I have a love-hate relationship with American Airlines (AA). I live in Los Angeles and they’re my primary carrier since I have Executive Platinum status, their top tier elite level since I fly so much with them or their partners.

I chose American Airlines because my primary destinations used to be Miami and New York and they service those destinations better than their competitors — especially in Business Class, which I could often get for free thanks to my status, or find inexpensive premium tickets using miles and points.

In addition, American Airlines has excellent lounges in all three of these airports and the lounges are a haven to pass time in if your flight is delayed. On top of that, the Flagship Lounges are usually staffed with knowledgeable ticketing agents who can help when plans go awry. I also love American’s social media team because if you’re in a real bind, they usually respond right away.

What I loathe about American Airlines is that they make using their flight credits and systemwide upgrades almost impossible. For the flight credits, you usually have to call and speak to an agent so it’s a total time suck. United and JetBlue make this process quick and easy by allowing customers to do it all online.

I just called American Airlines’ Exec Plat line to use some credits that are expiring soon for a HNL-LAX trip in early January. After the agent put me on hold to check with their exchange department (my credits were from a U.S. to Canada flight), she came back to tell me that the credits couldn’t be used for the HNL-LAX trip as travel would have to be completed by December 31.

What?! I politely asked for an extension and she said sorry, she couldn’t do anything about it and that I would have to contact their customer service team.

Per her suggestion, I sent American an email via their Contact Us form of their website, asking for an extension and quickly received this automated response: “As an AAdvantage member, if you have an original ticket issued between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the value of your unused ticket can be used by September 30, 2022 for travel completed by December 31, 2022.”

Is this not the most ridiculous airline policy or am I overreacting? First of all, Covid has been raging so we’ve been very careful about flying – especially with two little kids. Secondly, my kids are in school so it’s not like they can just take off and use them before December 31. Lastly, this whole travel credit thing is a total sham. Why do they have an expiration date to begin with?

Southwest Airlines made headlines last week when they announced that they’re “eliminating expiration dates on all Southwest flight credits unexpired on, or created on or after July 28, 2022. This additional flexibility applies to all currently valid, existing flight credits, with no action required by Customers with flight credit in the bank, and will apply to any new flight credit issued.”

Now that’s how every airline should treat their customers when it comes to travel credits, instead of some scheme to rake in more money. But unfortunately, as Southwest noted, “it’s a first-of-its-kind policy among major U.S. airlines” and so far, no other airlines have followed suit.

I purchased these tickets with my own hard-earned money and ended up rightly canceling because of the pandemic. But because we’re not able to travel by a certain date, they’re just going to keep my money? This doesn’t sound right to me.

Are you having problems using your American Airlines flight credits, too? Do you think these rules are draconian too?

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15 Comments On "Heads Up: Many American Airlines Flight Credits Are Set to Expire So Use Them or Lose Them"
  1. Carrie|

    My husband opted to not take a trip at Christmas and he received a sizable credit. I wanted to have my daughter use the credits and we also tried to use it to purchase a flight on a partner airline ti no avail. I used a credit and purchased the cheapest flight I could for $90 and then credit was re issued in a way that I could purchase a ticket for my daughter… it was a pain but finally I got clued in on how to play with the system, but I did have to waste $90 to get the flexibility!

  2. Lynda|

    We had a similar Situation from a trip to Rome we cancelled and wanted to use them to fly to Hawaii in January, 2023. The first agent said we had to use them by December 22, 2022. My husband called American again that afternoon (after scrambling around trying to think of where we could go this Fall to use the credit). This second agent was very gracious and spent 1 1/2 hours trying to work it out. This is what we did: we’re flying to Boston from Chicago (by way of Washington DC) and back for an overnight trip. This was the cheapest flight the agent could find. That makes our credit active and now we are able to use the rest of the credit for our January Hawaii trip. Crazy, huh?!!!

  3. Deena Quilty|

    I agree. These credits should NEVER expire. Perhaps somebody should initiate a class action lawsuit. If this isn’t illegal for them to keep our money, it should be.

  4. Honolulu Lulu|

    I am trying to read “This Travel Hack Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars When Booking Flights” but only get this AA credit article. Please advise. Thx

    1. Johnny Jet|
  5. Anonymous|

    I ran into this problem with Southwest and lost a $500 credit because I could not complete a trip before the expiration date. Really glad future credits cannot be eliminated.

