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Why now is the perfect time to book American Airlines awards

June 11, 2020
4 min read
American Airlines Flagship First Class 777-300ER
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At TPG, we paused traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and federal governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials' guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

Because of the uncertainty around what the future looks like, airlines across the world are offering unprecedented flexibility for booking new travel. Some carriers have gone as far as allowing free destination changes or the ability to convert vouchers to frequent flyer miles.

Of the big three U.S. carriers, American Airlines' latest change fee waiver is one of the most generous. Not necessarily for paid tickets, but for those booked with miles. And that's exactly why now is the perfect time to book an award ticket.

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American’s flexible travel waiver

If you book a paid ticket before June 30 for travel before Sept. 30, you are allowed to make a one-time change free of charge. You'll still owe a possible fare difference if the new ticket is more expensive, but at least there's some flexibility. It's too bad that that the waiver only covers late summer travel.

However, you'll have much more flexibility if you book an award ticket. In this case, American is waiving all change and cancellation fees for tickets booked in the month of June. This means that you can lock in award space now for future travel and decide to cancel it just a few days before your trip and still get your miles and taxes back. Furthermore, AA is waiving the upgrade re-deposit fee for any upgrades applied this month.

American Airlines Flagship First (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Because of the vast number of award seats currently available, now is the perfect time to lock in an AAdvantage award, thanks to the temporary risk-free cancellation waiver. (Delta also has the same policy for awards but United’s is much less flexible).

Related: How to upgrade your American Airlines flight using miles

New award fee structure has been delayed

As part of the AAdvantage elite status extension news, American overhauled its award fee structure. The new structure allows you to make free cancellations 60 or more days before departure, but the fees vary closer to your trip. Additionally, if you’re traveling with a family, the discounted redeposit fees for two or more tickets have been eliminated.

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Originally, this new fee structure was supposed to be implemented on June 1. The carrier has delayed its implementation by a month, leaving June to be the best month to book award tickets. There’s always a chance of further delays, but if you find the award space you’re looking for, there’s hardly a reason to wait.

Related: American Airlines joins Delta and United in extending elite status and more

Devaluations are looming

Even if you have a hunch that American might extend its flexible waivers into July, devaluations are likely on their way, thereby reducing the value of your miles. That’s why I’d lock in future travel now — to take advantage of the current rates coupled with the fee-free cancellation option.

American Airlines Airbus A321T (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Three weeks ago, American pulled its legacy award search tool. While the new tool shows a wider range of awards, its purpose-built for a dynamic pricing era.

As such, AA is likely gearing up to remove its award charts. When they do, there’s no telling how much a flight will cost. When that happens, the redemption values will likely be devalued, making now the perfect time to book your award.

Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program

Bottom line

American Airlines award tickets booked in the month of June can be changed or canceled without a fee. With devaluations on the horizon, it pays to lock something in now.

So, start booking your awards, but don’t forget to leave some award space for me.

Featured image by JT GENTER/THE POINTS GUY