American Airlines Award Booking British Airways

Taking AAdvantage of American’s Award Change Policies

American's new first class cabin
American’s new first class cabin

American Airlines is ripe for a devaluation, but in the meanwhile they remain one of the most lucrative award programs out there. I recently was helping a client get back from London to the United States using AAdvantage miles to fly British Airways first class. We finished ticketing but had to use British Airways which charges a ton of fuel surcharges – the taxes and fees were over $2500 for a family of four. Today, some space opened up on American Airlines. My client would still have to pay London taxes but stood to stand almost $1300 in fuel surcharges.

On an American Airlines award ticket you can switch between these two itineraries for no charge
On an American Airlines award ticket you can switch between these two itineraries for no charge (gcmap.com)

That’s it. Which means, anything leftover will not be charged a fee. This includes:

– Changing date of travel (as long as origin/destination remain the same)

– Changing routing (as long as you don’t change the “type” of award)

– Changing to a higher class of service (this should trigger #3 but the fee is waived if you are going UP in class)

These “free” changes are pretty awesome. What that means is you can lock in a ticket and if later you find a better routing on the same dates you can change them for free. Or, if you decide to come home early or stay longer, you can change that for free too. Or, in my client’s case, if you find a ticket where you can save $1300, you can change to those flights and get your money refunded to you. You just need to complete travel within a year of ticketing.

Jess and I used this on our trip to Bora Bora – we ultimately decided we wanted to leave Boston a day later (because M was staying home) and once I found the flights we switched over at no charge. This is an amazing policy and one that you can really use to your advantage. You don’t have to wait for schedule changes or anything like that, if you see a better flight and/or routing, call up AA and change your award flights.

AirTahitiNuiPlane

Flying to Tahiti is a good example. The best practice in my opinion is to book 11 months out – as soon as the schedule opens up. You likely will need a connecting flight to LAX. This far out, AA might not release domestic first class awards – just book economy for now and “upgrade” if/when space becomes available.

That’s just one of countless ways you could use these policies to your advantage: hopefully this is just a reminder for most of you. I honestly forget about this policy from time to time. Now is a great time to lock in AA awards – the impending devaluation + all those 100,000 mile bonuses people signed up for + these generous change policies create a perfect storm for award bookings.

If you have any questions about specific situations or the ins and outs of the policy I’d be happy to answer them in the comments or via e-mail at asthejoeflies@gmail.com. Have at it!

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Taking AAdvantage of American’s Award Change Policies

    1. Hey Katie, you sure can. That’s technically considered a Oneworld award, once I tried to change from US airways flights only to American only flights and they tried to change me. But I called again and they did it for free so who knows. If you go US => US there should be no charge for sure.

  1. I’m a little confused. So long as the changes include upgrading to business or first there is no change fee? What if the ticket was already business or first as seemed to be the case the the example? I am about to book some flights with AA miles and expect to need to change the return date and am hoping to understand and take advantage of this. Thanks so so much!

    1. I agree it’s a bit confusing. Let me give simplifying it a go.

      You will not be charged a fee if:

      1) Your origin and destination remain the same
      2) Your type of ticket (class of service and/or Oneworld Partner/AA only) remains the same

      Exception: If you change class of service to a higher class of service (e.g. coach to business or business to first) they waive the fee. It seems possible that you could even change origin/destination and go up in service and get the fee waived, but I don’t have experience with that personally.

      But it sounds like in your situation you will be fine – I’ve changed my dates on award tickets multiple times without penalty (keeping origin/destination the same). The only caveat is the new date of travel cannot be greater than one year after when you ticketed. Feel free to ask more questions if this isn’t clear!

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