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.