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TPG reader Dwayne sent me a message on Facebook to ask about changing award tickets:
“If I book an American Airlines award at the standard level and then saver availability opens up, should I rebook at the lower price?”
Most airlines charge a fee for changing award tickets, which can become especially costly when traveling with family or in a group. Each carrier has its own policies, so it’s good to be familiar with all the different strategies for avoiding change and cancellation fees. That can help you save money when your plans shift, but may also help you redeem points and miles more efficiently when saver awards become available.
One great feature of the AAdvantage program is that you can change award tickets for free in certain circumstances. The stipulations are generally that your origin and destination must remain the same, you can’t change to a different operating carrier and you can’t change the award type. Since Dwayne is looking to remain on the exact same flight, the first two factors don’t come into play. However, rebooking from a standard AAnytime award to a MileSAAver award qualifies as a change in award type, so he won’t be eligible for the free change.
Instead, an AAdvantage agent would have to reinstate the original award and issue a new one at the lower level. You’d incur a fairly steep reinstatement fee of $150 for the first ticket, though additional award tickets could be reinstated at a more reasonable cost of $25 each. That fee (along with various other award fees) is waived if you have Executive Platinum status and you’re redeeming miles from your own account.
Even if you can’t avoid the fee, rebooking an award could be worthwhile depending on how much you stand to save. For example, if you booked an AAnytime economy award to Europe for 47,500 miles each way, changing to a MileSAAver award for 30,000 miles each way would be a no-brainer. You’d basically be paying $150 to recoup 35,000 miles; that works out to around 0.43 cents apiece, which is much less than what AAdvantage miles are worth. On the other hand, reinstating a one-way domestic award to save 12,500 miles probably wouldn’t make sense.
Some airlines have more flexible award change policies. For example, Southwest actually lets you rebook on the same flight at no charge, so you can easily save (points or dollars) when the price drops. Still American’s policies can come in handy if you know where you’re going, but your travel dates haven’t been confirmed.
For more on AAdvantage changes and avoiding fees in general, check out these posts:
- Is There a Limit to Free AAdvantage Award Ticket Changes?
- Can I Still Change AAdvantage Awards After the Devaluation?
- How to Avoid Airline Change and Cancellation Fees