Clarification Regarding Post-Devaluation AAdvantage Award Changes

A few days ago I wrote a post about what kind of award changes will be allowed through American AAdvantage after the award chart devaluation, which will happen on March 22, 2016.

2016-AAdvantage-Program

That’s the “book by” date, meaning you can redeem AAdvantage miles for travel on subsequent dates at the old award rates, as long as they’re ticketed by March 22, 2016. Keep in mind the following two restrictions, though:

  • American AAdvantage makes award seats available 331 days out regardless of whether you’re looking to fly American or a partner airline (meaning if you ticket an award on March 21, 2016, you’ll be able to book travel through February 15, 2017)
  • All tickets are valid for a year from the date of issue (meaning if you ticket an award on March 21, 2016, all travel has to be completed by March 21, 2017)

As I explained in that post, my understanding regarding changing these tickets after the devaluation was as follows:

Post-devaluation you can change an award and maintain the price if the award doesn’t require reissue. That means if you’re traveling between the same origin and destination in the same class of service and the same general set of airlines (either American, oneworld partners, or non-oneworld partners), you’ll be able to make a change after the devaluation and preserve the price.

I received several comments and emails from people indicating that they had received conflicting information, specifically that any changes at all would trigger a reprice, even if just changing the date or time of a flight.

Some readers requested I follow up with American to confirm the exact policy. Here’s what I’ve been told through official sources (bolding mine):

We have advised our agents that voluntary changes to date/time only will be permitted without forcing new higher/lower award levels, and we’ll have more information once the new award levels are applicable. This means the origin and destination need to remain the same.

So if you do lock in awards before March 22, 2016, with the intent of changing them later, you’ll want to lock in exactly the route you want. Technically it seems only date or time changes will be permitted without a reprice, though in practice I wouldn’t be surprised if they allow routing changes as well, as long as the carriers remain the same. I wouldn’t count on that last part for sure, though.

Etihad-A380-First-Class
Lock in Etihad A380 first class awards before March 22, 2016!

Bottom line

It’s good to officially have this confirmed. If you’re speculatively locking in pre-devaluation awards, I’d recommend doing so on some of the routes with more frequent service to maximize your odds of finding award space at a later date, like Los Angeles to Hong Kong, New York to Abu Dhabi, etc. These give you the best shot of later making changes without the award being repriced.

In practice I wouldn’t be surprised if routings and airlines can be changed as well (if you’re switching from one oneworld airline to another, for example), though that’s not the official policy. Date and time changes are a sure bet, though, as long as the origin and destination remain the same.

Comments

  1. So would CX F via JFK-YVR-HKG-CNX be able to be changed to JFK-HKG-CNX without a reprice? I would think so due to O/D staying the same. YVR would have any impact on this at all?

  2. So if I booked a Business Class award from North America to Hong Kong at 55,000 miles pre-devaluation, then before departure First Class opens up on that same flight and want to upgrade, I’d pay additional 40,000 miles (difference between post-devaluation Business and First awards of 70,000 and 110,000)?

  3. How does it work if you ticket a flight, say IAD-LHR for 5 days from now, but then cancel the reservation 2 days from now? Can you then book a flight IAD-LHR in August for September at the old rates since you never actually canceled the ticket?

  4. @Dale

    Usually AA refunds your current booking and recharges the new amount, so in your example, I would expect that you would pay an additional 55k miles (refund of 55k miles, recharge at 110k miles).

  5. @Dale You’re probably going to be paying the difference between the old Business award rate and the new First award rate. I don’t see why American would only charge difference between new rates when your paid the old rate.

    @Nick as long as you ticket awards before March 22nd, even if travel is after March 22 you’d pay old rates. If you book the award now, and then cancel and rebook on March 22nd or after, you’d pay new rates

  6. I contacted AA about uprgrading a CX J award ticketed before the deval to F after the deval and was told “…it would be 12.5K if it becomes available. This isn’t guaranteed until the seats are changed.”

  7. The devaluation (either as a side effect or part of the plan) makes room for Premium Economy awards, does it not?

    Hombre

  8. Currently PointsPros booked a First and Business ticket on CX with AA miles in Aug with the expectation I can upgrade to First close to departure. Would you recommend I book another First ticket on different dates at the current rate and then move it close to departure?

    I don’t have status and will have to pay for any change/re-deposit fees.

  9. @Pete

    That is good to hear, hope it is true. I tried e-mailing with the same question and got a non-response, but never got around to calling. I booked CX F for my wife and CX J for myself before the deval was announced. Still have to wait to see if it will open but would be nice to still have a chance of getting the same cabin.

  10. So it is unknown if routing changes will require reprice? I am currently booked YVR-DPS for two people in F with the following less-than-ideal routing:

    YVR-SEA AS Y
    SEA-LAX AS J
    LAX-SFO AA J
    SFO-HND JL F
    HND-HKG CX F
    HKG-DPS CX J

    What if a day before departure two F seats open on CX and I call in to change it to this:

    YVR-HKG CX F
    HKG-DPS CX J

    Will I be charged extra miles? From your post it’s unclear, and it looks AA has no definitive answer.

