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

by on January 6, 2013 · 12 comments

in American, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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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, 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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  • Deborah McKee

    I agree with TPG. Book from NY. But not just to avoid the fee. The bigger issue other than the $150 fee is that if you change your routing (any piece, not just origin or destination) you have to CANCEL and start all over. Which means award availability needs to be there for all of your flights including the long haul. Just because you cancel an award ticket does not automatically mean those seats will go back into award inventory, they probably won’t. The likelihood of there being a first class award seat available last minute is very small….or you may have to rule bust and spend more mile for what you had already.

  • Jackie

    I was thinking that the reader could go ahead and book the flight as planned and just adjust the date of the Orlando to NY segment if necessary to get him to NY earlier….. Thus incurring NO change fees and NO additional costs to travel to NY. And if he doesn’t need to be in NY earlier, then he can use the ticket as booked with no changes or fees at all.

  • Jim B

    Does it matter if you change the date of the flight back to your original origin after the trip has already begun? Or do you need to make the changes before the trip begins in order to be able to change that leg without a fee?

  • thepointsguy

    You can change the return even after you fly the outbound

  • thepointsguy

    Yea.. Though I think the issue is that they may not be in Orlando at all and still need to leave on a certain date

  • George

    Thanks for your help!

  • Henry

    Approximately a year ago I booked an award trip GIG-MIA-YVR. My primary itinerary was GIG-MIA, which I have completed, however I wanted to take advantage of the stopover American allows on any north american gateway since I live in Miami.
    Now that I am a month away from the last leg… I’ve decided to don’t go to Vancouver.
    What should I do? If I cancel it, I will end it up paying U$150.00 plus U$25 for each family member (total of 3) and will have no miles redeposited into my account, because this last leg was just a stopover. What happens if I just don’t board the plane?
    Thanks in advance for your help

  • MYRflyer

    Cathay Pacific First vs Business

    I’ve had the pleasure now to fly USA-HKG on Cathay Pacific in J & F. Trust me go for F if at all possible, nothing compares to the extra little perks in first class not to mention that huge seat up front.

  • Lantean

    LOL… is this actually a serious question?

  • Henry

    It is.

  • thepointsguy

    Just don’t board the plane.. The itinerary will be canceled but since you’ve flown all legs you want, it doesn’t matter

  • Henry

    Thanks Brian! I will continue to support your business. The new look of your site is awesome by the way!

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