How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

Apr 2, 2022

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Planning a vacation can take a tremendous amount of time and energy. When things go wrong and you need to change or cancel your plans, will it be easy to do so?

Thanks to changes made during the coronavirus pandemic, changing and canceling American Airlines flights has gotten much less painful. The airline has eliminated most of the fees associated with changing or canceling many types of tickets.

In this guide, we’ll help you better understand American Airlines’ cancellation policy, change policy and refund policy.

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In This Post

American Airlines’ cancellation policy

American Airbus A321 LAX
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you purchased your ticket directly, American Airlines’ cancellation policy is pretty straightforward. There are a few key points to consider:

  • All tickets are fully refundable within the first 24 hours after booking as long as your departure date is more than two days in the future.
  • Nonrefundable tickets can be changed or canceled without a fee, but you won’t receive a refund. Instead, you’ll receive a travel credit applicable to another flight that you’ll need to use within one year from the date of issue of the original ticket.
  • Basic economy fares are the lone exception in that they cannot be changed once booked. If you can’t fly on the original flight you booked, you’ll lose the entire value of the ticket.
  • You can refund fully refundable tickets at any time to the original payment method.
  • You can cancel award tickets and redeposit the miles you used without a fee.

As you can see, the current American Airlines cancellation policy is extremely customer-friendly. In a move to spur bookings during the pandemic, American Airlines made massive changes to the policy, eliminating virtually all fees and restrictions. Except for basic economy and some tickets that originate outside of North and South America, you won’t have to worry about jumping through hoops or losing the value of your tickets.

When changing a nonrefundable ticket, you’ll receive a travel credit for any reduction in fare. For example, if you change from a $500 ticket to a $300 ticket, you’ll receive a travel voucher for $200 to use on a future ticket.

Related: American Airlines is making it much easier to redeem your existing travel credits

How to cancel an American Airlines flight

The steps to cancel an American Airlines flight on paid and award tickets are now virtually identical. Once you log in to your American Airlines account at aa.com, click on the “Your trips” link in the menu:

Using American Airlines website
(Screenshot from aa.com)

From your list of upcoming trips, select the one you’d like to cancel:

Upcoming trips on American Airlines' website
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Select “Cancel trip”:

Cancelling a trip on American's website
(Screenshot from aa.com)

And then confirm your cancellation:

Confirming a trip cancellation on American's website
(Screenshot from aa.com)

American Airlines should automatically reinstate your miles for award tickets. And the airline should automatically issue a travel voucher for paid tickets.

Reinstated miles after a trip cancellation
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Related: Why you should wait to change or cancel your flight if you want your money back

How to change an American Airlines flight

Changing an American Airlines flight online is easy. You can also contact American Airlines via phone to change your flight. Here are the steps to change a flight:

Once you’ve pulled up your trip in your account online, select the “Change trip” button:

Changing an American Airlines flight
(Screenshot from aa.com)

From there, click the box labeled “Yes, I want to change this flight” and search for new flights:

Changing an American Airlines flight
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Select a new flight from the options given:

Changing an American Airlines flight
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Then, American Airlines will display the new itinerary as well as whether you owe additional funds or are entitled to a credit:

Changing an American Airlines flight
(Screenshot from aa.com)

If you’re entitled to a travel credit, American Airlines will display this as a “Refund Amount.” But, in almost all cases, that refund will be issued as a travel credit instead of a refund to your original payment method.

Getting a refund on an American Airlines flight
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Once you’ve confirmed your new itinerary, you should receive an email from American Airlines with the travel credit to use on a future flight.

American Airlines trip credit
(Screenshot from aa.com)

Related: The best credit cards that offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance

American Airlines’ refund policy

American Airlines’ refund policy is pretty straightforward but fairly restrictive.

Refundable tickets can be refunded to the original payment method at any time before departure. If you purchased the ticket directly from American Airlines, you can request a refund on the American Airlines website. But if you purchased your ticket from a travel agent, whether a traditional travel agent or an online travel agency such as Expedia, you’ll need to contact them directly.

Nonrefundable tickets are only eligible for a refund more than 24 hours after purchase if one of the following applies:

  • A schedule change of more than four hours.
  • Death of the passenger or a traveling companion.
  • Military orders for the passenger.

Related: The best credit cards for American Airlines flyers

Bottom line

The pandemic changed quite a bit for airlines and travelers alike. American Airlines has eliminated virtually all fees when you cancel a flight or change a flight. The extra flexibility when you change or cancel a flight means that you should be able to book without worrying about losing money or your miles.

American Airlines has gone a bit further with its changes than United Airlines’ policy. Since American doesn’t charge anything to redeposit miles, you should consider jumping on a great award booking as soon as you see it. You can always get those miles back without penalty if your plans change before departure.

Related: How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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