American’s New Award Change Fees Have Been Pushed Off Until July 1

Update: American’s new award change and reinstatement fees have been pushed off from June 1 to July 1. (HT: Andrew B.)


Every time American AAdvantage announces a change I’ve got Roger Daltrey singing in my head, “you’d better you better you bet.”

When I say I love you, you scream “You better!”

This week American extended elite status for a year after United, Delta, and Alaska Airlines had done the same. They did get creative to encourage credit card spending by counting spend on statements posting May through December towards lifetime elite status.

But there was also something buried in the details that hits AAdvantage members with new change fees on awards they didn’t pay before, too. When it comes to loyalty and American Airlines, it seems there’s always a catch.

New Fees For Award Changes That Used To Be Free

American AAdvantage change and redeposit fees are $150 (for the first passenger, $25 each additional passenger changed at the same time). These fees are waived for American’s Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members. But there are also a bunch of changes that can be made by everyone, for free. That’s going away June 1 July 1.

Starting with tickets issued June 1, 2020 July 1, 2020 onward members will receive free changes if made at least 60 days in advance. For awards changed or redeposited less than 60 days prior to departure, fees will be based on elite status.

  • General member: $125 seven to 60 days in advance ($150 within 7 days)
  • Gold: $100 seven to 60 days in advance ($125 within 7 days)
  • Platinum: $75 seven to 60 days in advance ($100 within 7 days)
  • Platinum Pro: $50 seven to 60 days in advance ($75 within 7 days)

Everyone gets free changes made two months or more in advance, but American will now charge for many things that used to be free – changes that often need to be made to improve an itinerary because a member has ‘settled’ for ‘what was available’ at the time they booked.

  • Change to date and time If you wanted to extend your trip, or get the dates you originally wanted that weren’t available.. or avoid having to leave at 6 a.m… or perhaps all American was offering you was an 18 hour connection but something opened up that was more reasonable, you could change at no charge.

  • Dropping a segment as long as origin and destination remain in the same region. American would let you drop connecting flights, so the common belief about not changing origin or destination wasn’t actually true – you had to keep your starting and ending regions the same but if you had:

    • Washington National – Chicago – Hong Kong – Manila, you could change it to
    • Washington National – Chicago – Hong Kong, Chicago – Hong Kong – Manila, or just Chicago – Hong Kong at no charge.

  • Change routing It was no fee to change where you’re connecting, including reducing the number of stops you make. If connecting award space was all that was available, and non-stop opened up later, American wouldn’t charge you to grab it.

  • Change airline You could switch from one oneworld airline to another such as between Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, or Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines.

Award tickets were viewed as rewards for your loyalty when AAdvantage change fee policies were written, and American wouldn’t penalize you because the airline didn’t have availability for the trip you were trying to book. If you took all that was offered, and worked to improve it later, you wouldn’t be charged.

That no longer holds. Every change is charged and fees will be charged per person without a discount. Currently a mileage redeposit for a family of five traveling together would be $250 ($150 + ($25 x 4)). Going forward it can be as much as $750, if made within a week of travel.

Moreover, it’s often close to departure that award space opens up. If you wanted to get a trip booked, and eliminate that 12 hour connection when space finally becomes available four days to departure, again it would cost that family of five $750 – instead of $0.

If you make changes more than 60 days out you come out ahead. If you are just one person traveling solo you might come out ahead – it depends on whether the change you make would have been charged for before. However in most cases it seems like this is a big new cost imposition on members, making miles less flexible than before.

American Takes Away Benefits And Expects Us To Love Them

American said that the new change fees for award travel were part of “recognizing the loyalty of AAdvantage members.” When we show them loyalty, tell them we love them, they tell us, “you better, you bet.”

We may not love them the way we once did, and American is ok with that. Here’s Daltrey,

I don’t really mind how much you love me
A little is alright

While Daltrey sang “You Better You Bet” it’s actually Pete Townsend who wrote it. American will soon need their miles to entice travelers back on board, I’d actually expect the airline to be singing Townsend’s “Let My Love Open The Door.”

Release yourself from misery
There’s only one thing gonna set you free
That’s my love

It was easy for airlines to cut, cut, cut their loyalty programs when times were good for them. They didn’t need to spend money filling empty seats because there were very few empty seats. And with industry consolidation and low fuel prices airlines were in a much stronger bargaining position with their credit card partners, so that credit card revenue growth dwarfed losses from chasing away passengers (which American’s own data shows they did).

