Change And Cancellation Fees For Airline Award Tickets

We’ve been making a lot of changes to tickets lately. Between the situation in Turkey and the general life situations that arise, I almost feel like we’ve been spending more time changing award tickets than booking them lately!

Fortunately, award tickets have much more flexible policies than paid tickets, so if you need to change or cancel your trip you won’t be out an arm and a leg. I even like to leverage generous change policies on mileage tickets for my personal travel — budgeting in the cost of a change fee can make up for a lack of flexibility, or provide a better routing closer to departure.

The change fees and redeposit fees for each airline vary and there are also some cases where fees can be waived, so I thought it would be helpful to break all of this down. It’s worth noting that if you have elite status with an airline many of these fees will be reduced or waived, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Airline - ProgramChange Fee Redeposit Fee
Air Canada - Aeroplan$90$90
Air France / KLM - FlyingBlue€45€45
Alaska - Mileage Plan none$125
American - AAdvantage none$150
Avianca - LifeMiles $150$50
British Airways - Executive Club$55$55
Delta - SkyMiles$150$150
Korean Air - SkyPassNo chargeNo charge
Singapore - KrisFlyer$12$30
Southwest - Rapid RewardsNo chargeNo charge
United - MileagePlus$100$200
Virgin Atlantic - FlyingClub£30 / US$50 £30 / US$50

Air Canada Aeroplan

Changes to the flight time, date, destination or routing up to two hours before departure will result in a $90 fee per ticket.

Canceling the ticket outright also incurs a $90 fee, but it’s worth noting the miles aren’t fully returned to your account if you cancel within 21 days of departure. In that case, you can cancel your itinerary more than two hours before departure and your unused reward tickets will remain valid for travel for one year from the date of their original issue.

Swiss-Business-Class-A330-03
Aeroplan miles can be used for Swiss business class

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

If you book a Classic Award through FlyingBlue, you can either change or cancel your ticket for €45. The same pricing applies to “Round-the-World” awards, though I don’t know anyone who has ever booked one of those through FlyingBlue.

A Flex Award, while an horrible value, allows changes and cancelations free of charge. The popular Promo Awards, however, don’t allow any changes.

KLM-Business-Class-747-77
KLM gives Delft houses to business class passengers

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska will allow you to change or cancel award tickets for free up until 60 days before departure. Within 60 days, the fee is $125.


Access the Cathay Pacific first class lounge in Hong Kong on an Alaska award

American AAdvantage

American doesn’t charge any fees to change award tickets as long as the origin and destination and award type remains the same. You can change the routing, dates, times, airlines, etc.

If you do change the origin, destination, or award type (like switching from a standard award to a saver award, downgrading from a business class award to economy award, etc.), the change fee is the same as it would be to redeposit — $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger on the same record.

In order to redeposit an AAdvantage award ticket, American charges $150 for the first passenger, and $25 for each additional passenger on the same record locator. In other words, if you need to redeposit an award ticket and have three people on the same record locator, you’d pay a total of $200 in cancellation fees, which is still reasonable.

The policy for making a change from one award type to another is that you must reinstate the award ticket, which will cost $150 (though this generally isn’t charged if you’re upgrading the class of service).

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 55
Etihad’s A380 “lobby” is accessible to first and business class passengers

Avianca LifeMiles

Changes to Avianca award tickets come with a $150 change fee, but outright canceling the award is only $50, so that’s what I would recommend in most cases.

Changing tickets on Avianca is not really worth the effort in most cases anyway, so if you’re looking to upgrade from Business to First it may be easier to refund the ticket and start over. Keep in mind that all changes or cancellations must be made by phone, which definitely is not an easy process, and chasing down the refunded taxes can be an adventure.

Lufthansa-First-Class-747 - 7
Lufthansa first class is a great use of LifeMiles

British Airways

Making changes to award tickets with British Airways results in a $55 fee. The redeposit/cancellation fee is also $55.

What makes Avios bookings interesting is that you don’t necessarily have to pay the full cancellation fee when redepositing an Avios ticket. In order to redeposit an award ticket and get the Avios back in your account you have to either forfeit the taxes or pay the $55 fee to get the residual taxes refunded.

This means if you book an award ticket between Tampa and Miami for 7,500 Avios plus $5.60 in taxes you’d just forfeit the $5.60 and get the 7,500 Avios redeposited.

Meanwhile if you booked an award ticket that involves fuel surcharges, like New York JFK to London in first class for 80,000 Avios plus ~$500, you’d have to pay $55 in order to get the ~$500 refunded.

British Airways Executive Club award tickets can’t be changed or cancelled within 24 hours of departure, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Alaska-AS-Q400-plane
Short-haul domestic flights are one of the best uses of Avios

Delta SkyMiles

Delta charges $150 for any changes to an award ticket, provided you’re staying at the same redemption “level,” so if you’re shifting from a mid to low level award you’ll need to redeposit the miles and start over.

