Be Careful When Cancelling American Awards or You’ll Lose All Your Miles

It’s easy to cancel an American AAdvantage award and never get your miles back. You need to pay attention, and sometimes you need to follow up.

  • If you cancel an American AAdvantage award itinerary online, that doesn’t automatically redeposit your points. Call to cancel and get your miles redeposited.

  • Miles redeposits are not usually instant. They can be quick, or can take a day.

  • And sometimes they don’t go back on their own.

About two weeks ago I cancelled a first class award for two passengers between the US and Indian Subcontinent. It was an Etihad A380 First Apartment roundtrip booking (don’t worry, I have a couple of those trips I still plan to take — including one that involves A380 first class on all 3 of the big Gulf carriers: Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar).

I was expecting a refund of 360,000 miles. When that didn’t happen after three days, I emailed AAdvantage Customer Service. I didn’t want to call and wait on hold half an hour while an agent worked through this, and American no longer allows direct phone calls to AAdvantage Customer Service either. So I sent the note via the website.

They auto-respond with a goal of replying to inquiries within 5 business days.

Thank you for your email to AAdvantage Customer Service. It’s our goal to respond to your account-related question within five business days.

That was last Friday. It’s now been 6 business days, and no reply. And no 360,000 AAdvantage mile redeposit, either.

One relatively recent improvement to the American website is that when you cancel an award ticket your statement shows the date of the award’s original issue alongside the miles you get back.

However it doesn’t show ticket number, making it hard to track which miles were returned from which ticket if you’re cancelling and redepositing awards that were issued on the same date.

I’m sure I can sort this out by phone but it’s an issue and an area where American can and should do better — getting award redeposits right in the first place, and responding to customer service issues promptly.

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. Good topic but WTF!!!
    American no longer accepts calls to AAdvantage Customer Service??
    That’s another Doug Parker enhancement ?
    Shameful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Unacceptable

    BTW I too have been shorted hundreds of thousands of miles after paying the cancellation fees
    on the reservation’s dept Plat Line
    6 months later after getting nowhere Consumer Relations got involved and then a month later
    with numerous follow-ups problem solved
    Well guess what now AA customers can’t even call Consumer Relations
    Becoming more like United everyday. Why doesn’t American disconnect their phones and fire everyone? Possibly because they might wish to sell tickets ?
    Signed a 6 million approaching 7 million miler at AA

  2. Just dealt with the exact same thing. Canceled an award for two of us last Saturday and the miles never posted back.

    Took two phone calls and finally this morning they manually reinstated the miles. Had a very helpful rep who explained that sometimes the miles just get “hung up” in the system…whatever that means. Regardless, finally got them back.

    Incidentally, had the fees “waived” because of a schedule change of 15 minutes – which actually was a difference maker for us as we would have missed a transfer to an island and had to spend a night somewhere else. American didn’t want to but finally gave in and waived the fees. They said their policy only allowed for a waiver of the fees for changes of greater than an hour. I explained that while only a 15 minute change, that was not working for us. Persistence paid off.

  3. Wow, I’m intrigued by your upcoming trifecta / hat trick. Should be fun.

    As I return home from my 4 day 4 flight Etihad trip I think I really like the 787-9. It’s all about the windows & view.

  4. I have a different problem. I upgraded from economy to business with a change of date. They did redeposit the economy miles(45000) but never deducted the business miles(67500). My ticket was issued and I completed my travel. I still have the miles. I wrote to customer service to deduct the miles from my account but they never have(been more than a week now).

  5. I have had no issues getting to AAdvantage Customer Service by phone by calling the platinum reservations line and getting the phone tree to transfer me (I know “missing miles” then “agent” gets me there). Have called several times over the past month (trying to chase down a missing CX flight) and often have zero wait.

  6. That trifecta sounds interesting!! What’s the routing and how many miles did it cost to do the three F A380 flights?

  7. When I called AA to cancel an award flight I had booked on Iberia, with plans to use the miles to instead book a flight on Air Berlin, I was surprised to hear that the miles do not immediately get redeposited. But the agent was super nice and said she could hold the two remaining first class seats on my desired flight before the official redeposit. By the time I gave her my info, the miles were already back in the account and she proceeded to book the flight. But the kicker was when I discovered, several days later, that AA wanted to charge us $40 each for using an agent instead of booking online. When I called to explain that the only reason I was on the phone with an agent in the first place was because I couldn’t cancel my original Iberia flight online, they agreed to make a “one-time exception” and waive the fee. I guess that beats having miles disappear for days on end.

  8. @beachfan US-BKK via DXB for 100k on AS [2 A380 flights]… BKK-DOH on QR for 45k AA… AUH-JFK on EY for 90k AA… So it’s 235k total for 2 EK A380 F flights, a QR A380 F flight flight, and an EY A380 F flight with a stopover.

  9. I had to pay $175.00 [two cancelled award seats] to have my points put back in my account.

  10. Gary, I think you might be mistaken; AA Customer Relations is unreachable by phone, AAdvantage Customer Service, I believe still is.

