How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

Apr 26, 2020

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If you’ve been traveling for a while, you know that travel arrangements don’t always go as planned. Meetings are delayed, conferences are canceled or last-minute conflicts arise. If 2020 has taught us anything, unforeseen circumstances can derail an entire trip out of the blue.

If you find yourself booked on an American Airlines flight that you can no longer take, you do have options for changing or canceling the tickets. While this will frequently result in an additional cost, there are some ways to get at least part of the value of your ticket back, which is undoubtedly better than a complete loss. In addition, there are circumstances where you could cancel or change your ticket for free thanks to a travel waiver — like what we’re currently seeing with the coronavirus outbreak.

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In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about changing or canceling American Airlines tickets. We’ll start by taking a look at how to take advantage of travel waivers and then dive into canceling both paid tickets and award tickets on the airline. Finally, we’ll round out the article with tips on how to avoid paying change and cancellation fees at all.

In This Post

Changing or canceling a ticket with a travel waiver

American Airlines Travel Waiver Screenshot

Changing or canceling an American ticket that’s covered by a travel waiver can often be the simplest and cheapest way to adjust an American Airlines flight. These waivers are generally issued during bad weather, natural disasters or other conditions where American Airlines expects to have lots of severe delays or flight cancellations. These waivers generally let you change or cancel your flight for free, but the specifics will vary based on the travel waiver that’s issued — typically limited to select airports and specific dates.

More recently, however, we saw American Airlines put a coronavirus travel waiver into effect across its entire route network. There are several aspects of this waiver, and it’s been updated several times since the outbreak became top news here in the U.S. You can view the full policy at this link, but at the time of writing, the following waivers are in effect:

  • If you booked tickets before March 1, 2020, and are set to travel on or before May 31, 2020, you can change your tickets one time free of charge.
  • If you booked (or plan to book) an American Airlines ticket between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020, and are set to travel on or before February 28, 2021, you’ll also be eligible to rebook once without incurring a change fee.

Again, please review American’s coronavirus updates page and its travel alerts page for complete, up-to-date information on this policy.

It’s important to note the specific terms of this particular waiver as it applies to cancellations. If you cancel an eligible, paid ticket, you typically won’t get a refund to your credit card. Instead, you’ll be issued an American Airlines credit that you can use toward a future American Airlines flight. However, the carrier has confirmed that an award ticket can be canceled and the AAdvantage miles refunded under this travel waiver.

American

Note that if you booked your trip using an Online Travel Agency (OTA) like Expedia, Orbitz or Hotwire, you won’t be able to cancel your ticket through the American Airlines website. However, if the ticket is covered by an American travel waiver, you can still rebook the ticket for free — just give your OTA a call and they should be able to handle the change or cancellation for you.

The same goes for tickets booked directly using credit card points — like the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal and Amex Travel. We’ll walk you through how to cancel tickets booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards points later in the article.

Changing or canceling paid American Airlines tickets

If your ticket isn’t covered by a travel waiver but you still need to change or cancel it, you have a couple of options. Most American Airlines tickets can be changed or canceled for a fee. The only types of tickets that typically can’t be adjusted are basic economy tickets; however, even these tickets can be changed or canceled under specific circumstances — which we’ll cover below.

If you don’t have a special situation that would allow you to avoid these fees, here’s a chart showing what you’d need to pay to change or cancel your American Airlines flight:

Ticket type Change/cancellation fee
Basic economy N/A (not allowed)
Nonrefundable ticket $200 for domestic tickets

Up to $750 for international tickets

Refundable ticket $0

Note that international tickets can cost up to $750 to cancel or change, but the amount you’ll pay varies based on the fare class you’ve booked. If you’re canceling an American Airlines ticket, give the airline a call and ask for a quote.

READ MORE: Complete guide to American Airlines fare classes

Generally speaking, American Airlines will not issue a full refund when you cancel your ticket. Instead, you’ll typically receive a flight voucher that you can use toward a future American flight. This voucher will be for the entire value of your canceled ticket minus the applicable cancellation fee. As an example, if you cancel a $500 domestic ticket, you’ll get a voucher worth $300, since the $200 cancellation fee would be deducted from your voucher.

Just be aware that you must cancel your ticket prior to the departure of the flight (under normal circumstances), and if you use the remaining balance of the voucher for a new ticket, your travel must begin no more than 12 months from the date of your original purchase.