But between the new Oasis domestic product they continue to roll out (removing seat back video screens) and new AAdvantage change fees, they’re acting more like a teenage wasteland, and members keep saying they won’t get fooled again.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I really thought you were going with “We won’t get fooled again”, but like this too.

  2. Let’s face it: AAdvantage is the ONLY ONE of the major FF program that took away one of the significant benefits during the COVID-19 crisis. That tells a lot.

  3. @ Brutus. Doesn’t Doug Parker have blue eyes? I thought he had brown eyes (ask a flight attendant). However, after a bowel movement to help remove fecal waste from a human body, it may be possible to notice a change in eye color from brown to blue.

  4. So I guess it is best to book an award itinerary you want before 6/1 for 2 or more so you can have the freedom to change it until the one year ticket validity runs out under the old rules or cancel and redeposit for the lower fees.

  5. Read DL and UA fine print. . .they all have the same policies, just some are more visible than others.

  6. Nothing inspires loyalty like hosing your customers in tough times. Are these people really that out of touch?

  7. Spoke with 4 AA agents yesterday, no one seems to understand the new award program, I wanted clarification on when to book a ticket for Nov, before or after June 1.to get the new award program to be able to cancel 60 days ahead without fees. Still dont know!

  8. @sunviking – So you’re saying that if Doug Parker ever had an original idea it would die of loneliness.

  9. These new fees are tone deaf, but AA really does have (perhaps inadvertently…) one competitive advantage when trying to lure customers back after the Chinese Coronavirus: fixed-price award charts. If they were smart they would use their excess inventory to breathe life back into their MileSAAver awards and highlight how much Delta and United have devalued their programs with dynamic award pricing (“always up and never down!”).

  10. We don’t book awards since we fly paid for status so “I’ll pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday.”

    Cheers.

  11. @Aerowhat

    While AA has a published award chart they, unfortunately, often price awards above the published rates.

    Case in point, LAX to Honolulu around Thanksgiving 2020 they are asking 180k round trip for COACH (90k each way). Those rates are not published anywhere on any award chart, so they are already dynamically pricing. This was the same rate they were asking last year.

    They are now offering a “Web Special” award of 75k R/T (only because they are now afraid flying will be reduced due to CV) but you can see the regular award rate is still 180k R/T. That is not published anywhere in their award charts.

  12. Yes, Tom, tickets booked by May 31 are under the old rules. DJ is right; the only AAdvantages of the new rules are that the new 60-day rule will allow no-fee destination changes & redeposits, and the fee for solo traveler will be $25 less.
    So Msureen, (Say, are you a Maureen and an MSU alumna?) if you know WHERE you want to go but are unsure WHEN, book under the old rules. If the WHERE might change, wait till June 1.

  13. @DTG The Web Special fares were in existence before Covid hit. I have a first class ticket to HKG for 61,000 miles. It ended up being canceled (because it was for September through LAX and AA shut down LAX to HKG until late October). I was able to rebook for November through Dallas for same number of miles.

  14. So so many great Who lyrics for this…

    Here’s another

    “Out here in the fields
    I fight for my meals
    I get my back into my living
    I don’t need to fight
    To prove I’m right
    I don’t need to be forgiven”

  15. God people with whine about anything. Overall this has more flexibility on redepositing miles outside 60 days (or making changes then) at no cost. Also, redeposit fees drop for elite members.

    I’m sure there are many that booked an award ticket and played around with the flights, routing, etc near departure time. Maybe I’m just not that ADD but, as someone with around 8 million miles (including 3 million on AA) and have been using awards for well over 30 years. I typically book the flights and dates I want and then show up. Frankly can’t remember last time I changed a ticket a couple of days before departure. If the “cheap” ticket wasn’t available when I wanted to fly or had too many connections I just bought a ticket. Evil 1%er here so spending a few hundred on a ticket is a rounding error and I gladly do that if the flights I want aren’t available at a price that makes sense based on award point valuation.

    Bottom line is many of you got used to “gaming” the system and now can’t – quit your whining. If you hate AA PLEASE DON’T FLY THEM!!!!

  16. Ah yes, re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Doug, I had 20 years execplat before you showed up, and hosed us all, sending me to greener pastures.

    Good luck with the MS excel jockeying. I’ve been on SWA for some time now, and from the news that I read today, it appears that you have too.

    ouch.

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