American AAdvantage Pre-Devaluation Awards Are Coming Up on Travel Deadlines, and Members are Frustrated Making Changes

American’s award chart prices increased quite a bit last March. Prices went up astronomically for international first class awards to many destinations.

As a result, many people booked award trips in first class far off into the future, figuring that they could change the dates later. The idea was to lock in the price by issuing tickets prior to March 22 of last year, and then change the award as-needed.

American made its change rules clear but over the past year members have tilted at windmills trying to get those rules honored for anymore more than just a simple date change.

For instance, American has a “drop a segment rule.” You can drop a segment as long as your origin/destination remain in the same region.

  • If you were flying Washington DC – New York JFK – Hong Kong you could drop the Washington DC – New York JFK segment.

  • This combines with a rule that you can change your routing as long as the origin and destination (and award type) remain the same. It’s possible to change Washington DC – Chicago – Hong Kong to Washington DC – Los Angeles – Hong Kong.

  • Taking the two together, you could change Washington DC – Chicago – Hong Kong to Washington DC – Los Angeles – Hong Kong and then drop the Washington DC – Los Angeles segment — in effect changing your city of origin from DC to Los Angeles. All kosher under American’s rules, which they happily confirmed.

Yet plenty of members have had problems getting these rules honored.

Here’s the Drop a Segment Rule from JonNYC at TravelingBetter:

(click to enlarge)

JonNYC also reports that the rule was updated to specifically state that it applied to pre-devaluation awards.

NOTE – This Dropping OWFA Segments also applies to awards that expired 22MAR16.

Unfortunately there is some confusion because another document he unearthed claims that any change to origin or destination requires a change of award and miles.

If the Origin, Destination or booking inventory changes, (awards issued with voluntary downgrades are only exception to booking inventory) the only option is Reinstate/Claim.

This statement that the only exception being voluntary downgrades (e.g. a flight segment on a business class award was booked in coach, and business opens up later) is not true because it fails to account for the ‘drop a segment’ rule. But it appears definitive. And agents who are familiar with or find this document in their research deny members the ability to drop a segment as promised.

Pre-devaluation awards won’t be an issue much longer, anything issued in mid-March 2016 will require travel by mid-March 2017. However there are plenty of people with awards outstanding looking to make changes based on the policies in place (and shared by American) at the time they booked their tickets, and they’re having to hang up, call back many times to have those rules honored.

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. I don’t understand I had several awards and I made many changes many times and never had a single issue ever. I always made the routing changes without charging me the extra miles

  2. I had a great trouble here. I issued the ticket with a promise I could change it adding 1 year to the date of travel.
    AA hasn’t honored it and I canceled paying the fees.
    Really upset!

  3. Ha, I’ve had issues with date changes as well (no change to origin/destination or even routing) on one of my own awards (tried 4x) as well as been told on numerous clients that any/all changes require new pricing. So, maybe things are allowed but in my experience 95% of agents don’t care.

  4. I don’t know how anyone is having a hard time. I have had date changing, routing changes ( same O and D ) and never been challenged once in over 20 calls.

  5. So are you saying that the ability to drop a segment is no longer permissible for Awards booked today?

    Are there any other changes to the award change policy for Awards book today versus Awards booked pre-devaluation?

  6. I booked MLE-AUH-JFK-AUS all in EY F with the exception of MLE-AUH, which was in J.

    EY recently upgraded the MLE-AUH to include F seats, and when availability opened up, I could not get a single agent to upgrade the segment.

    Not only did they want me to pay the additional miles, the Australian agents insisted I had to pay $175. One agent went as far as writing notes on my reservation, and I would hit a well every time I tried HUCA.

    I finally called AA domestically, and requested a supervisor. I explained him the situation, and he was very understanding. I do not know what magic he pulled, but he was able to request the EY F seats even though the US call center could not see those seats in inventory.

    I must have spent at least 3 hours on the phone fighting Australia/New Zealand.