This does not apply to refundable fares, which can be canceled for a full refund to the original form of payment.

Changing or Canceling American Airlines award tickets

Due to the global coronavirus outbreak, American Airlines is waiving award redeposit and change fees for trips booked by May 31 for travel through Sep. 30. This is a great benefit for those wanting to change tickets due to uncertainty around traveling during the outbreak.

While you usually to call to have your miles reinstated for canceled award tickets, American is now automatically reinstating miles for some award tickets that are covered by this travel waiver. This includes award tickets booked on the U.S. version of the American Airlines website that are wholly operated by American Airlines or American Eagle for a single passenger.

If your itinerary doesn’t meet these conditions, you must call American to request mileage reinstatement for a canceled award ticket.

Canceling an award ticket not covered by coronavirus waiver

American recently announced changes to how it will handle award ticket changes and cancellations after June 1. Starting June 1, award tickets will be eligible for free changes and cancellations until 60 days out from the date of travel. If you want to change within 60 days of departure, you’ll be subject to the following fee structure:

Elite status tier 60 days or more Between 7 and 59 days Less than 7 days
Executive Platinum $0 $0 $0
Platinum Pro $0 $50 $75
Platinum $0 $75 $100
Gold $0 $100 $125
Regular member $0 $125 $150

 

All of these fees are waived if you’re choosing to redeem more miles for a higher class of service on the same flight; you’ll only be subject to paying the additional mileage. Further, this fee structure applies to all awards, including Web Special tickets which previously couldn’t be changed at all. This is a positive change for travelers who frequently book these tickets.

These changes aren’t all positive, though. Previously, you could change the date of travel for free up until the date of departure so long as you kept the same origin and destination. Additionally, flights involving other carriers could be changed for free so long as you kept the same carrier, too.

On top of this, this new change chart removes the discount for canceling multiple tickets on the same itinerary. Previously, the fee for reinstating miles for a canceled award was $150 for the first ticket and $25 for any other redeposits done at the same time into the same account. So if you cancel three tickets on the same itinerary within 60 days of travel, you could be on the hook for up to $450 in redeposit fees.

Despite these changes, though, it’s worth noting that the new policy is still more generous than the other major airlines in the U.S. For example, Delta charges a $150 fee for all award changes (waived for top-tier elites) and United charges $75 to $125 for award ticket changes depending on when you make changes and your elite status level.

Do note that Executive Platinum members can still cancel award tickets for free. As of the time of writing this article, this benefit does not apply to any other American Airlines elite status tiers.

Cancel trip button screenshot on AA.com

You can change or cancel your American Airlines award tickets by pulling up your reservation on the American Airlines website and clicking the change or cancel button at the top of the screen. If you completely cancel an award ticket, you’ll have to call American after canceling to request mileage reinstatement.

There is one exception to this rule, though. Executive Platinum members traveling as a single passenger will be eligible for automatic mileage reinstatement for all award bookings made after June 1, 2020. As mentioned earlier, these top-tier elite members can cancel award tickets for free at any time, so automatic mileage reinstatement makes it easier for Executive Platinum members to rebook itineraries shortly after canceling.

Changing or canceling tickets booked with credit card points

American tickets booked through sites like the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or Amex Travel are subject to the same cancellation fees discussed earlier. While tickets covered by a travel waiver will still have these fees waived, you typically can’t cancel or change your tickets on American’s website. Instead, you need to contact the bank directly.

That being said, Chase recently started allowing travelers to cancel tickets booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal using an online form. However, this form can take a few days to process, and it’s currently limited to flights departing in the next eight to 14 days. If your flight is departing outside of this window, you have to call Chase to process the cancellation.

Amex Travel does not offer online flight cancellation at the time of writing this post, so you’d need to call to process the cancellation.

Check out our full guide to canceling tickets booked with credit card points for more information.

How do you change or cancel your American Airlines flight?

Once you decide to change or cancel your American Airlines flight, your best bet is to start on AA.com (if you purchased the ticket directly from American). Follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your AAdvantage account.
  2. Navigate to the Your trips / Check in tab in the middle of the homepage.
  3. Click View/Change next to the trip you want to adjust.
  4. Click Change trip or Cancel trip at the top.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts.

If you do cancel a paid ticket, be sure to save the email you receive with the six-digit record locator and 13-digit ticket number. These items are required when you go to rebook your trip using whatever funds are left.

