Video Sunday Reader Question: Do I Have To Pay A Change Fee To Cancel One Leg Of An American Airlines Award?

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TPG reader George is planning an award trip on Cathay Pacific using American miles, but his flight plans might change, so he asks:

“I am planning a one way first class award trip on Cathay using American AAdvantage miles. I am based in Orlando and from my research, expect to be routed through Chicago O’Hare (ORD) or New York JFK.  However, there is a chance I may be in New York at the time I start the trip.

My question is, if I route my trip MCO-JFK-HKG and I later simply want to eliminate the MCO-JFK leg, will I have to pay a change fee? Also, is the change fee the same for one way awards?”

Per AA.com, when making changes to the origin or destination of an award ticket, a $150 USD charge will apply for a confirmed change to an eligible origin or destination on a MileSAAver award (waived for AAdvantage Executive Platinum members using miles from their account). Changes to an eligible origin or destination on AAnytime awards are allowed at no charge.

One of the great things about American is its award ticket fee structure. Unlike other airlines like Delta and US Airways, which will charge you $150 every time you want to make a simple change to your award ticket, American lets you change the dates as much as you want as long as the origin and destination remain the same. However, when you change the origin or destination, you’re assessed a $150 change fee – unless your Executive Platinum like me, which is one of the reasons I fly so much to keep up my status on the airline.

It seems counter-intuitive that the airline would actually charge you more for flying less, but that’s how it works. I might suggest a couple things to get around that $150 fee, though.

First, you could wait until your plans firm up and you know your departure city and make the booking then.

Second, you could just book your ticket from JFK-Hong Kong and try to find a cheap flight up from Orlando to JFK before your Hong Kong departure – you might be able to find a ticket that’s less than the $150 change fee.

Finally, if you’ve already booked your ticket and don’t want to make any changes until you’re sure, there’s not really any further penalty for waiting. You’re not going to be charged more than the $150 change fee, so you might as well wait until the last minute to see if there are any operational or weather-related issues that change the flight schedule you have booked and then that way you can call the airline and ask just to have your award issued for the JFK-HKG segment and shouldn’t be penalized for it.

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