We’ve Saved Clients $30,000 This Year With One Simple Phrase

Filed Under: Advice, American

Back in February, AAdvantage announced they’d be increasing their phone ticketing fees by $5, while simultaneously waiving the Reservations Ticketing Service Charge for awards that couldn’t be booked online.


This is a great policy, and one that should be industry-standard, in my opinion. If you can’t corral your partners or IT department enough to make the website functional for your passengers, you shouldn’t be further charging them for the inconvenience.

But policies are only as good as the tools enforcing them. And in this case, the computer hasn’t been reprogrammed to automatically waive the phone booking fee.

So you have to ask. Every. Time.

Waiving the American phone booking fee

While I’ve heard of agents waiving the fee automatically, I’ve only experienced that a handful of times. And I realize our sample size is skewed, but we’ve easily avoided over $30,000 in phone reservations fees since February just by asking.

Fortunately it’s an easy question.

“Hmmm…I thought that fee was waived for awards that can’t be booked online?”

There are a few possible responses to this question, provided you’ve queried in a kind and polite fashion (if you want to be a jackwagon to folks making $12 an hour I can’t help you):

“Oh no. We don’t waive that fee!”

If the agent says this to you like you’ve just proposed something incredibly indecent, you’re probably best off just Hanging Up And Calling Again.

“Well, only for Executive Platinums”

“I don’t think so.”

With either of these agents, you can follow up with a gentle “Really? I could have sworn I read that on aa.com?” 100% of the time they will come back with the right answer.

Of course, if you’re extra lucky, you’ll get one of my treasured US Airways agents:

“All of our AAdvantage partners are bookable online!”

“Well, you have to select the codeshare, and then it’s on the website.”


I could spend all day relaying phone agent falsehoods, but you get the idea.

So which AAdvantage partners are bookable online?

The following airlines are displayed on aa.com, and should also be bookable using the web interface:

American /
US Airways
air berlinBritish AirwaysHawaiianRoyal Jordanian

If your entire itinerary is on these carriers, you will be paying the phone fee.

Meanwhile, you can still redeem AAdvantage miles for these partner carriers, even though they don’t display online:

Air Tahiti NuiFiji AirwaysLAN AirlinesSeaborne Airlines
Cape AirGulf AirMalaysia AirlinesSriLankan Airlines
Cathay PacificIberiaQatar AirwaysTAM Airlines
EL ALJapan AirlinesS7 AirlinesWestjet
Etihad AirwaysJet Airways

Redeem AAdvantage miles for Gulf Air (and their darling bears!)

As long as you have at least one of these partner airlines on your itinerary, you should be able to have the Ticketing Service Charge waived.

What if I’ve paid this fee by mistake?

If you’ve been charged the Reservations Ticketing Service Charge erroneously, AAdvantage will refund the $40 per passenger if you call.

The itinerary will still be intact, and you won’t lose your award space (but I’d probably confirm this with each agent — there are some errant Dividend Miles agents answering the phone these days and who knows what they might do).

Bottom line

My eventual hope is that if everyone keeps asking, someone at AAdvantage will put up a sign in the break room announcing the fee waiver, or even better reprogram the computers.

But in the meantime, just be nice, and the American agents should (happily) waive the fee for you.

Has anyone else been charged this fee? Or are we just really, really lucky?

  1. When the computer charges fees for something they should not be doing, it is not a glitch it is called a “profit center.” This could be fixed in an hour if they wanted to do it. This shows you the regard that AA has for their customers – very little.

  2. I was charged the fee when I booked an award ticket on JAL. The agent said that the total amount I had to pay was $79. So, I thought that was reasonable for the taxes and carrier-imposed charges. I actually didn’t realize that I was charged the phone fee until I received the e-mail confirmation of my itinerary. It turned out that the $79 included the $40 phone fee. I called and the agent said that I shouldn’t have been charged the fee and got my refund.

    So, make sure you check your e-mail confirmation to ensure you weren’t charged the phone fee.

