Can You Change or Cancel an Award Ticket After a Missed Flight?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
TPG reader Alicia has a friend… but maybe not any longer after she got stuck holding the bag on an unused mileage ticket, as she tells us in an email…
I booked a ticket using my miles for a friend with American Airlines. He bailed last minute and did not make the flight. Can I either get those points back or change the canceled reservation to another person?TPG Reader Alicia
One of the great things about frequent flyer miles is that while there are exceptions, in most cases you can use your own miles to book a free ticket for anyone else. It’s a cool way to thank someone for their help, or bring a companion along with you on an awesome trip, or even to just be generous to a friend.
But what happens if that friend no-shows the flight? Well, the first thing to know is that the change and cancellation policies on most airlines don’t differentiate between an award ticket redeemed for yourself and one redeemed for someone else. So the fact that the ticket was booked in another person’s name won’t make any difference — it’s still subject to the same policies.
Most airlines do allow mileage tickets to be changed or canceled and the miles redeposited or reinstated, though in many cases that privilege is accompanied by a hefty fee. American charges $150 to cancel a single ticket and reinstate the miles (the fee is waived for top-tier Executive Platinum elite members). In most cases changes to the date, routing or time of an AA ticket are usually free so long as the origin and destination of the ticket remain the same, but any other changes — such as switching the ticket to another person (by canceling and starting over with a new ticket) — would result in the $150 fee.
Depending on how much the ticket cost in miles, that $150 charge might be worth paying to save the value of the miles. And if you’re wondering if you can still redeposit the miles even if the flight wasn’t canceled before your friend bailed, the answer is yes. Just to be confusing, American’s terms and conditions state that “expired tickets will not be reinstated” — but “expired” is not the same as “unused.” AA tickets generally expire one year from the date of issue, so as long as that period hasn’t passed, you should still be eligible to cancel and reinstate your miles by paying the fee.
Not every airline’s policy is the same when it comes to redepositing miles after a flight has already passed. While both United and Southwest will let you redeposit even after you don’t show up for a flight, Delta requires award tickets to be canceled at least 72 hours before departure in order to get the miles back. And if you’ve already flown at least one flight of the itinerary, then you’re probably out of luck in getting miles back on most airlines if you decide not to show up for the rest of the trip.
So, Alicia, if the miles are worth $150, get them back and reuse them and then tell your friend they owe you $150. That seems only fair to me! Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image courtesy of Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees