American AAdvantage Hasn’t Changed Its Award Rules, They’re Just Providing Bad Customer Service

When American Airlines eliminated their traditional ‘milesAAver’ and ‘AAnytime’ awards a month ago replacing them with what are now called ‘Flight Awards’ I was assured that nothing would change about partner award travel as part of this.

So it was jarring to read reports that it was no longer possible to make changes to American Airlines flight segments that were booked as part of partner award travel.

Was told by a supervisor who stated that as of May 4, AA no longer allows voluntary changes of AA segments on partner awards after ticketing.

Meaning that even if an earlier JFK-CLT opened U award inventory that I’m not able to switch it to this earlier connecting flight.

All that can be done is to remove the AA connecting segments from my international partner award and then book the new desired AA segments as a separate booking!

There are lots of reports of partner awards no longer able to be changed. Matthew Klint reported on this change and it got picked up by TravelSort as well.

However, none of this is correct! It is still possible to make changes to partner awards. No policy change went into effect May 4 that would alter this. And American Airlines confirms this to me.

First, a little bit of background.

  • In 2017 American Airlines started offering award availability on its own flights based on ‘married segments’. Maybe you couldn’t book an award Los Angeles – Sydney, but they’d make space available from New York to Los Angeles to Sydney.

  • So the savviest flyers would book New York – Los Angeles – Sydney, then call up to drop the New York – Los Angeles segment. At the end of 2018 they started cracking down on this pretty heavily. Agents could no longer make changes to married segments. You’d have to cancel what you had and start over with American flights that were booked this way.

  • When the airline introduced ‘web saver’ awards which were variable in price, price depended on the specific cities you were flying between. If you could just ‘drop a segment’ or change a segment on an award that was priced this way – and only American Airlines flights, not partner flights were priced this way – it would undermine their whole pricing scheme. So they didn’t allow it.

However most awards booked through the American Airlines AAdvantage program are booked for travel on American itself. Agents were told not to allow changes, and they wouldn’t understand or remember the nuance about which awards permitted changes. The incentives were against allowing any changes, since they didn’t want to get it wrong and get written up for the mistake.

American Airlines award change rules for partner awards have not changed. For instance,

  • You can change from one oneworld carrier to another on your itinerary.
  • You can drop a segment as long as your origin/destination remain in the same region.

However many agents stopped allowing changes that were permitted in the rules. I wrote back in November that if you needed to make changes to a partner award you would likely need to hang up and call back several times in order to find an agent willing to handle it for you. You would run into several agents first saying that it wasn’t possible, or wasn’t allowed.

Many of the examples of customers being denied changes pre-date the supposed May 4 policy changes, and in the past week there have been successful changes made by members to partner awards as well. However there was, apparently, a reminder memo sent out May 4 that could have exacerbated confusion.

American Airlines for its part tells me that “If the PNR consisted of only Partner Award(s), and there was no Flight Award (dynamic) present in any part of the itinerary, then we could have processed the voluntary …change.”

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. @ Gary — Your post is semi-incomprehensible. Can you write a post from scratch explaining the AA awrd rules in totality? I think you last did this about 7-8 years ago.

  2. This post is very difficult to read. That’s why trolls show up in the comments. You insult your readers with writing like this. They are offended that you earn 7 to 8 figures in annual recurring revenue from this garbage.

  3. What is American actually saying? I reported that changes could still be made on partner awards – to partner segments (adding and subtracting) and AA segments could be dropped.

    But what appears to have changed is that AA awards (even in U or T) class can no longer be added to a partner award ticket that has been issued (despite the single contrary FT report you linked to using AA chat). Furthermore, AA segments cannot be modified, unless being removed.

    Theoretically, that means changes are still possible on partner awards (unlike pure AA awards). Practically, though multiple reports including my own still suggest that AA segments cannot be *added* to or *modified* on a partner award.

    Let’s see if we can establish some more datapoints.

  4. “American Airlines for its part tells me that “If the PNR consisted of only Partner Award(s), and there was no Flight Award (dynamic) present in any part of the itinerary, then we could have processed the voluntary …change.””

    This part confuses me. How could a dynamic award be present in an itinerary with a partner award? Is this about booking two separate awards (one dynamic and one partner) on the same PNR? If I have an award JFK-LHR-CDG, priced at 57.5k with the first segment on AA metal and the second on BA, is there a “flight award” present on the itinerary despite the partner/saver award pricing?

    On an unrelated note, it’s clear that those complaining about this post haven’t been following the issue, as Gary’s writing here is very clear (even if AA’s reply is not).

  5. The article Gary wrote is not mud. It is clear.

    Example: I want to fly AUH-LHR-DFW business or first class one-way. I find AUH-LHR on Etihad metal is available using AA miles. I book it before anyone else snags it before me. Then I look and look and look but can NOT find business or first class LHR-DFW on AA metal but I can find coach. So I book coach on AA metal.

    Some time goes by and now I see business or first class has opened up on LHR-DFW and I call and ask agent to change that segment. The answer from the AA agent is I can NOT. The entire AUH-LHR-DFW has to be repriced and it needs to be available. If agent cancels my confirmed AUH-LHR on Etihad metal, there is no assurance that inventory will go back in right away or in a few minutes or in a few hours or few days. So there is no way to re-snag it.