  11. I’m planning to travel from PHL to Europe in the summer (July/August), and not too concerned about where I fly into (since I’ll be travelling within Europe a bit and since I’m happy to use budget airlines to get around). I won’t have my dates locked in by March 22, so I’m thinking of booking an award then and changing the dates later.

    It seems like the important thing is to fly into an airport which has a lot of routes from PHL. I’m new to the city so help appreciated – what are my best options here?

    Thanks!

  12. Anyone who counts on the advice from this self-appointed so-called “expert” is an idiot. They charge you the higher rate after you try to make a switch, what are you gonna do? Tell them they can’t because some blogger promised you they wouldn’t? Hah!

  13. I don’t understand how the date and time can be changed without a reissue because when I booked CX LAX-HKG with multiple date tweekings for both outbound and return, each time the miles had to be reinstated (EXP), the fee refunded, and the ticket was reissued.

  14. Hi lucky

    I had an upcoming business class trip with CX using AA miles, until today, i only see the outbound flight has the first class seat available in miles, i remember you said one can upgrade the cabin using additional miles without fees by calling AA, but in this case, can I only upgrade the outbound flight?

    Thanks

  15. @Pete – I will use two examples to explain the difference –

    When you cancel a non-refundable revenue ticket (say one with no change fee ), the agent cancels out the flight segment reservations, leaving you with a paid-for ticket with no flight segments in it. Later, when you want to use the value of that ticket, you call in and the agent builds you a new reservation and pays for it using your previous ticket. You have never gotten a refund and always had a ticket of some value.

    The same can exist for award tickets, say you have a ticketed reservation costing 62,500 miles that you cancel the reservation for. Now you have a ticket, paid for by 62,500 miles, with no flight segments in it, valid for a year from the original issue date. At a later time, prior to the end of validity, you can call in, add flight segments (following the rules for the award that you had originally booked), and, voila, your ticket again is paying for a specific reservation. You should not have to pay anymore miles as you have already done so with the original ticket.

    My question is whether this will be the case post-March 22 or will I now have to fork over 22,500 more miles since the 62,500 award pre-March 22 now costs 85,000 even though I never actually canceled my ticket. (Hopefully astute readers will get the reason why someone may ask this question)

  16. @ Nick – Thank you for the clarification. I do apologize if you read some unintended tone or insult to your intelligence in my question. The comments section is always good for knowledge/speculation sharing!

    Note, revenue tickets state they must canceled to retain value: “You have purchased a NON-REFUNDABLE fare. The itinerary must be canceled before the ticketed departure time of the first unused coupon or the ticket has no value.” Awards generally state: “You may have purchased a “Special Fare” and certain restrictions apply. Some fares are NON-REFUNDABLE. If the fare allows changes, a fee may be assessed for the change. You can probably find more info on FT, but awards do not need to be canceled – no penalty for no show.

    Your original question about IAD->LHR, as I read it, is nothing more than a date change. Your origin and destination remain the same. Are you asking what to do if you don’t know your date of travel?

  17. @Pete – No tone or insult taken, I was just trying to be as clear as possible in my explanation, didn’t mean to sound didactic. It would be a date change if availability for what I want were available beyond 1 week from now. I could get around this by changing the flights every week or so through the next 7 months, but I don’t really feel like doing that for multiple reasons. On the other hand, if I ticket something for next Tuesday, then cancel the reservation and keep the ticket, when I get within a week of when I actually want to go, I will just use that ticket number, request the available flights, and be on my merry way without paying the new rates. If, of course, that doesn’t trigger a re-price – hence my original question!

    Apologies if I have been unclear.

  18. @Lucky so if before the deval we book BKK-PHL on QR and change the date later on is it only the origin/destination/airline have to be the same like I could change it to BKK-HKG-JFK-PHL on CX if the new date I need not available on QR but a different routing?

  19. Thanks for the information … I am studying and trying to carefully understand. We plan to travel RT from USA to Europe in October 2017. I can see the flights (departure and arrival cities) that I would like to use in 2017, now available for December 2016. Are you saying I could book this itinerary (MSY-ZRH departure and BCN-MSY return) for December 2016, and then when October 2017 opens up just change the dates to my REAL travel dates. I know it is a smaller number of miles difference than other itineraries, but with 4 traveling on our retiree mille earning, it does matter. Thank you for any direction you have for us.

  20. Can you change an itinerary where the first segment(s) are AA and the final segment is a OW airline?

    ie. LAX – NRT – HKG – KUL first segment in AA and rest in CX. would a change to LAX to HKG to KUL all in CX reprice the award?

    basicaly I’m asking if we can go from AA/OW mix to just OW. Care to comment? Thanks!

