Great news: American Airlines eliminates close-in booking fee for all AAdvantage members
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For at least the last decade, American Airlines has charged a $75 fee for booking award tickets or requesting mileage upgrades within 21 days of departure. This fee was only charged to non-elite members, as the fee was waived for AAdvantage Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum.
Effective immediately, American Airlines has eliminated this fee for all AAdvantage members.
For example, when searching a flight between New York City and Los Angeles for next Wednesday, you’ll find that the taxes and fees are just $5.60:
In confirming the changes to TPG, an airline spokesperson said that American Airlines is “always looking for ways to make AAdvantage award redemption easier for our customers, and this update offers more flexibility when booking award travel and requesting mileage upgrades.”
While the “award processing charge” has been eliminated, there will still be AAdvantage ticketing service charges for awards booked through AA reservations — unless the award is one of the few that can’t be booked on AA’s website.
American Airlines’ elimination of award processing fees comes shortly after United eliminated its close-in booking fee. However, in United’s case, that reduction in fees came with a catch. Instead of charging a $75 close-in booking fee, United effectively replaced that cash fee with a mileage surcharge on award bookings made within 30 days of departure.
While some travelers may be fine with paying 3,500 extra miles to save having to pay a $75 fee, this change effectively added a new fee for elites. Before the change, mid-high and top-tier United elites didn’t have to pay the close-in booking fee, but now all United members has to pay the new mileage surcharge.
The good news with the American Airlines changes that we are seeing so far is that there doesn’t seem to be this additional mileage fee — at least for now.
Despite having an award chart for its own flights, American Airlines now effectively dynamically prices awards on its own flights through its Web Specials program. So, a mileage surcharge would be most evident on partner awards.
One of my favorite sweet spots in the current AAdvantage award chart is the ability to fly Qatar Qsuites between the U.S. and South Africa for just 75,000 miles one-way. Even for last-minute trips, awards on this route are still pricing at 75,000 miles, and there are just $19.30 in taxes and fees for all AAdvantage members:
As another example, I recently flew Japan Airlines from Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Sapporo, Japan (CTS) at the award chart-listed 7,500 miles one-way. When I search for a flight tomorrow — while logged out of my AAdvantage account — the price is still showing at 7,500 miles one-way plus $0 in taxes and fees:
So, from what we are seeing so far, these changes today appear to be a positive — a rarity in mileage program “enhancements.”
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Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
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