    Therefore, what AA agents are telling me is wrong (which is what Gary is saying).

    Gary is saying it can still be done (the LHR-DFW on AA metal can be changed to business or first-class without losing or changing the AUH-LHR Etihad metal segment)

  6. I don’t get why AA is being so aggressively Delta-ish. We are ORD based and usually pay F for our domestic flights. Int’l we use mikes for J or F. One of us usually held Plat status to get MCE. With loyalty points my hubby put all his and my cc spend ($100k) on his AA card and also all his work hotels via rocket miles to get him to Play Pro. After these recent changes….plus when they went fully dynamic award making pretty much all USA-SYD/NZ/TYO/Friday EUROPE flight 450k miles I’m just kinda done.

    If UA can get their in-app upgrade offers more in line or EVER opens saver domestic first class awards or mileage upgrades for a non-stupid price I’d be UA all day everyday.

  7. If AA agents are enforcing fake rules that they are making up themselves due to incompetence or fear of punishment for making a mistake then that is essentially “policy.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what the AA bean counters say is “policy,” it matters what “policy” they are allowing to be enforced. If they are allowing “make it up as you go” then “make it up as you go” is the policy and that means that changes are not guaranteed regardless of what the spin doctors told you.

  8. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I had an itinerary to Japan on JAL from DFW-HND. I wanted to add a segment starting AUS-DFW. There was AA award space and I called to add it to the itinerary. The agent took a while, but was able to do it after talking to the ticketing desk. Then a few days later, I had another itinerary for the return HND-DFW where I wanted to add on DFW-AUS at the end. I had to call back 3 times before I found an agent who said it was possible and did it.

  9. Whare is the policy published?

    If not, how can a US company not publish the rules of an award program, and what are you doing to sue it?

  10. Imagine an airline that dropped all the married segment pricing and bs. Imagine an airline that didn’t chronically overbook flights or make seat pitch too tight for most people. Imagine an airline that had good customer service with enabled agents that could fix problems to the benefit of the customers. Imagine an airline that didn’t try to offer or ticket 30-minute connections in places like DFW, LAX, ORD, or NYC. Imagine…

  11. @JS – If I understand this article correctly, what they did for you is actually against policy since it changed/added an AA metal segment even though it was adding it to a partner metal award.
    THAT is the huge change for me. I always require a repositioning flight. It is almost never available (any class) when I grab the long haul partner award. So, according to this article, I should never be able to add that repositing flight or change it from economy to first after the booked – because it is on AA metal.
    This is a huge change to award bookings that is being glossed over by AA. For me dynamic pricing isn’t a big change – it has pretty much been that way for a while in practice. This rule for non-hub flyers is debilitating

  12. Your last sentence seems to imply exactly what has changed.
    “American Airlines for its part tells me that “If the PNR consisted of only Partner Award(s), and there was no Flight Award (dynamic) present in any part of the itinerary, then we could have processed the voluntary …change.””

    If ONLY partner award and not AA metal/flight award. If you have booked an award that has both AA metal and partner, the AA part is likely classified as a Flight Award and is not changeable.
    It also has no reference to adding a repositioning flight which has been a common theme in customer comments in social media.
    Changing the actual partner flights has been less of a discussion point

  13. I think the biggest problem with the article is that he is quoting two of the biggest idiot bloggers… between Lucky and his partner Matthew K., the two of them have always historically had issues comprehending the guidelines of the programs.

  14. Gary- I AM the OP you quoted from Flyertalk and my thread is the basis of your post.

    While I appreciate you as a blogger trying to bring to light issues, I take issue with you not taking first hand effort to replicate this before dismissing not just mine but several other FT datapoints (like Matt Klein did).

    Your AA contact which you noticed did not give a 100% black and white statement that AA segments on a partner can be modified by their ticketing system without resorting to using the schedule change override trick.

    Your callous post implies it is due to what an agent’s understanding of the rules and therefore affects whether they want to make the change or not which it totally is not- this is a pure systemic issue PERIOD.

    The reality is that AA reservations system will generate an error when you attempt to modify any AA segments on a partner ticket- independent of what an agent thinks or believes the policy to be.

    The only way you can get the change made is only by using the scheduled change override PERIOD.

    The only way you are getting those changes made is if you get an agent or supervisor who is knowledgeable enough (or in cases ignorant) about the fare rules to push the changes using the schedule change override.

  15. @Ultrasoul – I have had these same issues for months. It is not a new change. And there has been no change to the rules. That seemed important. So it is a poor customer service issue by American – they scare agents and train them poorly rather than giving them tools to provide customers with what they are entitled to. That is the point of this post.

  16. Oh and there is nothing confusing about the statement. Partner awards (which can include AA segments) are still allowed to be changed under ruoes that have existed for some time.

  17. According to the reports on other blogs and my own experience this week it is no longer possible to change AA flight segments on AA partner awards except in the event of a schedule change. Only option is to cancel, redeposit and rebook whatever is then available. The AA website policy statement on no changes to awards and only cancel and redeposit/rebook makes no reference to or exception for partner awards and references only “award” so inclusive of partner awards it seems. HUCA to change AA segment to AA partner award did not work for me this week and showed saver award available for the AA flight segment I was seeking.

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