Changes are only allowed at least 72 hours prior to departure, — and you technically can’t cancel within that window either –though the return flights can still be modified after the outbound has been flown. If you have to cancel your award ticket, there is a $150 award ticket redeposit fee per ticket.

Virgin-Atlantic-Clubhouse-London - 19
Visit the fabulous Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in London on a Delta award

Korean Air SkyPass

You can make changes to a Korean Air award ticket without a fee, but changes can only be made within the same season and cabin class. There’s no fee to redeposit awards prior to departure.

Korean-Air-First-Class
Korean Air first class

Singapore KrisFlyer

For award tickets on Singapore Airlines, KrisFlyer allows you to make changes to the date of your award travel at no charge, but there are different charges associated with making changes to the route, class or award type. Making a change to the date of your travel is permitted and there is no fee. If you want to make a change to the route, cabin class or award type there is a $12 fee.

For travel on Star Alliance partners, changing the flight, date, route or carrier results in a $20 fee. If you decide that redepositing your miles is the best option, this will cost $30, so it can be well worth it to lock something in and make changes later given how reasonable the fees are in comparison.

Singapore-Business-Class-777
Singapore business class

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest can be a great option for positioning tickets, back-up tickets, or just when you’re not sure of your plans. Rapid Rewards points will be returned to the account they came from, and any taxes and fees will be refunded.

Southwest-WN-plane
Southwest has the best cancelation policy for mileage tickets!

United MileagePlus

United has gone from having one of the more generous award change policies to one of the more restrictive, with a tiered fee structure based on elite status and the time prior to departure. You can still make changes to your routing more than 21 days prior to departure provided you aren’t changing the date, origin, or destination for a reduced fee, but in most cases that won’t apply.

Otherwise, the fees are as follows:

Award Ticket Change TypeFee
Change of date
(21 or more days prior to travel date)
$75 for a general member
*No fee for Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Global Services, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum members
Change of date
(less than 21 days prior to travel date)
$100 for a general member
$50 for Premier Silver member
$25 for Premier Gold member
*No fee for Global Services, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum members
Changing origin/destination at any time$100 for a general member
$50 for Premier Silver member
$25 for Premier Gold member
*No fee for Global Services, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum members
Re-crediting miles$200 for a general member
$125 for Premier Silver member
$100 for Premier Gold member
*No fee for Global Services, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum members

EVA-Air-Business-Class
EVA is a great option for United awards within 90 days of travel

Virgin Atlantic

On the surface Virgin Atlantic change fees are fairly reasonable, at £30 per person for changes or cancelations to flights originating in the UK and US$50 per person for changes to flights originating in the US (or the rough equivalent to $50 in local currency for flights from other regions).

Within 24 hours of departure, however, Virgin has the most restrictive policy imaginable. No mileage refunds are allowed within the 24 hour window, and Virgin charges a £30 per person administration fee will be charged to process the refund of any taxes, charges/sur-charges.

Virgin-America-VX-plane-SFO
We like to use Virgin Atlantic miles on Virgin America

Bottom line

Compared to the costs of changing revenue tickets, the fees to modify award tickets are generally quite reasonable.

In many cases it can make sense to factor in the cost of these change fees when budgeting your travel, especially if a mild fee reduces your fuel surcharges, improves your routing, or opens up better products. If nothing else, knowing the rules on your award tickets can add peace of mind to your trip.

Have you had to change or cancel an award ticket? How did it go?

Comments

  1. Sinc most of us are elite status with a variety of airlines, this list is not as helpful as it could be. If you could amend it to advise on elite change fees, that would be helpful, ie Alaska MVP gold, no change/refund fees at all.

  2. Question – Alaska Airlines has no change fees outside of 60 days, but is this limited to allow just a single change to a reservation or is the number of changes unlimited as long as you are outside of the 60 day window?

  3. Tiffany, thanks for this post. What would be even more helpful is if you clarified whether these change/cancellation fees are per booking or per passenger (ie. If I make an award booking for 2 passengers, would I pay double the fees? I know for AA, it’s $150 for the first ticket and $25 for every other passenger, etc).

  4. Do you know if Alaska still charges the change fee if the change is an upgrade from J to F on a partner airline?

  5. Great post Tiffany!

    2 things though – I thought LifeMiles allows mixed cabin rewards now and shouldnt that read Etihad Lobby and not library?

  6. @Mo any changes are free as long as it’s at least 60 days prior to the travel date. Within 60 days, even upgrading the class of service, will incur the $125 fee

  7. Tiffany, in the BA section, you mentioned first 7500 Avios and then 4500 Avios. Shouldn’t those be the same figure (7500 Avios)?

  8. Avianca LifeMiles now allows mixed-cabin bookings. Change fee is $150, but it’s cheaper to refund for $50 and then rebook for $25, for a total of $75. Remember they charge $25 booking fee. And I think you may also lose the original $25 booking fee which may not be refundable. In this case, the total would be $100.

  9. Great post Tiffany!
    Just for this cancellation fees, I booked my ticket to Europe using Singapore miles and didn’t use United miles.

