Always Watch Your American Airlines Awards To Make Sure They Ticket

American Airlines doesn’t ticket reservations instantly. Paid travel usually tickets within a few minutes, although complicated itineraries can take longer. When I’m paying with a gift card for instance or I confirm an upgrade prior to issuing a ticket it may take several hours.

Award tickets take longer. They’re usually queued based on date of travel and a partner award ticket (that is queued for review) a year out can take a couple of days before tickets are issued.

Major weather events can slow down ticketing as well, because reissuing tickets for current travel takes priority and all of their bandwidth.

It’s easy to forget this. You purchase an award ticket and think you’re done. But the ticket stays ‘On Request’. You aren’t done until you receive a ticketing email confirmation.

  • Maybe your credit card was entered wrong

  • Or an agent failed to document that you’re accepting an involuntary downgrade for one segment, e.g. it’s a business class award but your domestic flight was only available in coach

Anything that’s “wrong” with your ticket can bounce your reservation out of the ticketing queue and American Airlines usually will not tell you. It would be one thing to get an email from American saying “please call us.” But all that happens is your reservation goes into limbo. Eventually unticketed partner reservations risk getting cancelled, too.

I booked myself a Cathay Pacific first class award and the agent didn’t add my middle name to the reservation even though I confirmed it. Apparently Cathay has been insisting on middle names and so the liaison reviewing the record didn’t ok it for ticketing.

After 48 hours my reservation remained ‘on request’ so I called. Since there’s no more award space for the flight I don’t want the agent to cancel the booking and try to recreate it to meet what the reviewing agent wanted, so we’ve queued it for the liaison to work with Cathay to add it manually or ticket as-is. If for some reason they refuse I’ll have to insist on American opening space on their own aircraft due to their agent’s error.

If I hadn’t called I likely would never have known about the problem. I might even have shown up in Hong Kong to find I had no ticket!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Excellent advice, except I’d say it applies to other airlines as well as American and that it extends to monitoring award tickets (as you’ve previously advised) periodically even after they’re ticketed.

  2. 48 hours is already lucky. Once i tried redeeming for a CX award flight just 14 days out. Stuck in “on request” for 6 days, and everyday when i called in the worthless low-paid untrained offshore loser rep tells me the meaningless boilerplate answer : “it’s in queue, don’t worry”

    finally by the 7th day i managed to get a supervisor to actually even bother looking at the record itself and she found out it was setup incorrectly, and that’s why it was stuck in queue limbo.

    lesson learned – believing those phone rep losers is a big mistake.

  3. I too have only had this problem when it involved american. Once when I booked American flights with avios (which took months to ticket) and once using american miles to fly Cathay. That one only took a few weeks and one phone call to fix. Both times appeared to be an issue on the AA side.
    Out of 35 times in 13 programs I have redeemed points for flights, only four have involved AA and two of them required additional involvement to fix. Heck, I even used virgin Atlantic points to book delta and it went off without a hitch!

  4. @henry LAX – what on earth are you talking about? AA doesn’t use offshore call centers unless you call one of their foreign call centers.

    It’s much more effective to DM the Twitter team first and let them do the legwork before you actually get on a phone call.

  5. United doesn’t instantly ticket, if I recall, but the wait is never anything like AA.

    Gary, any idea why award tickets take longer than paid tickets to ticket? And tickets on AA in general don’t instantly ticket?

  6. So, I just had this exact issue w/ an AA award on CX. I was stuck in limbo for several days before an agent explained that the problem was failure to enter my middle name in ticket as opposed to secure passenger data. They could then re-issue.

    My question is my wife is also travelling on the same itinerary on a different award that is already ticketed. But her middle name appears only in secure passenger data and not on the ticket itself. Will she be ok to travel on the CX segment or do I need to call AA and ask them to reissue the ticket and include her middle name?

  7. Last Sept, my wife and I had an AA award trip to China to PVG with a return from PEK on AA in business. (That seems so long ago when there was small amt of business seats on AA) Anyway, the award went from on request to ticketed. No worries right? Well, you suggested a few years back that one needs to garden their award reservations. Sure enough, a few weeks after being ‘ticketed’, it went back to ‘on request’. Huh? Without any notice to me, there was a schedule change and the PEK-ORD flight was no longer daily. I found this out on my own and also found no AA seats anytime around our trip. Looked up CX and found 2 seats in on Dragonair to HKG and next day CX to ORD. Only negative was an overnight in HKG but that what Hyatt is for.
    Again, I want to stress that AA did not notify me of the ‘schedule change’. Your old suggestion to garden one’s award reservation is what saved the trip.

  8. @Daniel : UA isn’t absolutely real-time instant but very very close to. my experience is constantly ~5 mins for UA-only cash/award tickets and within 15 mins for ones with partners unless strange cases where the partner refuses to respond with a definitive answer, usually involving inventory out-of-sync conditions.

    If you call UA phone reps then change the ticket, unlike AA, they actually have the ability to instantly re-issue the ticket right on the spot while you’re still on the phone with them, instead of sending to some stupid queue.

  9. @AnonPerson : it was a few years back when Twitter DM support was still very much in its infancy

  10. I had the issue with Cathay as well. I had two separate locators that actually ticketed, only to go pending a few days later. And it took two phone calls to fix it which was a bit frustrating. Ironically, I also have a Cathay flight booked thru BA, and have had no issues with that flight.

  11. @Daniel: For some reason AA doesn’t do its own ticketing but has outsourced the chore to somebody else. Hence the lag between reservation and ticketing.

  12. Gary, what an odd reason for your ticketing problem. What if someone doesn’t have a middle name, as many don’t?

  13. Qatar Airways is notorious for cancelling award booking segments on their metal that have not been ticketed, sometimes in less than a day or two.

