policy for Aer Lingus? I filed a Chase Sapphire flight cancellation/interruption claim in May, and I was refunded only the tax portion of the ticket by Aer Lingus. After I filed my claim, Chase asked me to document the airline’s cancellation policy. Unable to find it online, I called Aer Lingus, and they said that they would e-mail the policy in 30-45 days and that it was irretrievable any other way. Those deadlines have all passed, so I informed Chase. The claim remains unprocessed.

  10. pwirth158 New Member

    I could have sworn that with United, I was able to change an internationally-departing award booking that was 30 days out, and then cancelled it all for no fees (I'm only a Silver so not due to status). This was December 2021. Has anyone else experienced this?

    1. pwirth158 New Member

      Well I had used the "greater than" and "less than" symbols in my comment, and it looks like those got turned into code and removed the text in between. So to restate:

      I could have sworn that with United, I was able to change an internationally-departing award booking that was less than 30 days out, to a departure that was more than 30 days out, and then cancelled it, all for no fees.

    2. Klaus Guest

      Yes, if you call mileageplus to cancel an award all fees are still waived. There was an internal memo but it is not officially published.
      I cancelled several award flights, mostly intra Europe, without a penalty.

    3. CT Dub Guest

      Yes, just in the past 2 weeks I made several changes to United award tickets (flying on Lufthansa) traveling from Europe to the US with no fees.

      The United website says the following (with no details on when this temporary waiver could go away):

      Will you still charge a redeposit fee for award travel?
      We are temporarily waiving change fees and redeposit fees for award travel that is changed or canceled. This includes award...

      Yes, just in the past 2 weeks I made several changes to United award tickets (flying on Lufthansa) traveling from Europe to the US with no fees.

      The United website says the following (with no details on when this temporary waiver could go away):

      Will you still charge a redeposit fee for award travel?
      We are temporarily waiving change fees and redeposit fees for award travel that is changed or canceled. This includes award travel purchased by any MileagePlus member at any time, as well as award travel with an international point of origin.

  11. Andrew Diamond

    I feel like we should get a reverse penalty. When ANA cancels their first class route from LAX you had booked, they should owe me $50 or something. Heck, they have no responsibility to rebook you. It's just "GLUCK LOL"

  12. Bob Guest

    Air Canada is CAD150 per direction, it adds up.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Bob -- Great point, I updated the post to reflect that, since I think Aeroplan is the only program that would charge you a double fee if you're traveling roundtrip on one ticket.

  13. John Ryan Guest

    @Ben Schlappig, is the Virgin Atlantic change/cancellation fee per person?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ John Ryan -- Correct, it's per person.

  14. listen Guest

    you should mention that while JetBlue charges no fee for award cancellations, the taxes paid are sent to your Travel Bank and not refunded to original form of payment.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ listen -- That's an excellent point, thanks. Let me add that to the post.

  15. Ralph4878 Guest

    @Ben - do you know if Alaska/Mileage Plan refunds the $12.50/OW fee on cancelled partner awards now, too?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ralph4878 -- I believe officially the fee is non-refundable, but some people manage to get it refunded when they ask nicely. I wouldn't count on it, though.

  16. Matt Guest

    FYI Air France charged me $56 to change a one-way JFK-CDG biz class ticket about a week ago. The free change policy ended June 30, check FT: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/34354695-post1357.html

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Matt -- Thanks! I missed that the COVID flexibility ended (another part of the site still referenced it being around), so I updated the post to reflect your data point.

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listen Guest

you should mention that while JetBlue charges no fee for award cancellations, the taxes paid are sent to your Travel Bank and not refunded to original form of payment.

1
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Matt -- Thanks! I missed that the COVID flexibility ended (another part of the site still referenced it being around), so I updated the post to reflect your data point.

1
CT Dub Guest

Yes, just in the past 2 weeks I made several changes to United award tickets (flying on Lufthansa) traveling from Europe to the US with no fees. The United website says the following (with no details on when this temporary waiver could go away): Will you still charge a redeposit fee for award travel? We are temporarily waiving change fees and redeposit fees for award travel that is changed or canceled. This includes award travel purchased by any MileagePlus member at any time, as well as award travel with an international point of origin.

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