  7. I had difficulties with this back in Nov. It took 4 calls, averaging 1 hour each, to get my flight re-ticketed. The change was made, but it wouldn’t re-ticket without more miles. In the end, the EP desk dumped a bunch of “customer service bonus” miles into my account and the flights were re-ticketed at the higher level. Glad it worked out, but was very time consuming and disappointing.

  8. Count me in as having issues dropping segment. Two agents refused saying that the pricing team says they need to collect more miles. No changes to O/D allowed. Looks like we’re going to Manila. Changes from Biz to First caused additional taxes upwards of $50 per ticket. Told it was a new Hong Kong tax that I am required to pay. No issue changing routing through JFK to ORD.

  9. So, what about those of us who did call multiple times, and were refused. Forget the fact that we wasted hours on the phone. I’m really livid about this. I was in Hong Kong, with F availability, and was denied three times by AA agents on this. I have to be honest, more than a “misunderstanding,” the similarity between scripts they used made it seem much more like an intentional avoidance of following the rules by revenue management. I think for people who have documented cases where they were refused, AA should refund the miles, with no fee, and compensate additional miles to be able to book the same award at the current award levels.

  10. What rules? Nothing you post here is part of the contract with consumers!

    You have no rights to demand any of what you state in this post. And to paraphrase the AAdvantage terms and conditions, AA can do what it want, when it wants, without telling you. Or, in legalese, says “American Airlines may, in its discretion, change the AAdvantage program rules, regulations, travel awards and special offers at any time with or without notice.” But you, as a consumer, have a long list of things you must comply with.

    This is deregulation.

    And please stop spreading fake news or alternative facts. AA doesn’t have to drop segments or anything else.

  11. @Jerry AA’s terms only disclaim legal liability in suits, something the Supreme Court already did for them in Northwest v Ginsberg, however that doesn’t make them immune from DOT complaints [and DOT has said they’ve failed in the past to pursue valid claims against frequent flyer programs for unfair and deceptive practices].

  12. I’m an EXP that had BWI-JFK-LAX-SYD-AKL and couldn’t drop SYD-AKL because they said that segment was operated by a partner. Didn’t really care was just worried about in irrop. We walked off at SYD.

  13. I got lucky. I had a 3/22/16 issued ticket in Business from MIA to GIG on TAM. I never ended up getting a Brazilian visa as I was ambivalent about going to Rio. In the meantime, there was a schedule change. I decided I’d rather go to Argentina instead of Brazil. When AA called about the schedule change, I asked if I could go to EZE instead of GIG. The agent agreed and reissued my ticket.

  14. I had a ticket from IAD-NRT originally booked in First via Dallas. They changed the plane to the new upgraded business only cabin, both directions. I had no problem with that change, but when I called to get the mileage difference back. To start, I had to argue with the agent that I as no longer in First Class. She insisted I was. That took about 20 minutes before she finally realized that the plane didn’t even have a First Class cabin. Then they told me they would only refund the difference between the old first rewards cost, 62,500, and the new business price, 60,000. I argued and argued that it made no sense that they “downgraded” me to business class and I could have booked the same product originally for 50k miles. They basically told me I should be happy to get any miles back at all.

    Then they randomly re-booked me on the old product, back in First, via LAX, which meant more time in domestic First cabin, which wasn’t preferred. I called back to ask why they switched me without asking, they actually gave the excuse that my original flight was no longer available. I was dumbfounded. I asked to be placed back on my originally itinerary and they said, you guessed it, award seats are no longer available on that flight. I, of course, complained that I booked those flights. She talked to her manager and said no exception for this award ticket to be moved back to original itinerary. In the end, I cancelled the trip, due to other circumstances, and a different agent was nice enough to waive the fee due to them changing my flights on me.

    AA are pulling some tricks with first, not making good on original mileage award costs when they downgrade people, and then switching passengers off their new business product to old first without asking and not honoring the passengers original ticketed itinerary. I have about 500k AA miles that I just want to burn somehow and move on. Very disappointed in AA’s service.

  15. So, does anything change with coach frequent flyer availability or price? Perhaps more availability after March 22?

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