Via Lucky, channelling the Traveling Better forum’s Jon NYC, it appears that American is eliminating their ‘close-in’ award booking fees for elite members.
United eliminated these fees for everyone last summer (after introducing them in the fall of 2006.
Delta got rid of these fees for everyone, but they’re apparently considering bringing them back, at least for non-elites and folks who don’t hold a Skymiles co-branded American Express card and who aren’t booking with a Saturday night stay.
The driver for eliminating these fees is that accounting rule changes don’t let the programs recognize revenue from sale of miles until those miles are redeemed (or expired). So the programs really want to see members booking awards when ‘low’ priced seats are available, seats that are very inexpensive to the program. And the close-in booking fees are huge discouragements to booking those awards.
The reason for the fees, though, is precisely to discourage the use of awards for last minue bookings, so that members don’t book cheap seats on miles instead of paying cash. A bit of a tug-o-war between the programs and revenue management.
Like Lucky, I’m surprised that this benefit is being extended only to elite members. But I imagine it’s a compromise in that tug-o-war.
Meanwhile, American is also apparently matching a long-standing United benefit for its top tier elites, AAdvantage Executive Platinum members will be exempt from fees for award ticket cancellation and mileage redeposit fees, and from fees on changes to award tickets, and this will apply to awards issued from an Executive Platinum’s account (as opposed to awards issued in the name of the Executive Platinum member). So if an Executive Platinum redeems for a family member they can make fee-free changes. If a family member (who is not Executive Platinum) redeems for an Executive Platinum, change fees would apply. This matches United’s rules for the benefit.