OFFICIAL: Changes You Can Make to an American AAdvantage Award After March 22 — and How to Lock in Current Pricing for Future Trips

I’ve gotten several questions recently from readers wanting to know what changes they would be able to make to American AAdvantage awards after the award chart devaluation on March 22 without having to pay additional miles for their tickets.

I had a pretty good idea how this would work, but I went ahead and asked American. Spokesperson Laura Nedbal tells me,

We have advised our agents that voluntary changes to date/time only will be permitted without forcing new higher/lower award levels, and we’ll have more information once the new award levels are applicable. As long as the origin and destination remain the same, the date/time changes can be made.

I sought further clarification and learned:

  • You can change date and time without repricing the award, while keeping airlines and routing constant.

  • You can change routing without repricing the award, while keeping the airlines constant, with a few caveats. Basically you cannot break the fare. You cannot add a stopover. You’re going to have to stick with a legal routing for the primary carrier on the itinerary.

  • You cannot change award types, which means you can’t go from American only to flying partners. You can’t go from extra mileage award to saver award without a redeposit of miles and re-issue.

Examples of What You’ll Be Able to Do Without Increasing the Price of an Award Booked Before March 22

Let’s walk through some examples.

Let’s say you book an award Chicago – Los Angeles (American) – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) – Manila (Cathay Pacific). You can change that award to Chicago – San Francisco (American) – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) – Manila (Cathey Pacific)

In other words, it’s fine to change the routing so that you fly through a different connecting city. You aren’t changing the airlines.


Cathay Pacific First Class

Let’s say you were booked on that same Chicago – San Francisco (American) – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) – Manila (Cathay Pacific) ticket. You wanted to change to the Chicago – Hong Kong non-stop and drop the domestic connection on American. Again, that’s ok. Your origin and destination remains the same. And it’s still a oneworld partner award.

You can also add a connection going from the Chicago – Hong Kong non-stop to flying Chicago – San Francisco on American and connecting to the Cathay Pacific San Francisco – Hong Kong flight. I was told the routing can change, and so can the number of flights:

Origin/dest stays same and since all carriers are oneworld there would be no charge to change carriers. Provided again, the same inventory/award as ticketed is available for change.

All in all this is more generous than I expected.

Booking First Class Awards Now to Lock in Current Pricing, and Changing Later

The biggest increase in pricing starting March 22 is in American’s first class awards.

Here’s the changes in one-way pricing between the US and regions that are going up by the largest amounts:

As an Executive Platinum member I can cancel and redeposit without a fee anyway, so there’s little downside in booking awards where I’ll just change the date to something I’ll use. For instance if any Qantas or even American first class award space comes up Los Angeles – Sydney and return, I’ll book those and use those in the future. An award can be used for travel one year from original date of issue.

Without Executive Platinum status you’re risking a cancel and redeposit fee of $150 for the first passenger on a reservation and $25 for each additional passenger on the same booking.


Qantas Predeparture Champagne

Similarly I’ll try to book some Etihad First Apartment seats, just to have them at the lower price in case I need them. I’ll book as far into the future as I can and change dates when I need them.

But here’s what I want most: I want to book Cathay Pacific first class awards. The challenge is:

  • Cathay Pacific doesn’t release much first class award space in advance anymore. When it’s available, it’s last minute.

  • They fly from several US gateways (New York JFK, Newark which doesn’t offer first class, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco).

So how do I lock in Cathay first class? I can literally just find an award seat that’s open in business class and get American to issue it as a first class award by booking a connecting flight in first class. Hong Kong – Manila is almost always available as a first class award for multiple passengers and there’s generally a couple of flights a day to choose from with first class.

As long as there’s a first class segment on the one-way journey the award will price as first class. Then I can change my dates and pick different Cathay Pacific overwater flights later, when what i want opens up. That way I can fly at the current 67,500 mile one-way price. Basically, the approach is to ‘warehouse’ first class awards at the 67,500 mile price and use them for travel within a year of issuing the original ticket.

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. Plz clarify. If I book ord-hkg-Manila and hkg-Manila is available in 1st. So I ask them to book the whole thing in 1st and voluntarily downgrade the ord-hkg segment to business. (Since 1st is not available) when it’s-hkg dies open up in 1st can I go back up since that’s the award cabin I’m paying for??