  3. I know that the OMAAT team tends to find the US Airways phone agents easy to make fun of – but it’s a shame none of you had status with US in order to access a preferred line – especially the Chairman’s line. Those ladies in Winston Salem are extremely competent and could really work some magic with awards. They were willing and often would be able to get all of the necessary segments to work, something I have not experienced yet with the American agents. I don’t know if they just don’t know my home airport exists or what – but if I want my award flight to begin and end closer than 3 hours away, you’d better believe I prefer one of those ‘errant’ Dividend Miles agents working in my award.

  4. Pretty good booking business if my math is correct. Assuming $30,000/$40 totals 750 award tickets booked where they used to charge the fee and you have gotten them waived. The fee for points pros is like $150 for the first passenger. 750x$150=cha ching in only few months! Congrats onthe business!!! My math could be way off too but interesting insight nine the less. Thanks for sharing.

  5. By my estimation, for those clients whose awards couldn’t be made online, you’ve booked somewhere north of 750 awards since February @ around $200 a pop. That does not include clients whose awards could be booked online!

    That is some serious jack!

    I’m in the wrong business.

  6. hey tiff,
    i was trying to book AA flight using cathay pacific asia miles but every time i call, they say there is availability even though AA.com shows plenty of economy saver spaces.
    after several attempts, i gave up and bought a revenue ticket instead.
    is this how cathay pacific usually operates? i really want to get rid of my asia miles and have nothing to do with CX in the future.

  7. This is a great “heads-up” article.

    I consider myself relatively familiar with award ticket booking. Recently booked a Cathay Pacific F ticket LAX-HKG via AA and was quoted $39 taxes and $40 carrier-imposed charges. Thought it sounded reasonable until I saw on confirmation email that the $40 was for phone ticketing fees. Very upsetting since I knew about the phone ticketing fee waiver, but was thrown off by it being stated as carrier-imposed charges.

    Called AA back and 2nd agent agreed that it should not be charged for a ticket that can not be booked online and initiated a refund. The bad news is that the refund can be 4-6 weeks, not to mention the hassle of calling AA back without status.

  8. There was a post a little while ago about Etihad first availability going and coming back.

    For about a week now, I have seen no a380 first guest availability AUH-SYD or AUH-JFK even on through etihad’s guest miles. Is that just people grabbing them really fast or are they no longer allowing a380 first redemptions at lowest level?

  9. I always get a good laugh whenever I call the AAdvantage Customer Service and a Dividend agent answers my call. My most recent was one of the funniest ones I’ve ever had. When she answered, she said “thanks for calling the Dividend Miles hotline.” That’s it. No “what can I do for you today” or “what is the reason for your call.” When I said I wanted to book an AAdvantage award ticket on Etihad, she said “oh, well you’ve called Dividend Miles, not AAdvantage. We don’t partner with Etihad or Oneworld. Yeah, we are in the Star Alliance.” I simply responded “oh, I’m sorry. Have a great day,” because I didn’t want to give her a lesson or fight with her and hung up. Those agents always make me laugh and think if they weren’t alerted that they are now apart of “the new American” or if all/most Dividend agents missed a very important meeting. Oh, well! By the way- another great post Tiffany! You are a very talented writer., and you certainly know a lot about aviation!

  10. @ Troy @ Todd — Hah, well keep in mind we’re often booking awards from multiple accounts, one-ways, etc. So you can divide a bit 😉

  11. @ steven k — Was there saver space available, or just AAnytime? I’ve honestly only booked CX flights with AsiaMiles.

  12. @Jack, get out, they did NOT say “we’re in Star Alliance”… did they? Priceless.

    That greeting is the standard from AA. Usually I get “American Airlines, [Name].” Not even “my name is ___”, and no “what can I do for you” or “how may I help you”.

  13. So if I booked a award on Cathay on January 30th, it would not be eligible for a refund of the telephone booking fee?

  14. I have an “AAdvantage” as I have access to SABRE and can check quickly if taxes/miles are applied correctly whilst I am on the phone with an agent so my clients don’t get any surprises. I had to have my own JL F class award record divided (my miles/wife’s miles) and made sure to say ‘member to waive $40…and it only worked on one record and I MISSED IT on record #2!!

