It’s Still Possible to Ask American AAdvantage for Award Space That Doesn’t Show As Available

Several programs make expanded award availability possible for their top tier elite members. Usually that means being logged into the program’s website, if you have the relevant status, in order to see the extra availability. With American AAdvantage, you have to call.

But that’s not the point of this post. American — alone amongst airlines that I’m aware of — has had a process by which you could actually ask for seats to be made available even if there wasn’t any award space open on them.

It’s been reported that this option has been eliminated, but it has not been.

  • To complete an itinerary. If you have more than half of an itinerary complete with award seats, you could ask for a missing segment or segments. Usually this would mean you have an international award, with the international segments, and you might just be missing a flight from your home airport to the international gateway. For instance you might have New York JFK – Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific available, but need Washington National – New York JFK which isn’t showing up with award inventory.
  • To complete a party. You have an award itinerary put together, there’s just one seat and you need two or there’s just two seats and you need three. So you ask for the extra seat so that there are enough for your traveling party.

American wouldn’t automatically give these to you. But an agent could make a request, and there’s an automated system that would respond to this request based on several factors like seat availability on the flight you’re asking for, and a score related to your value as a customer (I had a successful ‘to complete an itinerary’ request done several years ago when I was just a lifetime Gold with no paid travel in a number of years on the airline).

And if the system turned you down, an appeal could be sent to revenue management asking them to release the seats.

The process has gotten much tighter over the last couple of years. Usually requests would be turned down, except at the very last minute. But the process did exist and it benefited many members. Plus it was an undocumented benefit that helped make the AAdvantage program special and friendly compared to other airlines.

A month ago it appeared as though this process to request space had been eliminated, in an unannounced change along with the other changes to the AAdvantage program on April 8.

And American even officially confirmed to me that this change had taken place.

There’s a Flyertalk Wiki that says this as well.

As of 8 April 2014, AA is no longer permitting telephone agents make requests for award inventory to be released. This used to be an undocumented benefit for EXPs and was a request to Revenue Management via the QMAX system.

Contrary to this statement, the benefit of asking for seats to be released wasn’t limited to “Executive Platinum” (100,000 mile members) and wasn’t initially a request to revenue management per se but to an automated system and only then if unsuccessful to revenue management.

But the belief was clearly that the possibility to ask for award seats to be released had gone away. Lots of American AAdvantage telephone agents believed they could no longer do it.

That turns out to be incorrect, and it is still possible to make these requests.

JonNYC posted current documentation on the Traveling Better website showing it was still possible.

And so I went back to American, who had confirmed the end of this option. After some research, here is what they said.

It seems that you’ve uncovered some inconsistencies between our system changes and the internal messaging of these changes. It is accurate that we still do enable agents to queue request “To Complete a Party” and “To Complete an Itinerary.” We are following up across the company to ensure consistent understanding, communication and application of these changes going forward.

What I’m now trying to suss out is — if these requests are still possible, then what has changed?

Because American previously — in response to a specific question about QMAX, ‘to complete a party’ and ‘to complete an itinerary’ requests, said:

Processes have been revamped to generate the correct availability of MileSAAver redemption seats automatically. As a result, the time-consuming manual workaround has been discontinued.

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.

Perhaps someone in the know regarding the internal workings will share this inside baseball detail.

But the key point is that the ability to request segments to complete an itinerary or a party still exists, even if the likelihood of the request being successful is greatly diminished compared to the past.

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, 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. As usual, a solid post with helpful information. Also par for the course, a breathtaking number of words used to get to the point. Wow.

  2. Gary, just to be clear, these requests can only be made for AA/AA rewards, right? Not a BA/US/etc award on AA metal?

  3. @ George- you must have a glitch in your mouse, that automatically clicks the “Read More…” link, otherwise you wouldn’t have to read the whole post- the summary on the first had all the information you needed. Better get your PC serviced.

  4. Yes, it is possible!

    This blog post is on point as I personally have experienced AA opening award seats (business or First) for us (family of 4) traveling trans-pacific twice since March, and I am not even an AA elite.

  5. Do you have to have the first segment booked? I found 1 seat available for a F award that I plan on flying with my SO. The flight is months or so in the future on a codeshare airline. How should I go about trying this?


  6. @J the first segment does not have to be booked. But the best shot of getting space opened is going to be close to departure. If the majority of your trip is booked ask the agent if it’s possible to get the connecting flight you want (or even request a series of possible connecting flights) to complete the itinerary. If the agent won’t / can’t / doesn’t know how, hang up and call back.

  7. @Colleen – you ever hear anything on your question? I would be curious to know as well. I currently have 3 tickets booked on AA Metal with BA avios, but need 1 more.

  8. I too am in the same boat as Colleen. I have 4 seats on hold using AA miles on HA flight (22.5k each). However, I want to use BA Avios instead and do it for 12.5k each. I see on there are 3 seats avail for an AA metal flight. I’d prefer to save the miles…

    What if I booked the 3 on BA? Would AA have any sympathy to open up that 4th seat on it’s own reservation after the fact?

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