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How American Airlines’ Flight Change Turned Into A 190,000 Mile Win For Me

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How To Take Advantage Of A Flight Change

How To Take Advantage Of A Flight Change

A few weeks back I shared my story on how American Airlines switched me into an absolutely ridiculous flight change. I had booked first class flights to Maui for my wife’s upcoming birthday (a $9,000 vacation for a few hundred dollars), and of course a few weeks after booking it I got a dreaded flight change email. American Airlines was keeping us on the same route, a connection through Phoenix, but now we had a 26 minute layover. In the article I laid out the different options I had and readers chimed in with what they thought I should do as well. I finally had some time to work on it this week and I am happy to say that I turned this flight change into a 190K American Airlines AAdvantage miles win. I’ll show you how take advantage of a flight change and breakdown my win in the article.

Original Flight Booking

After searching endlessly for good award flights to Maui I decided to accept a slight defeat and book standard business class for 50K AA AAdvantage miles each way per person, or 200,000 miles in total. The goal was to book lie flat to Hawaii, at least for one of the 4 legs of our trip. I even searched flying to Maui from West Coast cities to see if I could piece it together that way but it just wasn’t working. Delta had space on their reopened direct route to Honolulu, but the cost was just too high. Everything else was overly expensive, or had a bad product not worth the cost.

How To Take Advantage Of A Flight Change

The 100K roundtrip per person price tag was by far the best I could find. The lie flat option on American, connecting through Dallas, was quite a bit more expensive too. I only had 225K American Airlines miles in total to play with so that was a lost cause. Overall, I was okay with the booking, knowing I got a good deal with the way today’s prices are, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

Using The Flight Change To My Advantage

Once this flight change came through I figured I needed to do something. I didn’t want to risk a 26 minute layover even if it was an early flight, leaving at 7:40 AM.  That improved my chances of it working out, for sure, but still too close for my liking. I decided it was worth the time investment to see if I could do better.

Remember that lie flat flight through Dallas I mentioned above? That was still showing space but the cost was 145,000 miles per person, or 95,000 more miles per person then I paid for our flights. This was now my goal.

The flight had a 50 minute layover, which was twice as good as our current flight, plus it was the very first flight of the day. I wasn’t super excited about that 3 AM wake up call but the juice was worth the squeeze in this case.

Calling American Airlines To Change Our Flights

I called the AA customer service number (800-433-7300) and expected an 8 hour hold time. Surprisingly they said they could call me back in about 25 minutes. Why doesn’t every customer service department have this feature already?  Wouldn’t you know it, they called back right at about 25 minutes. I should note I have no status with American either.

I got a very friendly agent on the phone and said I didn’t feel comfortable with the 26 minute layover. He agreed that was not the best and asked if I had another option in mind already. I fed him the details of the flight through Dallas and said I prefer that layover and like that it is the first flight of the day, which limits our exposure to delays.

At this point, even though I knew it would likely work, I was waiting for him to say that the new flight was way too expensive, and I would need to pay the difference. After a few seconds he found the flight and said it shouldn’t be a problem. His computer did keep crashing when he tried to book it so he had to send it to the ticketing desk. He said they would have no issues doing it and I should see an email confirmation soon. I hung up with my fingers crossed. About 30 minutes later I had the new flight information in my inbox.

How To Take Advantage Of A Flight Change

We are now flying lie flat to Hawaii, for a cost of only 50,000 miles a person! I call that a win every day, and twice on Sunday.

How To Take Advantage Of A Flight Change: Final Thoughts

That old saying, take lemons and make lemonade, definitely applies here. While flight changes are annoying, and can be time consuming, they also offer you some opportunities. Depending on the airline, you should be able to parlay the flight change into a better route or product etc. That is, of course, assuming that you didn’t already have optimal flight booked.

I know many play the rebooking game at another level these days. They will choose the cheapest option available, on their preferred days, and then wait for the flight change email to come through so they can switch it to the better route. This can lead to a ton in savings and you have a good chance of it happening right now. Just be prepared to take that terrible routing if it doesn’t happen or to rebook something else at a much higher price last minute.

Have you ever taken advantage of a flight change for a big win? Share your experience in the comments.

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. The 26 minute connection at PHX is very doable and i’ve done it 3 times. AA isn’t going to purposely make these close connections bookable if it wasn’t feasible. it would cost them way too much money in lost revenue from empty seats and rebooking people. Most flights arrive into PHX early and it takes 10 mins top to go from one end to the other end of the terminal.

  2. Last weekend – got a schedule change at the last minute on an ANC/SEA/SLC/AUS routing in First that gave me 26 minutes in SEA for the connection. Called DL not expecting much, but they put three of us on a nonstop SEA/AUS flight that would have been 50,000 miles more each. Big win – we arrived 2 hours earlier than scheduled (albeit with 4 hours in SEA). The kicker was they were offering $2,000 a seat at 1:05 AM to switch flights – although they couldn’t confirm anything for THREE DAYS. I would have taken it, but then we would have missed the Texas/BAMA game and I would never have heard the end of it…

  3. This was great insight. I had a similar experience, but I thought it was a fluke. I booked Virgin Atlantic from Tel Aviv to LAX through London using Delta miles. They had a schedule change and something like 15 minutes to get to the connecting flight in London. I had booked this in business class for about 180000 points for 2 of us which was a great deal. I called Delta to see what could be done. Delta ONE suite was showing at about 400000 points each so I was not optimistic. However, Delta granted us 2 seats (on a pretty full flight) using the same original points. I was Amazed and delighted.

  4. I really read it expecting it to be THE solution to problems of the sort but all I read was old news. I doubt the initial change was made by an agent and your need was pretty much basic for anyone to deny you the obvious. In other words, too much confetti on a same old small piece of cake. How about writing on how to take advantage of a flight change after it’s happened and you ended up being downgraded from 1A to 40A due to no availability in the new offer?

    • When you ask so nicely Fabio I’ll get right on doing what you DEEM to be important….

      Just don’t hold your breath bud

  5. When there is an involuntary schedule change, it’s been my experience, especially with American, that they will rebook you on the flight of your choice in the class originally booked, even if it involves a day, route or city change. The trick is being able to find something better that works with your schedule, especially if you originally booked the ideal itinerary to begin with. The price of the new routing has never been an issue or even questioned, so I look at the best option that’s available for me. I would have done the exact same thing you did by looking for and booking a better aircraft with upgraded amenities. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out, but I’m glad it did for you!

  6. Two weeks ago, two hours before needing to leave for the airport, Southwest canceled our flight out of IND on Monday afternoon. The earliest option to rebook on SW was for Wednesday. As we needed to be in LAS on Tuesday, we were forced to bite the bullet & book a last minute flight on Spirit (gasp) for an out-of-pocket fare of pennies shy of $600 for two one-way tickets. Southwest’s “goodwill gesture” was a measly $150 voucher! Not the best start to our first two week vacation in 39 years! 🙁

    • Hopefully the new proposed laws on this stuff helps with instances like this. We need something similar to EU 261 since airlines should have to pay the cost if they leave you hanging like that without a reasonable solution.

  7. Being polite and helpful is always a good strategy. Happy birthday to the Mrs. – enjoy the flight and the island!

  8. We had 3 tickets booked with AA to take our last child to college across country. My husband and I booked together so we could drop off and return home. Our son was booked separately and had him returning at Christmas. We were scheduled on a flight with two layovers. Our son got a schedule change to his outbound flight, which would have him arriving separate and much later. I called and got all 3 tickets moved to a way better route – one stop over and arriving earlier than anticipated. Happy it worked out for the 3 of us.


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