    Called when I got emails and it took a month for a refund (PHX handles refunds and they be way backed up)

  15. @Jack

    You should’ve seen if you could apply the dividend miles routing “rules” while you were in that time warp.

  16. @polk

    Sadly, I didn’t have any elite status with Divedend Miles (or any miles for that matter, so I don’t think that would have worked…) I have always been with AAdvantage (and I plan on to be forever as they are the last legacy carrier to have a miles based award system.)


    I’m surprised she assumed Etihad had been in Oneworld. She must have known that American was partners or something or else she wouldn’t have made the assumption. (Although, I think once she finally notices that there is an American logo on her name tag or when she finally looks to see where her pay checks come from, she’ll finally be able to use her AAdvantage knowledge for work!)

  17. Following up on Troy and Todd, that is some serious coin for 6 months, and just AA awards, doesn’t count other award bookings, advertising and cc sign-up revenue. No wonder Lucky is only staying at Hyatts and such, paying top dollar. Good for him, and Tiffany rocks, keep up the good work!

  18. The phrase should read “We’ve Saved Clients $30,000 This Year With One Simple Phrase…and Made $XXXX For Ourselves By Doing So!!!” Now that is how you do proper clickbait 😉

  19. +1 with what JimC said on the 4-6 weeks. I had to request or well beg and fight for a refund on a flight recently. Long story that involved multiple one ways and irops where US said it was not refundable but AA made it good for me. Anyway I finally get the refund confirmed and they promise to credit it back in 4 to 6 weeks. This day in age it should be the same day. If I was booking a ticket it would immediately . If I take something back to a store for a refund they credit back to my card right then.

  20. Dear Tiffany, what do you do in the case of itineraries that have segments with Finnair flights operated by Flybe that are NOT displayed in aa.com. How can I convince them to waive my fee.? Also, do you think aa.com displays ALL the possible routes (including those with a 25% Mpm) from the “searchable” airlines?

  21. I cannot believe there are so many dumb Americans who cannot book their own award tickets!

  22. Just booked a first class award on Cathay by calling the award booking number. They did not charge me and I did not have to ask.

  23. @stephen trowell

    It’s not that they can’t, it’s just that anything more than a simple roundtrip takes a lot of research to find a good fit. Some people find that fun, like me, but many others value their time differently and would rather pay someone to do it for them and they can go on enjoying their life. There’s nothing noble about clicking “next day” on the BA website over and over until you find that one segment you need.

  24. @stephen trowel

    To add to @polk’s answer, some awards aren’t bookable via aa.com, therefore you would have to call to book it because only the agents can book it for you. Also, I agree with Polk because it is hard to find segments on certain airlines that will match perfectly to a busy schedule, and it is just easier and quicker to call the AAdvantage hotline rather than spend hours on end to find a flight. I find the Executive Platinum hotline to be a lot easier to book award tickets, rather than trying to find a flight on the AA website.

  25. I booked a Qatar award where the agent on the call did not even mention the phone fee or include it in the total quoted to me. It wasn’t until I saw the email that I was charged more than I was quoted. That was very sneaky as I didn’t even have a chance to ask about it on the call.
    I DM AA on Twitter and they helped me with the refund request. It took a long time to see the refund posted but at least I didn’t have to call again.

  26. I booked a few flights on CX/JL in December, is it possible to get the phone fee refunded or not since it was before the policy change?

  27. You can use AA miles to book El Al? I thought they discontinued their relationship a while back – or am I mistaken?

  28. @ fafa123 — Technically no, unless you’ve already booked something. The partnership is indeed on the way out.

  29. We just got back from a trip to Japan. Our flights were a classic mix of husband’s ticket booked through work travel, one child’s ticket purchased with cash, and mine and second child’s tickets booked using miles from both my husband’s and my account. Problem was, I couldn’t book my daughter’s ticket by itself on aa.com, because it registered as an unaccompanied minor. I called in and they were able to book it over the phone. She told me about the fee and charged it. I said, “can you waive the fee, because it wasn’t possible for me to book this online.” And she said, no. and that if I had booked my husband’s ticket on aa.com that she could have (because our daughter’s ticket was linked to his), but since his ticket was booked by the travel agent, she could not waive the fee.

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