  10. I wonder what are the prices for TAP. I can`t find that information clear on their websites.

  11. @ Paul — That might be a good topic for a future post, but I wanted to keep this one simple. Lots of readers have elite status with one airline, but not others, and many more have miles earned through different methods and might want to consider potential change fees before deciding which miles to use.

  12. Thanks for the post Tiffany. I don’t see this listed above under the United section, but what are the fees involved for changing a one way united award to a roundtrip?

  13. Very informative and timely post, Lucky. I think you need to revise the BA Avios reference from 4500 to 7500 however. That content appears to be lifted from an older post when BA had a reduced award price for very short trips.

  14. AA was annoying because I had a paid economy ticket and I wanted to use miles to upgrade to business class. Because it was within 21 days when my upgrade cleared they charged me an additional late booking fee even though I was using miles to upgrade from one seat to another on the same exact flight. This was on top of the co-pay that went with the miles.

  15. @Tiffany, so if I booked a cathay pacific premium eco award ticket with BA points, and I want to upgrade to business award ticket. Do I have to cancel and re-book? or I can call and ask them to revise my ticket and charge extra points for this upgrade?

  16. @tiffany

    Southwest has the best cancelation policy for mileage tickets!

    Agreed! And it’s been my experience that the full refund is immediately credited to your RR account and the $5.40 fee to the credit card (although SWA says to allow four days). According to the Q & A on SWA’s website, if a points ticketed passenger misses the flight, the points will be returned to your account. Of course, if you rebook with points the fare is probably going to be 4 times higher than one purchased weeks earlier. I haven’t tried this without actually canceling a reservation and rebooking prior to the scheduled departure. Either way, it is the absolute best cancellation policy for domestic carriers. Another point I’ve noticed, on the SWA website, is that although you’ve purchased a ticket months prior to travel (either with points or $) the fare (again points or $ ) may drop considerably, making it worthwhile to continue checking. But y’all are probably much more sophisticated with this than I and you have a service that alerts you to the fare changes.

  17. Tiffany, great post. Do you know whether for United it is based on the passenger’s status or the account where the award miles came out of?

  18. I have an ticket bought with AA miles, which is partly on BA, so I paid fuel surcharges. Will AA refund me my fuel surcharges if I cancel and redeposit?

    Thanks

  19. I have first class tickets to Italy for which I used AA miles and paid fuel surcharges (BA flight over the water.)
    a) If I cancel, will I get my fuel surcharges back?
    b) If I want to keep the routing and change the dates, and the number of miles needed has gone up in the meantime, do I have to pay the additional miles?
    c) I had miles for some of the trip and my husband had miles for the other. So we have 2 separate record locators. But when you log in and check either of them, all of the flights for both of us show up. So they are tied together. Do you think this counts as two reservations or one?

    Thanks!

  20. I do not believe you are correct about AA charging $25 for a second passenger on the same booking for a CHANGE. The CHANGE fee is always $150 no matter whether the passenger is on the same booking or not. The redeposit fee is, indeed discounted.

  21. For AA you said no change fee for different airline. But the AA site currently says “for awards involving travel on other airlines, origin or destination changes or changes to the airline(s) in the itinerary will incur a change fee of $150, even when retaining the same award type.” My current ticket is AA metal + Alaska, and now they are offering only BA metal + Alaska on the overseas leg. Does that mean I would have to pay $150 per ticket? (This is a one way business class saver ticket with same original and destination but 1 week earlier.) Thanks

  22. @ Cindi Anderson — Hmmm, I think you are changing the award type, actually. I believe there are several unofficial subsets of saver awards:

    • AA only
    • AA + oneworld partner
    • AA + non-oneworld partner (broken down by each specific partner, not considered a “group” of airlines)
    • oneworld partner only
    • oneworld partner + non-oneworld partner
    • non-oneworld partner only (either single or multiple partners)

    So you’re changing from [AA + non-oneworld partner] to [oneworld partner + non-oneworld partner]. I would expect there to be a fee, though an agent might wave it.

  23. Tiffany- if I booked a BA award for 2500 avios + $65 + $28 taxes, will I forfeit the $28 taxes only, or both the $65 and $28?

  24. Tiffany – instead of paying 7500 avios, i paid 2500 avois plus $65 cash to cover the difference in avios

  25. @ mangoceviche — In that case I think you basically purchased the remaining Avios, so you’d get back the full 7500 Avios and forfeit the $28.

  26. Tiffany, for a UA award ticket, if I have a business class award let’s say DXB-ADD-FRA-LIS but the ADD-FRA segment is only in coach…if award space opens up on that segment later, can I change it for free?

  27. Hi Lucky,

    Does alaska allow changes once the award has started? I’m currently flying MNL-HKG-NYC booked in J and hoping to upgrade to F but by the time the F seats open up I’ll likely have already flown the MNL-HKG segment (assuming it’s a 24hr before departure release?)

    Thanks!

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