  2. Sorry. You column makes no sense to me. If I book before the March date I still have to use the ticket within a year of purchase so there is no way I get to fly after the March deadline at the latest. What am I missing?

  3. So in the Cathay example, we are limited to destinations that have F-class service from HKG, yes? So in your Manila example, that’s where you plan on going?

    I guess alternatively you could drop the last segment and go somewhere else from HKG.

    This is still a pretty good deal, nice find.

  4. I want to take a trip with my wife on AA miles from NY (preferably JFK) to TLV within the next couple of years and want business or first. Would any of the above work for us as far as constantly changing when you go? Or am I misunderstanding all this. Thanks.

  5. I just got off the phone with “Ginger” at the AAdvantage Support Desk, who spoke with her supervisor and then told me that if I were to change only the date of travel on my already ticketed, first class (67,500 miles) award ticket to HKG on CX, I would be subject to additional miles if the number of miles required for that ticket was higher at the time the change.

    This seems to be the opposite of what you’re reporting. 🙁

  6. Despite “Ginger” Gary.. this may be an issue that if not DOCUMENTED somewhere by AA, we may be left high and dry with a quote from an AA spokesperson from your post. I have talked with several AA operators who are repeating their understanding that if we book by March 21 on a US-Asia route, with one segment in 1st (making the entire ticket price out at 1st in Awards) … then call back to change our biz or economy segments to 1st, if available – they are repeating we will be responsible for the difference in miles, per the new Award chart as of March 22. Since we are under pressure right now to make this redemption happen, is there anyway you can get a document from that AA spokesperson … and update your readers soon so we have something to use, instead of a quote? Thank you very much.

  7. So, Gary, why is it (sarcastically) “always great to listen to “Ginger” “? Is Ginger somebody that you know as an unreliable source at AAdvantage Gold customer service? If the agent’s name had been “William” instead of “Ginger” would it have more credence?

  8. Thanks, Gary, for this great post! However, I’m finding it confusing too. My wife and I are trying to go to fly SFO-HKG for the 1st part of our honeymoon in 2017. We just don’t know the exact dates yet and would like to book 1st-class tickets under the current redemption prices.

    -Am I correct in assuming that I can 1) Book right CX right now SFO-HKG-MNL (with HKG-MNL in 1st) for 67,500 for, say, mid-Oct. Then 2) When we know our honeymoon dates for sure, we can call back and change the date on the award for free. And 3) If 1st class availability opens up from SFO-HKG, we can call and they will upgrade us? That’s amazing, if so.

    -If no availability opens up in 1st, are we stuck with a 67,500-mile business or economy class ticket?

  9. For the drop segment situation, does the origin/destination need to remain the same based on pre or post deval chart?

    e.g. CMB-HKG-LAX and dropping CMB-HKG would change the region in the post deval chart since Sri Lanka is moved from Asia 2 to Middle East

  10. Hi Gary,

    Looking for your insight on this situation regarding nailing down first class seats on CX.

    I have two first class seats on hold HKG-LAX-JFK, but the date of this award is a few weeks before we’d actually need to travel. We have a 2-3 day range in which we’d need to fly back, but there’s no first class seats open then.

    I know that if I book business class seats now and first class seats open up, I can upgrade to first with no fees, although I only have enough miles for first at the pre-devaluation prices. But my question is: if I book the two first class seats now to lock in the old rate, when the day of departure comes, will I be able to voluntarily downgrade my award to J if no first class availability opens up? I’m assuming the likelihood of getting 2 seats on the same flight is greater in J than F, even last minute. I know you can voluntarily downgrade on an award at the time of ticketing, but if I do it last minute, will it cause a reprice and change fee post-devaluation?

    Thank you!

  11. Re. Dates and time changes that won’t be recalculated…e.g. Stay the same rate….besides the miles used, does that apply to dates at the saver rate as well or does that fall into the new ‘calendar scheme’? In other words, if my booked trip falls into the saver dates now, but my rebooked trip is in a time period that USED to be saver but has changes/move into standard, do they recalucate to standard or continue to honor the old saver dates?

  12. Hi Gary,

    You mentioned “keeping the airline constant” twice, so I’d like to find out what it means. If I booked SFO-HKG (Cathay), can I later change it to SFO-NRT(JAL)-HKG(Cathay), assuming everything else is within rule limit? Note that I added JAL which was not in my reservation.

    Thanks.

