American Will Now Waive Telephone Fees for Awards You Can’t Book Online

American has updated its award booking fees and on net I actually like the change!

On February 16, American’s telephone booking fee will increase from:

  • Domestic: $25 to $30
  • International: $35 to $40

But American will now waive the telephone fee entirely for awards that cannot be booked online.

Previously American would add the telephone booking fee regardless of whether you could book awards online or not.

And since American currently only lets you book its own flights plus those of a handful of partners:

That meant there was a de facto “partner booking fee” if you wanted an award on an airline like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LAN, Iberia, Etihad, etc. Now there isn’t.

American’s top tier Executive Platinum members of course have telephone booking fees waived already — as long as they’re one of the passengers traveling.

I like as well that American has not added US Airways’ junk ‘award processing fee’ of:

  • $25 U.S. (excluding Hawaii) and Canada
  • $35 Mexico and the Caribbean
  • $50 Hawaii and international

Bottom-line is that if you can book an award online, you should, but you won’t be penalized for booking an award ticket that American hasn’t provided the functionality for you to issue on its website.

(HT: Dov)

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. actually Dan from Dans Deals had a trick to waive that fee. I had been using his trick to not pay that fee for the last 4 years, he even had it on his blog. Thanks god they are doing this for everybody now, I guess they learned about it now

  2. what about awards already booked and the fees paid? Can I call after 2/16 and request a refund?

  3. @joe – are you talking about the trick to avoid the close-in booking fee, booking flights into the future and then changing dates? they closed that loophole maybe a year or so ago?

  4. Wonder if this means that they’re going to expand the functionality of the website to book more awards online. I’m sure running their website is far cheaper than paying a large number of employees at a call center.

  5. I think the trick that Joe is talking about is to book a routing on AA online (but using the departure and destination airports you want), and then call in to change dates or airlines while keeping the route the same — that way you could end up with a booking on JAL without paying a fee. But this is a good change!

  6. Cool! Just put two EY awards on hold today. $70 more to spend on food next vacation; I’ll take that!

  7. Great news. Most of our flights can’t be booked online and God knows how many $35 fees they’ve collected from me. But yeah, pls DON’T make those partners bookable online.

  8. It’s about time they made the rest of their partners bookable online. They’re years behind United on that, and Delta has actually made some progress in that area too.

  9. American does not waive a captive fee unless it was made to do so. American is the one who introduces bag fees to (now only formerly) full service carriers.

    What’s the back story on this one? Who made them do it?

    The Congressman who filed the “frequent flier programs have scam-like aspects” complaint?

    The DOT finally doing its job?

    Some lawsuit (or threat thereof?)

    I mean, AA/US losing revenues to have integrity? Yeah, right.

    I hope you find the back story and report on it.

  10. Hard to believe that in 2015 a substantial chunk of awards must be booked by phone.

    Come on, airline IT!

  11. Ugh, booked Cathay AND JAL awards LAST WEEK and I was complaining big time about the fee and how much BS it is that I have to call in. NOW they do this after all of our flights are booked for the year. In the past we’ve gotten them to waive it a few times, but not consistent. I’m still going to call and now complain that I bitched and they refused then a few days later waive it.

  12. Called about getting the fees refunded from last week. 1st agent understood my concern completely but read the memo they received saying they will not retroactively credit booking fees. He transferred me to supervisor that was extremely rude about it trying to say that the fee was for people who need help with their bookings and I had assistance last week when I needed help. Complete BS of course as I explained I do not want help with bookings, but an agent is required because of limited ability to book partners on their website. Not having a 30 day retroactive period is just a slap in the face at this point.

  13. @Curtis they could just as easily have announced “we will start charging no fee 30 days from now” but they did this immediately. I wouldn’t be bitter at this at all. You got something you wanted at a price you accepted. Be thrilled 🙂

  14. Yeah agreed to it, but I certainly didn’t go down without a fight on those fees every time I called (sometimes successful, sometimes not). Maybe it was all of my complaints that got this changed. Juuust maybe…. :). But yes, very happy for the change – just bad timing for us personally. Thanks for sharing the info!

  15. I’m thrilled that this fee has been removed because it’s cost me more than $500 in the past few years. Two weeks ago, I booked 4 tickets to South America, partially using LAN. AA has already announced a major schedule change for my AA flights. I’m going to try to use that as “an excuse” to get my $120 back, but I’m pessimistic it will work (I’m not willing to cancel my entire reservation and try to find those LAN seats again!). But no harm trying: I’m still happy to not have to pay it in the future.

    I agree with the previous poster who said we’re now better off NOT having these partner flights bookable online. Savvy travelers are better off keeping the masses in the dark. Like last year, I needed 4 biz class tickets on Star to Europe. The only seats I could find were on Brussels Airlines because — you guessed it — you couldn’t search for them. It’s selfish, but I am sure that making it hard to find seats is helpful to those who know how to find them.

  16. Sorry iahphx, I usually agree with you, but it would really save me time to be able to find and book my OneWorld awards online at I like to see all my options and dislike the phone method – who knows how long the wait will be to get through, and whether or not you’ll get a quality agent. I don’t know that keeping the masses in the dark is really a virtue.

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