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American Airlines Hold, Change & Cancel Policies

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What are Your Options if You Want to Hold, Change or Cancel a Paid or Award Ticket on American Airlines?

April 2016

It’s stressful to push the buy button when purchasing an airline ticket with cash or reward miles. The fees to change or cancel can easily run into the hundreds for most types of tickets!

In this Tip we go into detail on the fees and policies related to ticket holds, changes and cancellations. Let’s start out with four very important Tips:

  1. Hold off as long as you can before cancelling or changing a flight. If American changes or delays the schedule or cancels the flight you may be entitled to a refund or change with no fees. The policy is especially helpful if you book far in advance. The exceptions are if you are an Elite level member and fees are waived or you hold an award ticket and wish to make a date change but retain the same routing. Those changes are free if made 21 days before departure! And consider a same-day flight change, which at most will cost $75.

  2. Know the fees before you book two one-way flights instead of a round-trip. American charges a $200 change or cancel fee for paid domestic flights (it’s as high as $450 for international travel). That fee is charged per flight! If you change or cancel a domestic round-trip flight, you will pay $200. If you change or cancel two one-way domestic flights you will pay $200 for each - or $400!

  3. Call American if you have an extraordinary circumstance like illness, a death in the family or a natural disaster. American may be willing to waive fees and adjust your itinerary if you do not have trip cancellation or interruption coverage through your credit card or a policy.

  4. Consider trip cancellation or interruption coverage - see our great travel insurance Tip!

Now let’s dig into the American Airlines policies and fees.

Holds, Changes and Cancellations for Paid Tickets:

  • For paid tickets, paid hold options are available:

    • The 24-hour free hold option ended April 1, 2016, but you can still cancel a ticket within 24 hours of booking for a full refund

    • If you'd like to have your ticket held prior to purchase, choose the "Hold" option on the "Review and Pay" page during the booking process (the cost will vary depending on the type of ticket and the hold option you choose)

  • A change or a cancellation of a paid ticket will incur up to a $450 fee ($200 for domestic and up to $450 for international travel) per ticket plus any fare difference - and no waiver for Elite members

  • When non-refundable tickets are changed or cancelled, any excess value will be issued as a credit to be used by the same person within 12 months; a refundable ticket allows a refund to the original form of payment

Holds, Changes and Cancellations for Award Tickets:

  • AAdvantage has a very generous, complimentary award hold policy for most tickets. A ticket hold can be processed online or by phone (with a fee) and is dependent on how far in advance you booked the ticket:

    • 15 to 330 days in advance, enjoy a 5-day hold

    • 1 to 14 days in advance, enjoy a 1-day hold

    • If booked within 24 hours of departure the hold allowance is only 2 hours

    • A few special fares may have different conditions, we suggest you review the terms of the ticket before purchasing

  • Any change and reinstatement fees will be waived for Executive Platinum members using miles from their account… loyalty pays!

  • If you need to change the dates of an award ticket or upgrade more than 21 days before departure (with the same routing), you will not incur a fee

  • If your departure date is within 21 days, you will incur a $75 change fee for each ticket; the $75 award processing fee for changes is waived for Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold members using miles from their account

  • If you need to change the origin or destination or airline but not the award type of an award flight or upgrade:

    • MileSAAver awards incur a change fee of $150 for each ticket

    • AAnytime award change fees are waived

    • Awards involving travel on other airlines will incur a change fee of $150 for each ticket

    • If you need to make a change that requires a different award type, the ticket will be need to be reinstated for $150 and a new award issued

    • These change fees will be waived for Executive Platinum members using miles from their account

  • If you need to cancel an award ticket or upgrade, you can have the miles reinstated to your account for a $150 fee as long as the ticket hasn’t expired; a $25 fee will be charged for each additional cancelled ticket with the miles returned to the same account

Same-Day Changes to Paid and Award Flights:

  • Changes to an alternative flight are available on the same day as your original confirmed flight on American Airlines and American Eagle in the US, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Canada and the Caribbean and between New York (JFK) and London (LHR)
  • The fee is $75 (domestic) and $150 (between JFK and London) for confirmed or domestic standby travel with the same departure and arrival airports, same routing and number of connections
  • Standby is only available when seats are not available on the preferred flight and therefore cannot be confirmed; standby charges are automatically refunded if you are not accommodated on the flight you standby for

  • The $75 fee is waived for:

    • American Airlines AAdvantage® Executive Platinum status and companions in same record

    • Unrestricted Economy Class (Y fare), Business or First Class paid tickets

    • AirPass® membership

    • First and Business Class award tickets

    • MileSAAver® & AAnytime® award tickets

    • Choice Plus fares

  • Complimentary standby is available for:

    • Unrestricted Economy Class (Y fare), Business or First Class tickets

    • American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold status and companions in same record

    • oneworld® Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby status and companions in same record

    • AirPass membership

    • First and Business Class MileSAAver award tickets

    • AAnytime award tickets

    • Choice Plus fares

    • Active U.S. military personnel traveling on orders or personal travel

    • Active U.S. military dependents traveling on orders

The Wrap-Up:

It’s easier to push the buy button when you are fully informed. Consider round-trip purchases to avoid the risk of two change fees and the same-day change option is a more economical option ($75 vs $200 to $450) for those who need last minute changes to paid tickets. 

For award tickets the complimentary hold is a great option while you work out the details of your travel and the fact that you can change the dates of award travel without a fee more than 21 days before you fly is a welcome convenience! Of course, loyalty pays with many of the fees waived on award tickets for AAdvantage’s Elite flyers!

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