Is There a Limit to Free AAdvantage Award Ticket Changes?

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TPG reader Sholom sent me a message on Facebook to ask about AAdvantage award changes:

“Is there a limit to how many times I can change an American Airlines award ticket if my origin and destination stay the same?”

Whether you’re flying on an award ticket or a paid fare, most airlines impose a fee for changes made to your itinerary. Some carriers have fairly harsh policies for changing awards, like Delta’s flat fee of $150. However, others are relatively benign. In many cases, American Airlines allows you to change awards for free so long as your origin and destination remain the same. That means you can alter your travel dates, routing and more without having to pay extra.

This can be a huge help if you know where you’re going, but haven’t settled on when, or if you can’t find award availability on the flights you want. Not having to worry about change fees gives you greater flexibility to lock in an itinerary you can live with, and wait for space on your preferred dates to open up down the line. There’s no limit to how many times you can change awards, so you can make incremental adjustments to your schedule as needed.

For example, suppose you’re searching now for an off-peak award to Europe in late April (a good idea so you can take advantage of lower mileage requirements before the new award chart goes into effect in March). Even if the only availability you can find is on the wrong dates, it can still make sense to book the award. By using a service like ExpertFlyer or continuing to search for other options yourself, you might first find a more convenient departure date and later find a better return date. You can make each change individually with no penalty, so you don’t have to worry about finding the perfect itinerary from the start.

Chang
American Airlines’ award change policy makes it easier to hone in on premium awards.

That said, each change must meet a number of conditions to avoid fees. The origin and destination should remain the same, though there are a few exceptions. Lately, AAdvantage agents have been willing to waive fees if you drop the first or last segment of your trip, so long as you depart from the same country and the AAdvantage award zone remains the same on either end. If you booked an award from Oklahoma City to Madrid via Dallas, you could later drop the OKC-DFW segment and leave the DFW-MAD segment intact without having to pay for the change. Note that this policy doesn’t appear to be in writing, so your results may vary depending on who you talk to.

You shouldn’t incur a change fee for upgrades to a higher class of service, though naturally you’ll have to pay the difference in miles and taxes. Downgrading your class of service will likely result in a change fee, as will switching an award between Oneworld and non-Oneworld carriers. Also, changes that move your travel dates to within 21 days of booking will incur $75 close-in booking fee. This FlyerTalk thread has more details about which changes involve fees and which don’t.

For more on award changes, cancellations, and avoiding fees in general, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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