With the pandemic still affecting travel both domestically and internationally, American Airlines has made a welcome change. As of today they’ve removed award change and redeposit fees for all award tickets – both domestic and international.
The removal of fees is applicable for all AAdvantage award tickets in any fare class and whether you’ll be flying American metal or on partner airlines.
Changes and cancellations can be made up until the departure of your first flight which gives increased flexibility and is another welcome improvement. American Airlines had improved their policy a few months ago, but you’d still be liable for some kind of change or redeposit fee if you changed or cancelled your flight within 60 days of departure unless you had Executive Platinum status. That’s no longer a concern for now thanks to this policy change.
Speaking of Executive Platinum, this removes one of the benefits of having that status seeing as anyone can now get fee-free cancellations and changes. It doesn’t really devalue the status as such, but it might reduce the incentive to earn that status for some travelers.
One potentially negative side effect of this change is that it could be harder snagging award tickets. If people don’t have to pay change or redeposit fees when booking award flights, speculative award bookings are likely to rise, thereby reducing award availability. The downside of that is offset by the fact that it means that you might be able to book an award that you’d have missed out on otherwise out of concern for the cancellation or change fees you’d have had to pay.
Interestingly, The Points Guy reports that Web Special awards are eligible for this new policy despite them previously having restrictions on changes and cancellations. The American Airlines website doesn’t reflect this new policy change right now though:
Having said that, the main page on their website which lists all their policy changes due to COVID doesn’t mention the elimination of award redeposit or change fees either, so it seems like their web team is a little behind the policy team. American Airlines might’ve gotten word that another airline was planning a similar policy change and decided to rush their announcement so they could be first, so they’ll presumably update their website soon to reflect these changes.