Guide to Airline Award Change and Cancellation Fees

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Guide to Airline Award Change and Cancellation Fees

You save, you plan, you book that award you’ve been eyeing for a long time. But then something comes up, and you must cancel. Suddenly, you’re paying a chunk of change to get your miles back! I’ve been there. It hurts. Hopefully this airline award change and cancellation fees guide will help you navigate the trenches should it happens again.

Paying an award cancellation fee is one of the worst feelings in this hobby. Luckily, many airlines either eliminated or temporarily suspended their award change and cancellation fees during the pandemic. United has been unclear about this, to be honest.

Here is the latest information on award change and cancellation fees, so you can plan accordingly.

Updated 9/13/2021

Best Programs For Avoiding Award Cancellation Fees

If you’re looking for the best programs for booking award flights where cancellation could be a possibility, there are still some great options. One of my favorites for booking Alaska or American flights is British Airways Avios. Their fees are as follows:

  • Change or cancellation for US members: $55 USD
  • Call center fee (only levied if you cancel by phone): $25 USD

However, there is one caveat: getting your Avios back is actually free. Getting the taxes and fees back is what requires the charge. But what if you’ve only paid the $5.60 TSA fee? Just walk away and forfeit them. It’s essentially a $5.60 cancellation fee. #winning

Another great option is Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. Besides being one of the best options for booking domestic flights operated by United Airlines, their fees are very reasonable if you need to cancel:

  • Change (only applicable to Turkish-operated flights): $25 USD
  • Cancellation & refund (domestic): $25 USD
  • Cancellation & refund (international): $50 USD
  • No-show Fee: $50 USD
  • Fees for domestic flights within Turkey: $7 USD

This is yet another reason I’ve completely changed my value of Citi ThankYou points. To be able to book a domestic ticket for fewer miles and be able to cancel for less is amazing.

Other good Star Alliance options include ANA (no fees) and Singapore KrisFlyer.  Just don’t no-show. They’ll gouge you. But this is easily avoidable with a phone call.

An excellent SkyTeam option is Virgin Atlantic. Their fees depend on where your flight originates, but it’s always much better than Delta’s $150.

Then there is always Southwest, with no award change or cancellation fees. Ever.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

List of Airline Award Change and Cancellation Fees

Any airline loyalty program that offers reasonable award change and cancellation fees gets top marks in my book. Requiring more than a nominal fee for redepositing the miles is ridiculous. With some airlines charging fees as high as $200 per ticket(!), they are really just looking to gouge passengers.

Here is a list of airline award change and cancellation fees for the most common programs:

Airline ProgramChangeCancellationNotes
Aeroplan$25-100 CAD$75-175 CADDepends on class of service, if it's a discount fare, and how far in advance.
Alaska MileagePlan$0$125*Waived for MVP Gold/Gold 75k or Full Flex fares
American AAdvantage$0 (except for basic economy tickets)$0 (except for basic economy tickets)$0 change excludes Web Special awards, but you can cancel/get refund for free
ANA Mileage Club$03,000 miles$25 phone issuance fee
Asia Miles$25/40/$100*$120 or 12,000 miles*Date change online or by phone/destination change
Avianca LifeMiles1 free change up to Dec. 31, 2021$50 to $200$25 award ticketing fee not refunded
British Airways AviosWaived on bookings after March 3, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2022Waived on bookings after March 3, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2022$25 call center fee
Delta SkyMiles$150 (No fees on flights departing North America, except for basic economy tickets)$150 (No fees on flights departing North America, except for basic economy tickets)Fees waived for Platinum & Diamond members
Flying BlueFees waived on flights before December 31, 2021Fees waived on flights before December 31, 2021Flights in 2022 have a range of fees; check your ticket
JAL Mileage BankNo changes, must cancel~$30$50 phone ticketing fee
JetBlue$0 (Except for Basic Economy) on tickets booked before May 31, 2021$0 (Except for Basic Economy) on tickets booked before May 31, 2021$25 phone booking fee; all fees waived for Mosaic members + anyone on that itinerary
Korean SKYPASS$0 domestic/$26 international0-10,000 miles**Depends on class of service and how far in advance you cancel
Singapore KrisFlyer$25/$50*$75 saver award/$50 advantage award*Higher price for partner award, $25 phone fee
Southwest RapidRewards$0$0
Turkish Miles & Smiles$7 domestic/$25 international$7 domestic/$25 international
United MileagePlus$0 if originating in the US (except Basic Economy)Up $100, depending on elite status$25 phone service fee. No-show fee is $125
Virgin Atlantic Club$40-50, depending on origin$40-50, depending on originNote: bookings made 3/3/21 to 4/30/22 get unlimited date changes + 1 name change for free. Rebooking period to 4/30/23. Fare difference may apply.

Prior to the major changes we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic, international carriers were generally better than domestic carriers–with the exception of LifeMiles. LifeMiles charges a ludicrous $200 per ticket for international premium cabin flights.

With domestic airlines in the U.S., many are waiving or eliminating fees on anything but Basic Economy tickets. However, this may only apply to tickets originating in the U.S., so check the terms before you book two separate one-way tickets.

Airline Award Change and Cancellation Fees

Tips For Planning Award Travel Around Fees

First off, if you stumble onto an ideal award that may or may not work out, but you don’t want to lose the space, choose a low-fee currency. I did this with award tickets to Hawaii. We didn’t end up going, but the cancellation cost for the tickets was only $56 ($5.60 x 5 people x 2 segments), as I’d booked with British Airways Avios. Not much of a loss.

I’ve also booked a couple flights with Avianca LifeMiles that I ended up needing to cancel. Domestic economy on United only costs $50, but with the $25 award charge that isn’t refunded, it’s sorta painful. I’ll likely stick to Turkish in the future as much as I can.

Upper-tier frequent flyers with many programs enjoy waived fees–a very valuable perk, in my opinion. I was able to speculatively book a couple Delta tickets this year, knowing that the award redeposit charge would be waived if I needed to cancel (which I did) as a Platinum Medallion. Use this to your advantage if you have status with your airline of choice!

All other things being (roughly) equal, I’d look at Turkish Airlines and KrisFlyer as ideal for domestic (and other) awards on United, Virgin Atlantic for nonstop Delta awards, and Avios for nonstop American Awards.

Conclusion

It’s always a bummer to need to cancel an award ticket, but sometimes you have no choice. I do my best to plan my award flights using a currency with better award change and cancellation fees. I’d much rather be out $50 than $150 per ticket. Often, a partner currency will also save you miles.

Ian Snyder
After igniting his passion for award travel while planning his honeymoon, Ian now enjoys using points and miles to see the world with his wife and three internationally adopted kiddos. He loves dissecting loyalty programs to find maximum value. His goal is to demonstrate that extraordinary travel is possible for the ordinary family.

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9 COMMENTS

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I recently had to cancel Virgin Atlantic awards and they simply kept the taxes I had paid. No $50 charge. This was for Delta flights going from Hawaii to Japan so the taxes were only $5.60 each. I did this on 3 separate occasions so I don’t think this was an error.

  2. Are cancellation fees generally considered incidental costs that could be covered by a credit card airline fee credit (like Amex Hilton Aspire).

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