American Airlines announced this morning that they’ll no longer charge telephone booking fees on award tickets, and no longer charge fees to cancel an award ticket and redeposit miles into a member’s account. Those are both real improvements to the program. They are also extending their pause in mileage expiration through June 30, 2021.
No More Telephone Booking Fees For Awards
As an Executive Platinum member I can call up the airline to book an award, and don’t have to rely on the website. Not having to pay a fee for this is a nice perk. But it’s especially nice I’d imagine for less frequent travelers – the kind who are flying today. American has been working to make their AAdvantage program more friendly towards infrequent customers, because that’s whose business there has been to capture.
Handholding, guiding, and helping a traveler through their rewards experience is one way to make them feel valued and ensure that an award redemption leads to greater accrual in the future (long-term loyalty). Removing this fee effective November 11, 2020 may help accomplish this goal.
No More Mileage Redeposit Fees
This is huge. American is eliminating award ticket cancel and mileage redeposit fees.
- Traditionally American charged $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger to cancel an award and put the miles back in the member’s account (waived for Executive Platinum members).
- As part of its pandemic response award redeposit fees were already waived for tickets booked by December 31, 2020
- However starting January 1, 2021 they were slated to move to a new structure: free up until 60 days prior to travel and then on a sliding scale based on elite status, but separately charged for each traveler. A family of 4 without elite status on the same reservation canceling 59 days in advance of travel would be charged $600 ($1200 if trip booked as two one ways).
If there’s one thing that the pandemic has changed in consumer behavior it’s the need for flexibility. The future has been so uncertain. Anything that locks customers in now is the opposite of loyalty. Eliminating this fee – and not just date change fees, on domestic itineraries (as part of the move to eliminate change fees on non-Basic Economy tickets) will do a lot for AAdvantage members.
Ironically it’ll also reduce the incentive I have as an Executive Platinum to keep my status. Waived award cancel and redeposit fees has actually been one of the benefits I’ve valued most. It’s let me make flight bookings and then try to plan a trip – getting hotels in order, arranging schedules, getting family buy-in. That, though, is indicative of how helpful this can be for everyone else.
I was sure there must be a catch. There isn’t. But the airline used the word ‘eligible’ to describe the awards this change applied to so I asked for the exhaustive list of awards not eligible for this. It’s exactly the awards you’d think of – non-flight awards, and awards that have already been used in some manner.
• Partially-used award tickets
• Partially-used upgrade tickets
• Award tickets and upgrade tickets cancelled after flight departure
• Non-refundable car awards, hotel awards, and AA Vacations packages
• Refundable car awards, hotel awards, and AA Vacations packages outside of the refund eligibility window disclosed at booking
With the elimination of fees, American is also able to process cancellation and mileage redeposit for everyone online which is convenient as well.
No Miles Will Expire Until July 2021
American Airlines will extend their pause of mileage expiration through June 30, 2021.
Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United Airlines no longer expire frequent flyer miles at all. American Airlines no longer expires the miles of anyone under 21 and has paused expiration through the end of the year already.
Normally American expires miles (for those 21 years and older) after 18 months of account inactivity. Alaska Airlines expires miles after 24 months of inactivity.