How to Avoid An Obscure American Airlines Award Change Fee

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American Airlines award change fee.

Obscure Unpublished American Airlines Award Change Fee

For the week before New Year’s 2014, my family and I headed on a last minute trip to Honolulu. Back then American Airlines was still allowing a free stopover on award trips and I managed to tack on a free one-way to Tokyo to our flight home from Hawaii.

Fast forward a few months and I was in India on a media trip and it didn’t make sense for me to come all the way home for just a few days before going to Japan. I opted to meet my family there and thus never took my free one-way to Japan.

No Charge Award Changes – Maybe?

American airlines award change.

Thankfully the American Airlines award change policy is a good one. If you change the dates of an award flight, they do not charge a fee as long as the origin and the destination are the same. Or at least that is what I have always experienced.

Back in April, instead of losing the flight, I changed it to a random date in October. October 9th to be exact. Since I don’t have plans to go to Japan tomorrow, I phoned up American to push the date back to December. I am actually hoping to use the flight then.

Currently I am booked on an AA flight from LAS-LAX and then a Japan Airlines flight from LAX-NRT. The only option I could find that would work for the dates I want is LAS-LAX-SFO-HND. It has another connection, but at least I would be flying into Tokyo’s more convenient airport.

A $150 American Airlines Award Change Fee?

American Airlines award change.

After going over a few flights and telling the agent about the SFO routing (I had researched available flights on the British Airways website), the agent said he had a better option. I could fly from LAS-HNL on Hawaiian Airlines and then from HNL-NRT on Japan Airlines.

It sounded good to me since it effectively broke up the flights, plus I am not looking forward to flying that long in coach. (I may upgrade the flight if space comes available.) He then called the ticketing desk and came back saying there may be a change fee.

While American Airlines doesn’t charge a change fee if you change only the dates of your flights, if you go from a Oneworld carrier to a non-Oneworld partner, they do charge. Since my domestic flight was changing from AA to Hawaiian, there indeed would be a $150 fee. Boo.

Back to the Original Plan

American Airlines award change.
My eventual routing. From GCMap.

Since I already had the original SFO option figured out, I chose that itinerary instead of paying the fee. While that wasn’t a big deal, this is indeed yet another unpublished rule of American Airlines like the one I ran into earlier this year when trying to combine Qatar and Etihad on the same award.


In the end, American still has a very generous no charge policy on awards when you are only changing the date. Keep in mind though if you are planning on changing from a Oneworld partner to a non-alliance partner, that they will charge you $150. Just another of their many unpublished consumer unfriendly rules.

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