When American Airlines announced updates on AAdvantage program due to current COVID-19 outbreak (which included extension of elite status, credit card spending to get Million Miler miles etc.), it also announced updates on award reinstatement and change fees starting July 1, 2020 (initially starting June 1, 2020). Let’s see what was changed and how you should strategically use this change for your advantage (no pun intended).
What has been changed for AAdvantage award bookings?
Due to COVID-19 outbreak, American Airlines generously waived all reinstatement fee and change fee for AAdvantage award reservations. Initially this was for travels up to September 30, 2020, booked by May 31, 2020, but this was expanded to all trips, booked by June 30, 2020. Previously, in order to get miles reinstated, after cancelling the reservation, fee of $150 and $25 per additional tickets was charged. Change fee was waived if origin and destination were kept the same (i.e. changing dates, changing routes and upgrading class of service were free of charge.). However, if origin and destination needs to be changed or ticket needs to be reissued (i.e. changing dates beyond ticket’s expatriation, which is 1 year from issuance of ticket), then fee of $150 and $25 per additional tickets has been charged. In addition, reinstatement of upgrade awards (which are not a great deal unless you booked full fare ticket or booked by someone else) are also charged with $150 and $25 per additional tickets, if cancelled (it is unclear whether this is getting waived as well but I believe it does get waived). Considering the uncertainty of travel restrictions in the future, waiver of reinstatement fee and change fee for AAdvantage award booking is definitely a great relief for many travelers who would like to plan ahead, during this volatile period.
What will be changed after July 1, 2020?
After July 1, 2020, different rule will be applied for changing and reinstating award reservations. Until 60 days before departure, fee for change and reinstatement is free for all AAdvantage members, regardless of elite status. However, from 7 days before departure to 59 days before departure, fees for change and reinstatement is $50 for Platinum Pro, $75 for Platinum, $100 for Gold and $125 for regular member (Executive Platinum members are not charged with fee for change and reinstatement, as part of their benefit.). And within 7 days of departure, fee is increased by $25: $75 for Platinum Pro, $100 for Platinum, $125 for Gold and $150 for regular member (Again, Executive Platinum members are exempt from fees.). One important thing to note is that change fee will be charged even if origin and destination are not changed (Upgrading class of service can be done free of charge, though.). So, in summary, while we get free change and reinstatement until 60 days of travel and some discount on fees when change and reinstatement are done between 7 days and 59 days of departure, we lose free changes, in case when origin and destinations were kept the same. These changes could be beneficial to travelers who plan ahead (e.g. someone who books a year ahead), as change/reinstatement fees are free until 60 days of departure. However, for someone who frequently changes dates or aiming for last minute seats, these changes would be negative, as they may need to pay additional fees, that they didn’t have to pay before. In addition, upgrade awards fees remain the same ($150+$25 per additional tickets).
What should we do then?
Since all bookings made by June 30, 2020 are waived with change/reinstatement fees in future, my recommendation for you is to book your award reservations ahead of time, as there is no penalty for changing and cancelling your reservation later. Plus, thanks to COVID-19 outbreak, award availability is plentiful than ever. Also if you need time to decide whether to book or not, you can choose to hold your AAdvantage award reservation for 5 days.
It is definitely uncertain time to make travel bookings, but with AAdvantage’s generous waivers, it is good idea to book flights to wherever you would like to travel in near future. If you are a little short of AAdvantage miles, you can transfer from Marriott Bonvoy with ratio of 3:1 (3:1.25 if you transfer increment of 60,000 Bonvoy points, which comes with 5,000 bonus miles). If you are also somewhat short of Bonvoy points, you can choose to purchase Bonvoy points with 60% bonus (this will give you 1.875 cents per AAdvantage miles if you get 5,000-mile bonus). You can also choose to purchase AAdvantage miles as well (as low as 1.8 cents per AAdvantage miles), but it may not be the great option for all people, as you may need to spend lump sum of money to get the best deal.