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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Have at it!