  11. @JonNYC
    Jon I think you are likely right
    That’s what they told me today on the Plat line
    My apologies to AA if correct
    But while I am venting as I was earlier what on earth happened to the internet support desk
    What a bunch of losers that are clueless about anything to do with any online reservation’s
    On a full fare refundable ticket they refused to assist me other then to say cancel and rebook myself! Huh? Grrrr
    I booked with Virgin America who spoke English and gladly took my money on the ticket

  12. In a related question.. If you make a change to an AA award, with the sane routing, do the miles get redeposited and rededucted? I booked a EY F A380 from LHR-AUH back when I had a Citi AA and Barclay AviatorRed card with the combined 10% discount. I’ve since cancelled the cards. If I make any award changes do I owe more miles?

  13. Thanks for the tip Gary. I’ve had the same issue a couple times when canceling over the phone, and will just have to remind myself to always check that the miles are redeposited after online booking cancellations too!

  14. Npt sure how southwest is able to do it instantly and other airlines are not…it should not be that hard to set up in the system. Seems like it may be something they don’t fix on purpose for people that don’t track things well and just lose the miles.

  15. I wish they would post the record locator when redeeming/cancelling award flights. I’ve spent a significant amount of time on the phone with agents, many unwilling to figure out which flights weren’t credited back to my account. The agents have been upset I don’t know which flights weren’t refunded and didn’t like the answer that I had no way of knowing given the information provided by AA. It is a mess.

  16. Hi Gary; I have had a difficult time to book a F award on Eithad. Finally found seats through your advise after and got the seats on March 21st on hold. Ticketing was rejected for 40k each, the routing is MLE-DOH-AUH-LHR-MAD-GRX with less than 24 hour stops in each place. I had this same itinerary ticketed 3 years ago. I have been on the phone, countless hours since the 21st, some telling me that they will not even honor the 40k booking because the ticket was rejected, some telling me that it is not a valid direct routing and I have to fly on Qatar in business class instead of First Class on Eithad via London. Another agent was telling me that I can only keep going north to ARN (Stockholm, CPH, HEL), etc… Another agent was telling me that I have to end the trip in London. Finally their LHR office (Capetown) reservation center ticketed this itinerary, two hours later I got an updated email from the ORD (Chicago office) saying that I need to call them again. I am so sick and tired of this. I am begging to think that this is not even worth it. I was 3000 k miles short, I had 77k and I asked the agents that I have both Aviator card plus the Citi and I should get a %10 discount on miles and they still made me buy the 3k at $125.00 dollars. When I hung up with the LHR office, I got an e-ticket and an email saying that I was ticketed with a ticket number. A few hours later, I no longer saw the ticket number on my AA account and instead of saying it is ticketed it says it is on hold. What should I do? I really never ever want to fly American again. I have had so much drama with them and have never ever been compensated including lost luggage in more than 3 times. I am afraid to call them again. I really want to keep this ticket the way it is. I am planning to do a youtube Travel short clip and I really want to see Doha’s First Class lounge for my 50th birthday with my partner and see the Eithad’s as well on the way to New York. Plus there is no way that we can go the same night from London to GRX (Granada) so we must fly the next day via Madrid. The last agent in LHR who was much nicer than the nasty Us agents told me that there was so much documentation on this reservation that reminded her of a bible… The nasty US agent did not even wish me a happy birthday and after I mentioned it to her that she should be nicer and more polite instead of yelling at me that MLE (Male, Maldives) is in Africa.. I kept telling her that it is in the middle of Indian ocean and it should be only 40k in First Class. Although there were several notes in the reservation for them to honor the 40K miles before the mileage hike after March 22nd, she lied and told me that there are no notes. A superior Res agent in DFW authorized this to be ticketed finally the way it is and they took out a side trip to GVA, It was originally booked as
    MLE-DOH-AUH-LHR-GVA-MAD-GRX with less than 24 hours. However since it is ticketed now, are they obligated by any legal system to honor what they have ticketed? Can they cancel this they way they have? I called Qatar and they told me that they still see a ticket number? So, why on my AA account it says now, a pending reservation instead of being ticketed? It was ticketed in my account for only 4 hours and then the status changed from ticketed to a hold? What should I do? I am sick and tired of being on the phone with them and buying phone cards to call SYD and LHR.
    Why American Airlines people are so nasty and rude? Please help me.. as soon as you can. You can email me if you like or if anyone has an answer please email me. Thank you,

  17. I feel so much better now that lve read all the experiences on this site. Very similar to mine. I called spoke to an agent who appeared helpful! Transaction completed checked my reservation online. Showed ticket pending. Why? I purchased my additional miles. Called back seems that agent made an error l needed more miles because AA subtracted my bonus miles from the total. I didn’t know that was done & apparently neither did the agent. It was hellish after that! Problem still has not been resolved after an hour on the phone!

  18. Hi
    I had booked a hotel award redemption and want to change the dates on it. Advantage will not allow me to change nor will reissue the miles credit. Any suggestions on a recourse to this action? Seeing as it is 100,000 miles I would like to get them back or use them.

  19. Why do people book trips and DON’T allow at least 2 hours to transfer to the next plane? Airports are usually big with lots to do in them. Complaining that a flight change of 15 minutes caused you to miss your flight is just ridiculously poor planning!

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