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
  • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club charges nothing for changes, and 3,000 miles 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
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer charges 5,000 points for changes, and 6,000 points 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 nothing for changes, and nothing 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. The only thing to note is that Alaska charges a $12.50 partner award booking fee per direction of travel, and that’s non-refundable if you cancel.

Redeem Mileage Plan miles for Cathay Pacific business class

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club has some great Star Alliance redemption values, though the program can be pretty complicated. ANA allows free changes to the date and time of award ticket flights, but those changes must be made at least 96 hours before departure.

As far as redepositing award tickets goes, Mileage Club charges miles rather than money for that. Specifically, you can expect to pay 3,000 miles per ticket. You’ll then have your award taxes and fees refunded as well.

Redeem Mileage Club miles for ANA first 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. British Airways Executive Club requires you to cancel award tickets at least 24 hours before departure, so within a day of travel you can no longer refund your Avios ticket.

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 when originating in North America. The only exception is when booking basic economy tickets with SkyMiles, as those don’t offer the same flexibility. Furthermore, unfortunately tickets originating outside of North America are still subjected to a $150 per person change or redeposit fee.

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

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas Frequent Flyer charges for award changes and redeposits with points. Changing your Qantas Frequent Flyer award ticket will cost you 5,000 points per passenger, while redepositing your Qantas Frequent Flyer award ticket will cost you 6,000 points per passenger.

Redeem Frequent Flyer points for Qantas business class

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 no longer has any change or redeposit fees on award tickets. So this is a great program for locking in speculative Star Alliance awards.

Redeem MileagePlus miles for SWISS flights

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 Air New Zealand business 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 (18)
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  1. Andy Assareh Guest

    Ben, I was just charged $75 by Emirates to redeposit an JetBlue mint booking.

  2. Izz Guest

    A note which I feel would be helpful in updating here:

    Virgin Atlantic has the same policy as BA. There is only a $50 penalty to cancel a ticket if the taxes on the ticket is more than $50. If the tax is less than $50, you would just forfeit the tax if you cancel the ticket.

    I just cancelled a ticket over the phone and went over the policy with the agent.

  3. D3kingg Guest

    American Airlines never a worry in the world. Just cancel and refresh your app. The mileage is redeposit and the fees are refunded back to your credit card.

  4. Richard Guest

    The fees are one component of the change and/or cancellation process. The process with LifeMiles is a neverending process. The $200 was inconsequential in light of the call after call after call to cancel the award booking.

  5. turgutbey Guest

    Are all of these fees per person? Said another way--if I book two people on the same PNR, but two ticket #s are there any programs that only charge the change or redeposit fees once?

  6. Kay Guest

    So for United award for international flight, will there be a cancellation and redeposit fee on partner airlines?
    Thank you.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Kay -- Nope!

  7. RK Guest

    @lucky I'm pretty sure Delta's no redeposit fee covers any award booked out of North America(including Mexico and Caribbean) no?

    Unless they have changed the rule in the past few months. I know I definitely was not charged a redeposit fee for cancelling a Mex originating flight (weeks after booking) in June.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ RK -- I think you're right, and updated the post to reflect that. Delta's website sure doesn't make this easy to understand, though.

  8. Alex Guest

    Alaska charges a partner redeposit fee per person.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Alex -- Alaska has a partner award booking fee of $12.50 one-way, though I'm not sure what redeposit fee you're referring to?

    2. Grogg Member

      I think Alex is saying that the $12.50 partner award booking fee is nonrefundable, so you don't quite get all your money back if you cancel. You end up losing the $12.50.

    3. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Grogg -- Ah, good point. Updated the post to reflect that.

    4. Azamaraal Diamond

      I booked a CMB-SEA flight on Cathay before covid cancelled the CX flight. Changed it to SEA-NRT on JAL before JAL cancelled transit in Japan. Changed it to SEA-PPT on Ait Tahiti Nui next week. In retrospect I noticed I was charged the partner booking fee on each flight (X2) which does not seem correct since the airlines/covid invalidated the travel.

      Ben, Your thoughts?

  9. YVRtraveler Guest

    Terrible experience with Aeroplan/Air Canada last week. Date change to award ticket couldn't be done online. Couldn't be done via call center (Aeroplan call center; Air Canada call center will not touch Aeroplan bookings) either because they were too busy to answer calls after wasting time going through automated response system. Canceled and rebooked online. Out C$150 instead of C$100, aside from assuming the risk of award space availability (on the new date) between canceling...

    Terrible experience with Aeroplan/Air Canada last week. Date change to award ticket couldn't be done online. Couldn't be done via call center (Aeroplan call center; Air Canada call center will not touch Aeroplan bookings) either because they were too busy to answer calls after wasting time going through automated response system. Canceled and rebooked online. Out C$150 instead of C$100, aside from assuming the risk of award space availability (on the new date) between canceling and rebooking. Anyone has suggestions on the best way to complain and at least get the cost difference of C$50 refunded? Thanks

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ YVRtraveler -- Can't hurt to submit an email to customer relations, though unfortunately I think it's unlikely they'll give you anything, sadly. The one continued weak point of the Aeroplan program is the call center hold times.

    2. YVRtraveler Guest

      Thanks Ben. To clarify, this is beyond call center hold times. This is the automated response system wasting your time (why you're calling, keying in Aeroplan number, etc.), only to tell you that your call cannot be connected because of high call volumes! Even a long hold time would be an improvement! Is there an Aeroplan customer service email address? I could only find an online form for Air Canada customer service. I wonder if...

      Thanks Ben. To clarify, this is beyond call center hold times. This is the automated response system wasting your time (why you're calling, keying in Aeroplan number, etc.), only to tell you that your call cannot be connected because of high call volumes! Even a long hold time would be an improvement! Is there an Aeroplan customer service email address? I could only find an online form for Air Canada customer service. I wonder if this will work, since the Air Canada call center doesn't handle Aeroplan bookings.

    3. YVRtraveler Guest

      Update: Submitted Air Canada customer service online form explaining situation and asking for C$50 refund. Air Canada replied offering a C$150 voucher for future travel. I've accepted.

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YVRtraveler Guest

Update: Submitted Air Canada customer service online form explaining situation and asking for C$50 refund. Air Canada replied offering a C$150 voucher for future travel. I've accepted.

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Andy Assareh Guest

Ben, I was just charged $75 by Emirates to redeposit an JetBlue mint booking.

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Izz Guest

A note which I feel would be helpful in updating here: Virgin Atlantic has the same policy as BA. There is only a $50 penalty to cancel a ticket if the taxes on the ticket is more than $50. If the tax is less than $50, you would just forfeit the tax if you cancel the ticket. I just cancelled a ticket over the phone and went over the policy with the agent.

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