If you’re unable to access your reservation online, you’ll need to call American and inquire about your options for changing or canceling your ticket. If you booked with an OTA or used your credit card points, you’d need to contact that provider to process and changes or cancellations.

Note that things are a bit different if you’re trying to make a same-day change to your American Airlines flight. This will set you back $75 for domestic and many short-haul international flights, though it’s waived for Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro travelers. You would pull up your ticket following the steps above, and then selecting the Same-day change option on the reservation.

How can you avoid change and cancellation fees on American?

(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
You might be able to avoid fees when you change or cancel your American flight. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

Without a travel waiver, it can be tough to avoid change or cancellation fees on American Airlines flights, but it is possible. Here’s a rundown of when you might get out of paying these added fees.

Within 24 hours of booking

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to offer a 24-hour window for customers to change their minds. Some do this through a complimentary hold, but American allows you to cancel a ticket for a full refund within 24 hours of booking (as long as you make the initial purchase at least two days prior to departure). This applies to all tickets except those booked as part of a group block.

Schedule changes

If you book a ticket far in advance, American may change its schedule in the months leading up to departure. Per the carrier’s website, a change of 61 minutes or more would allow you to request a refund to your original form of payment, and this should also allow you to choose alternate flights if the new schedule doesn’t work for you. However, even smaller changes could allow you to change your ticket for free — if you wind up with a too-short (or illegal) connection, for example.

If your flight has experienced a significant schedule change, it’s worth calling to see what your options are for changing or canceling your ticket.

Flight cancellations

There are times when an airline outright cancels your flight. This could be far in advance due to decreased demand or changes to a carrier’s route network, but it also could happen due to weather or other last-minute factors. If American cancels a flight on which you have a nonrefundable ticket, the airline should try to rebook you on alternate flights (at no charge). However, you also should be able to request a cancellation and receive a full refund of what you paid for the ticket.

Elite status

As noted earlier, American Executive Platinum members are eligible for fee-free changes and cancellations to all award tickets booked from their accounts. While this doesn’t extend to paid tickets, it’s still a great perk of top-tier status.

Special circumstances

There are a couple of special situations that would result in waived change or cancellation fees on American flights. If you receive an unexpected military deployment or a change in orders, you’re likely eligible for a refund of your entire flight. The same holds if you or your traveling companion pass away prior to departure. Note that both of these cases require supporting documentation.

Finally, even if your specific reason for canceling isn’t covered by any of the above waivers, it doesn’t hurt to call and plead your case. American phone agents have at least some discretion when it comes to fees like this, so there’s no harm in asking.

READ MORE: How to refund a nonrefundable airline ticket

How to cancel and get a refund for an American Airlines ticket

By now, readers should know that they are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels their flight. But, what’s the actual process like for getting your money back with American Airlines?

Unfortunately, it’s a bit convoluted. Unless you’re canceling your flight within 24 hours of booking, you’re not going to get a refund automatically.

Instead, if your flight is canceled or significantly delayed, you’re going to need to follow these steps. First, you need to cancel your flight so that you’re no longer holding a confirmed seat on the plane. You can do that by either calling up American or by clicking the ‘Cancel trip’ button on the AA website.

Then, you need to fill out an online refund request form. The first thing you’ll see on this page is a welcome banner basically telling you that you don’t need to be there — ignore it and continue to refunds.

There, you’ll need to enter your ticket number (which can be found in your confirmation email) as well as last name. Your itinerary information will then be populated and you’ll be asked for the reason for your refund (schedule change or involuntary flight cancellation work).

But, here’s where American gets sneaky. You’ll likely be prompted to select a voucher instead of a refund. Unless you’re definitely going to fly with AA in the future, then I’d recommend a refund.

Once you select that you prefer your money back, then you’ll complete and submit the refund request.

Refunds are typically processed within seven business days, but the high volume of coronavirus related cancellations has slowed down the processing times. You can always check the status of your refund using your ticket number.

Bottom line

Canceling or changing an airline ticket is never a fun experience, but knowing what to expect can make it a lot less stressful. While American Airlines can charge up to $750 for changes or cancellations, make sure to stay on the lookout for travel waivers and schedule changes that may make you eligible to avoid these fees, and remember that American award tickets can generally be changed free of charge (subject to some restrictions).

Additional reporting by Zach Griff.

Feature photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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