    There have been a couple of reported incidents this year where Qantas queue an award booking for ticketing. But due to the travel being months away the booking takes several days to be processed and fails to ticket before QR take back the space.

  14. An agent explained to me today (after losing two reservations due to agents not properly adding middle names) that for CX they need to put the middle names “at the front” of the reservation.

  15. Happened to me with AA miles for a biz Qantas DFW-SYD. Thank goodness I kept checking for it to get ticketed. Had I not noticed and called, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten on flight for an anniversary trip!

  16. I had the EXACT same thing happen to me with Cathay Pacific First Class award using AA.

    They wanted a middle name, well so I but I don’t have one.

    It took 4 separate calls over a two week period to get it sorted out!

  17. Same problem here, yesterday. Had to call several times to see why CX F ticket wasn’t ticketing. Eventually AA rep called Cathay liaison, determined Cathay needed a middle name on the ticket.

  18. experiencing exact same issues , on call for aa award on etihad.

    salutation missing so scrwed up.
    last sunday they fixed and still on request

  19. Happened to me recently as well with the AA miles + Cathay flight combo. Middle name, credit card number, wrong mileage deducted… I spent a month doing phone tags, spelling out everything several times, before it all finally worked out.

  20. Avianca LifeMiles might be the worst in delays in ticketing. It can take weeks if you let it run it’s course. Best to email them next day to ask for partner PNR so you can get seat allocation. This usually prompts them to email you the e-ticket within 24 hrs. Examine the e-ticket very closely to check all the details are correct. I recently uncovered a glitch they were unaware of which would have been a nasty surprise on check-in! (Led to me cancelling -feefree-, and booking an alternative using AA miles, dur to the lengthy time it was taking them to untangle the mess they created.)

  21. Had an issue 2 years ago when one of our 2 Qantas tickets wasn’t issued, and thus one of us could not check in even though the reservation showed. Called AA and it took 1.5 hours on the phone to get AA to issue the ticket (thank goodness for Verizon unlimited talk for $10/day).

    A problem is – AA no longer shows the ticket number (can’t display receipt from You should have an email with it but that may be hard to find.

    There is a link posted on Flyertalk, to display the receipt for reward/non-AA tickets when you have a window open logged into AA. But not from AA.

    ALWAYS check that you have an issued ticket. I would even call before you leave to be sure. Nothing worst than not having an issued ticket when you trying to check in at a foreign destination.

    In my case – it showed as ticketed on AA summary screen of managed reservations. You MUST find the ticket number!!!!!!

  22. I had a weird permutation of the same problem in July. Cathay required my middle name for my AA award ticket. I provided my middle name, which caused some strange hiccup on Cathay’s part. Seemingly, the name field is not set up for middle names, or some such. After multiple calls from me, the Cathay liaison finally ok’d the ticket. If I hadn’t checked, things would have been bad.

  23. Most all of these issues seem to arise with international travel.

    I booked a revenue ticket for myself and a separate domestic award ticket for my spouse yesterday afternoon while the call center was besieged with hurricane related flight issues. Came off without a hitch, and a check of the website shows the award flights as “ticketed” and dated yesterday. Took about an hour for the ticket to settle. Will keep an eye on it though.

    The system doesn’t do anyone any favors if travel has already commenced however. Last year a colleague and I arrived DFW only to find our connecting flight’s inbound equipment on AA would arrive too late to allow us to get to PHX to board our BA First Class to LHR. Since my award was one-way, The agent at the Admiral’s Club changed the routing to DFW-AUS, then AUS-LHR on the BA flight which was the Dreamliner. When it came to my colleague with a round trip award, the agent made one wrong keystroke which cancelled the return segment instead of the outbound segment. Although she instantly corrected it, the system sent the reservation into a queue, and the first class seat was taken out of inventory for award travel on BA. It could not be restored.

    We didn’t find out about it until 48 hours prior to travel, when American starting calling. Not even the special BA first class services desk could fix it, either the day before or the day of travel. This was a face to face encounter each time. The seat was actually still there, but we were told it had already been sold and was unavailable. Colleague flew back on AA, while I took that BA flight on my award ticket. Sure enough, my colleague’s seat did not sell, and I stared at that empty seat all the way back to DFW.

  24. Happened to me in Moscow. Made a minor change a week before. Showed up at the Air Berlin (AA partner) counter in Moscow and they told me they could see seats in my name but it hadn’t been ticketed. They gave me a printout showing the seats but no ticketing. AA then told me that they HAD ticketed it and I was SOL but what they actually did was retroactively ticketed. I was delayed for 2 days in Moscow. Having the printout came in handy when I was finally able to talk with a supervisor. They refunded my miles and rebooked but refused to pay for hotels, meals or taxis. They also tried to put me on a circuitous route that would have taken twice as long.

  25. @ Gary

    What you can do if your travel plans are really close in, while on the phone, ask the AA agent to contact ticketing to push the ticket through. I booked an award flight from BKK-HKG-JFK on CX with AA miles the a couple nights before my flight, I got to the airport and the CX agent told me they didn’t see my ticket, even though I showed her the CX PNR AA provided me when I booked the flight. I called AA to inquire and the agent informed me that they didn’t ticket it yet, she put me on hold to contact the ticketing department to push it through. Came back a few minutes later and told me to ask the CX agent to check again. Sure enough my flight was ticketed and good to go.
    A second time I booked an award for the same itinerary, but same day departure. This time I requested the EXP agent to contact ticketing to expedite the process before I got off the phone. Got an email my award was ticketed while I was on hold with AA.

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