What Award Space Can You ASK American to Release That Doesn’t Show Available?

Over the weekend I explained that it’s possible to ask American Airlines to release seats as award space under certain circumstances.

If you have built most of an award itinerary, but you need space on an American flight to complete it, you can ask for that seat to be released even if it isn’t showing award space (“to complete an itinerary”).

If you have found space for part of your traveling party, but need one more seat than is showing as available, you can ask for that seat (“to complete a party”).

Factors like how full the flight is and your perceived value as a customer affect whether American will approve these requests. They are responded to automatically and near-instantaneously by a system called “QMAX.”

In recent times there have been fewer approved requests, and those that are granted are usually done so close to departure. But the process remains.

In fact, it remains despite American confirming that the process had been eliminated.

Agents weren’t clearly told what had changed, had been telling customers these requests were no longer possible, and American even confirmed they were no longer possible.

Something did change, however, but what?

I speculated,

My guess is that the old process, that was more or less moot a long time ago, of ‘desiring’ (DS) several specific segments and seeing what comes back confirmed is no longer possible. But I’m not sure how meaningful that elimination is, as the QMAX process largely replaced it anyway.

An American spokesperson finally confirmed the change:

In the past, an agent could queue any request for unavailable AAdvantage space for review (QMAX) instead of only requests to complete a party or to complete an itinerary.

So there’s now a limitation on requests to these specific situations… which is how I generally thought things were already operating, but apparently there was greater latitude previously.


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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  1. What can be done with United award space with United flights only. What is the policy here? I am booked SFO-LHR-FRA-BKK. There was a flight schedule change and I requested the agent to give me SFO-FRA-BKK. Plenty of seats are available but she said there is no award space so it is a no no.

  2. Gary, as an EXP, what additional award space am I able to request? I’ve requested space to be opened up a couple of times domestically (nyc to vas in caoch or business) and internationally (nyc to lhr in business) but never had any luck. Was curious if you had any insight. thanks

  3. @Vik there’s extra space that you can get when you call (visible to agents), doesn’t need to be requested. That’s EXP extra space. Requesting space is now to complete a party/to complete an itinerary only and usually not successful except last minute. Your value as a customer plays into the algorithm.

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