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 $25 for changes, and $75 for cancellations
- Etihad Guest charges 100 AED for changes, and 10% of miles redeemed for cancellation
- 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
- Turkish Miles&Smiles charges $70 for changes, and $70 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emirates Skywards is the best program for booking Emirates first class awards. The carrier’s fee structure can be a bit complicated for awards, depending on the type of award you booked. Skywards charges up to $25 to change the date of an award flight, though there’s no cost to change Flex Plus awards. Meanwhile Skywards charges up to $75 to redeposit an award, though there’s no cost to redeposit Flex Plus awards.
Etihad Guest has decent redemption rates for travel on Etihad, and also has some sweet spot partner redemptions.
Making a change to an Etihad Guest award ticket costs 100 AED (~$27), and must be done at least 24 hours before departure. Meanwhile redepositing your ticket will cost you 10% of the miles redeemed, and must also be done at least 24 hours before departure. If you redeposit the award, all the taxes and fees will be refunded to your original form of payment.
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.
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.
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
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.
Turkish Miles&Smiles has some valuable sweet spot redemptions, including both for travel on Turkish Airlines, and for travel on partner airlines. The program charges $70 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.
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.
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)
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!
What about CX?
You have to monitor at least United and American. I've had several that did not go back to miles even though requested and show redeposits on "activities". Instead I found them on "Future Flight Credits" and had to call to get them redeposited. This is a huge IT problem at UA/AA. Many have had to call to correct it (not all). BA is much worse pf course.
Not sure it matters much for OMAAT audience, but SAS and their Eurobonus program will begin charging for changes and cancellations beginning as of February. Up till now both changes and cancellation could be done for free upto 24 hours before (in my experience actually up to midnight the day before travels). All in the name of making the program more attractive...
American is really good with canceling and redepositing awards. They’re probably just grateful you even considered booking a 300K one way international business class ticket.
You can’t redeposit Turkish online or over the phone, you need to do it in person. It’s a huge pain
You actually can redeposit over the phone, but it is still huge pain
Oh really? I tried calling multiple agents and was always told had to do it in person
Virgin Atlantic - if award ticket is canceled within 24 hours of the departure, you forfeit the miles, only taxes are refunded.
Virgin Atlantic, like BA, will take your taxes & fees (if less than the $50 redeposit fee) in lieu of charging the full redeposit fee.
So, does it mean that when booking a domestic flight on AA or AS with taxes of $5.60, they will only take that $5.60 for the cancellation?
Question about ANA — what happens if the miles you booked a ticket with would have already expired? For example, if someone books a ticket with miles expiring in March 2023 and then cancel it in June 2023, would the miles be lost forever or would they get a new expiration date?
There's a giant asterisk on Delta's program, which is if your award ticket originates outside of North America (including Mexico) they charge fees. Beware!
Trophet, I don't think your information is correct in regards to Delta. I have "chatted" with Delta a few times online regarding purchasing a one way ticket from Tokyo to LA using miles and was told there is no redeposit fee or any charges involved as long as I cancel the ticket before the flight. However, if you purchase a basic economy ticket there will be a cancellation charge of 9900 miles for domestic and 19,900 miles for international flights.
What about Lufthansa? I’ve got to cancel an award flight.
I hate Jetblue's policy of refunding taxes for a cancelled award ticket into your travel bank as travel credit for a future flight instead of refunding to credit card like every other airline. How is it even legal to keep the gov taxes someone paid for a ticket they ended up not flying on? >:(
This is an awesome resource. Thank you for posting it!
Thanks for doing this series, Ben. I've followed you and the hobby for years yet these recent "basics" posts specific to programs have still been very informative.
Not to mention, great for Search Engine Optimization!