  13. Hi Gary,

    Just wondering if you can confirm this again…Because I called aadvantage 3 times today to ask about the change and was told that any change will trigger a re-price regardless. The last time the agent actually put me on hold and asked someone else, she then confirm to me that any change will trigger a re-price.

    Does it matter that I didn’t provide any existing booking information to them when I asked?

  14. Similarly, I’m seeing reports of people being told that a change from one co-terminal to another at a connecting point (i.e., a routing change with no change to airlines, origin or destination) also triggers a re-pricing. I’m wondering if these are just uninformed agents, or an about-face in the policy Ms. Nedbal quoted to you.

  15. Gary,

    AA agents are not honoring the simplest date change without repricing to new levels. I have a Japan F award ticketed well before March 22, trying to change to a week later on same routing, cabin and airline. The agent claims she must collect the additional miles for the new price. On hold for supervisor. FT showing similar reports.

    Would be a service to the community (and me!) if you could reach out to the spokesperson and ask them to get some enforcement of their promises at the agent level.

  16. @Jig give me the itinerary you have and the one you want. Some of the reports I’ve seen are people trying to change to things that shouldn’t be allowed, others of course there are issues with agent understanding. Award chart changes aside and with every airline these things are complicated and can require escalation and hanging up calling back.

  17. Got it changed without additional charge after the agent talked to the supervisor, despite the agent’s repeated insistence on upcharging before that. Supervisor or HUCA, I guess.

    It was 2 reservations, outbound and inbound, JAL F awards JFK-NRT and NRT-JFK for 2 people. Found seats on new dates inside 1 year after original ticketing (May 2015) on same routing and even same flight numbers, with the inbound only having business class for now.

    New dates outbound award has now ticketed, with the inbound award showing On Request status and a weird titular message I hadn’t seen before “Please call to book your trip Contact Reservations, or call your travel agent to ticket and pay for your trip”. Outbound award showed that message and then ticketed, so should be ok. Agents say all fine.

    All agents obviously don’t have the full rules around this transition yet.

    A follow up question: Do you know if agents have been able to take seats from a held award reservation, and change a previously ticketed reservation to the separately held award’s dates?

  18. Gary, can you confirm with your contact whether there is now a limit of one voluntary change on a pre-devaluation award? I was told this today on a simple one way CX F HKG-LAX award issued 3/21. The change was to a different day and flight.

  19. Gary – that’s always been my understanding, too. Did the agent by chance make the change incorrectly? I received a confirmation email with a receipt section indicating “Exchange.” I can’t check at the moment if the ticket number has changed.

  20. Gary, it is being discussed on FlyerTalk that this is something new as of today. Only one voluntary change on awards issued before March 22. This is the opposite of what Laura Nedball told you. if so, this is not fair for AA to suddenly change the rules without notification. I have made one date change on award tickets, trying to get the travel dates closer to when I prefer to travel. If I cannot make another date change then I cannot use the award and take my trip as my return dates are unrealistic. Can you check back with Laura about this?

  21. Thanks, Gary – I hope that is the case. There are also reports of others being told the same on the FT Wiki (FAQ: Award changes 22 Mar 2016 – incl. which incur new mile amt, redeposit, which not).

  22. A follow up to my comment March 28. Today I called AA to make a second date change to an award ticketed prior to March 22. The change was made with no problem at all. I asked the agent about repricing and she said “because you booked under the rules of the old plan there is no repricing for a date change”. This makes me wonder if there is a new set of rules for awards issued post March 22, 2016.

  23. Gary — just FYI. This is not being honored. I am in HKG. I have a MNL-HKG-JFK F award (MNL-HKG in F, HKG-JFK in J in February.) F has opened up for this Sunday. However, when I call AA, both the rep and supervisor say that changing the country of origin triggers the higher award level (from 67.5l to 110k.) Even though I explain the drop segment rule and that both MNL and HKG are in the same Asia 1 region. What to do? If you could provide any insight I would appreciate it.

  24. I would think it is because you are dropping the FIRST segment, not the last. After all, if you were flying the other way, JFK-HGK-MNL and never boarded the Manila flight, what could they do?

    Worst case scenario: Look for a cheap flight HKG-MNL. cebupacificair.com often has cheap prices, often under $100, but with Lunar New Year approaching, maybe more expensive.

    FYI I just changed, yesterday, C class tickets LAX-HKG-CEB, booked last march, with no issues.

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