  21. I’m hoping to book an award for April 2017. Am I correct that I would not be able to book an award in March 2016 for March 2017 and then once award availability opens up for April 2017 change the dates? That would violate the ‘valid for one year from date of issue’? Thanks!

  22. I think I’m in the same situation as @Nick. I want to fly EY apartment JFK-AUH a year from now but at predevaluation award rates. Obviously, EY F 388 seats are only available within a week or so of booking. Can I book something before 3/22 and then use the ticket a year from now as availability opens up for when I really want to fly? Do I need to cancel the current res practically right after I book it or do I just no show?

  23. @John @Nick

    I believe you are both correct. Ticket last day possible for a random date. Cancel immediately and save the route. When you find the dates you want call in with same record locator and book it (granted no later than 1 year of ticketing)

    I’ve had to cancel an award like that before and they just wanted me to use the route within a year of my booking.

    Don’t know if it reprices because the devaluation but makes sense that it wouldn’t because they don’t re deposit the miles. Just my 2c

  24. So I think my plan is going to backfire on me then given the 365 day limit. I was planning on booking a roundtrip to Sydney and changing the dates when available to the last two weeks of March 2017. If I ticket on March 21st then I will be fine for a March 18th departure but I wont be able to use the award to return on March 31st?

  25. for date/times changes, besides the miles redeemed, does that apply to dates at the saver rate as well or does that fall into the new ‘calendar scheme’? In other words, if my booked trip is during the saver dates now, but my rebooked trip is in a time period that USED to be saver but has changes/move into standard (due to their reduction) do they recalucate to standard or continue to honor the old saver dates?

  26. Now that the “new structure” has take effect, has anyone tried and changed their ticket without a reprice? Because I just called AA and was told that a voluntary change will trigger a reprice regardless. Even when the O/D remain the same and not re-route.

  27. Same here. Tried to change the date on an award and, even with same carrier/routing, I was told it requires additional miles. I had booked many awards hoping to lock in the lower redemption values. Now it will cost me additional miles to change dates or penalties to cancel.

    Somebody at AA dropped the ball in communicating this to us. On the other hand, I may have gotten what was coming to me, trying to play the system. Got to remind myself this is a first world problem and keep it in perspective 🙂

  28. I just had the same thing happen. They initially said it would require the additional miles. I pushed back very politely so she went and checked with the rate desk who then confirmed that no extra miles required. She said the change only occurred today so it’s just taking time for the correct information to reach all the agents.

    For the record, I changed date as well as carrier and routing. The only thing that didn’t change was origin and destination.

  29. Also encountered difficulty trying to change a booking today. I am keeping the same origin/destination but pushing back the date (still within 1 year of issue) – technically the routing is changing as well as there is no longer a stop without changing planes. The Rep said that it would require additional miles (15k per person in my case). I pushed back for a while and then waited on hold for about 15 minutes for a Supervisor, who said that because the award is for a OneWorld Partner flight – the additional miles must be collected. I pushed back on this as the original booking was on CX and the change would also be on CX (so no changes from AA to CX, or vice versa). After the Supervisor looking into for a while (at this point the call was about 45 minutes), he came back and said he would make an EXCEPTION, but that no future changes (again, keeping the O/D the same) would be allowed.

  30. Interestingly, I was told the same as what Matt was told when I called them before 22Mar and asked about the change policy about this.

    That time the agent told me that straight away without asking a Sup.

  31. I have two bookings. One JFK – AUH (first), AUH – MLE (biz). Second JFK – AUH (first), AUH – MLE (coach). I just moved the dates on the first booking without problem. However, when I went to move the second booking to the new date (this time biz for the AUH-MLE leg), I was told that they need to redeposit the miles since I was changing cabins for that second leg.

    I tried to explain to her that I had originally paid the first class redemption rate and should be allowed to make this change without a redeposit but was told that they could not do an even swap for this because they needed to charge the difference in taxes and incur the miles redeposit. I’ll probably call back and try again. What was the “exception” the supervisor performed to allow this to go through in their system? Did they find a creative way to do this or did they redeposit miles and charge you less for the new booking?

    I’m also concerned because I made a few more bookings where I booked one leg in First but the rest in coach thinking I could adjust them later.

  32. Hello,

    I’m booked on the AKL-SYD in Business with Qantas and onwards on SYD-AUH with Etihad in First on the 30th of January. I wanted to change this itinerary by keeping the same flights & same carries and only switch the date to the 27th of Januari (on which there is also availabilty).

    However, the AA agent on the Phone said this wasn’t possible, because this would mean a refund of the original 120,000 AA miles and they would need 200,000 miles for the new booking. So I am 80,000 miles short.

    Are they right? How can I convince them to do so? Is there an e-mailadres of AA Reservations instead of the phone number?

  33. I’m trying to change date on an award ticket that I booked pre devaluation and they want to charge me the additional miles.

    Do you have any info on this?

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