  6. Judy McTighe|

    Just booked a RT same day ticket to PHX to protect the remainder of my ticket credit $988. Do I actually have to fly this trip? If not would have been smarter to fly one way. Any suggestions?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I would ask the airline what the cancelation policy it is

  7. Bob Kaden|

    We are in an almost identical situation as described in your article. We postponed our January, ’22 trip to Jamaica due to COVID and rescheduled to January 2023. Try as I might, AA will not extend us for two weeks into next year to allow us to use our credits. We talked about flying somewhere in the fall just to use the tickets but, thought it was impractical to spend money on a vacation we’re forced into taking, just so as not to lose the flight credits. I’ve been denied an extension multiple times in writing and I’m going to try and speak to a real person in September giving it one last shot but, from what I read, we’re about to lose the money. The thing is when we rebook for the January trip, I will probably use AA again since those are the most convenient flights from where we live. I guess in reality though, people lost more than flight tickets during COOVID so in the overall scheme of things I should not be too upset.

  8. Amanda|

    Experiencing similar issues as well. My husband is still not comfortable flying – especially with no mask requirements – as he is immune compromised. I want to transfer the credits to my daughter so she can fly home from school for Christmas, but this far it has been a lost cause.

    I just used my flight credit but was told I could NOT also use my trip credit (from the same flight!) when booking this travel. While the customer service people I spoke to have been lovely, the policies are antiquated… especially that you can’t use flight credits online.

    Wish I could fly SW – they’d be getting ALL my business at this point!

  9. Michael H Baum|

    Having a credit “expire” without giving anything in return is larceny, pure and simple. American just told me over the phone that a COVID-caused credit they’ve said expired at the end of this year actually expired in March. I’m going back at their “Customer Relations” department but the whole situation is unethical and should be illegal. Will never fly American again, regardless of scheduling or convenience

  10. Windy|

    I am having the same issue with Hawaiian. I rebooked with a travel credit from 9/2021 for a trip this November. Unfortunately, I have to cancel/reschedule, but won’t be able to go by 12/31/22. They are saying they won’t extend my credit into next year when I plan to rebook. They just get to keep my $1600??

  11. jayde|

    I called and emailed but they won’t budge. It is use it or lose it. This is not right

  12. Tammy Stack|

    Me and my best friend have (or had) two American Airlines travel credits of $276.00 each for a [Covid] cancelled cruise back in 2019. I changed the cruise and the flights once; however the second cruise was also cancelled. American Airlines issued us both flight credits good through the end of this year, but I just found out that the new flights must’ve been booked by March of this year. I spoke with customer service to no avail. Are we just out the $552 due to no fault of our own? Seems unfair, is there anything else that we can do at this point?

  13. MRH|

    My oh my am I frustrated. I booked 2 tickets with American Airlines for my children June 2020. Cancelled the flight due to the pandemic. We’ve each battled 2 bouts of COVID. Both children were in college, so it wasn’t easy to find time to use the $800 worth of travel credit. FINALLY, the week of 9/23–knowing the credits expired 9/30–I began trying to re-book. AA’s website recognizes the credits and their value, yet does not allow me to us them when trying to book flights. Must call. I tried calling, only to receive–‘we’re too busy, try your call again later’. It wouldn’t even allow me to request a call back at a time that worked for their CS reps. Finally, I got through on 9/29 and was on hold 2 hours before I had to drop the call. 9/30, I was on hold 9 hours–yes 9 and I have the phone record to show it–waiting for a CS rep. Their system dropped the call this time. (Who has time for this?! Not me). After 5 calls on 10/1 (again, call back later), I got into their call back system. Mario called me back–“sorry, you are too late–they expired 9/30”. I’m too late???? Your system does not allow me to be timely. Waited over an hour to talk to a supervisor and the call dropped. Called back today, 10/2 and spoke with Monique. I request to talk with a supervisor. Supervisor says, “sorry. You are too late.” Again, I’m too late??? Your system won’t allow me in, won’t allow me to book, won’t allow me to talk with anyone.
    I’m miffed. They say, “You had 2 years to re-book”. Really? Did I really? As best I know, COVID has continued to be rampant. I was wary to travel–especially hearing the nightmare travel stories form this year. When I finally try to book before the end date, THEIR system craftily doesn’t allow it to happen.
    To answer your question, it’s draconian. It’s thievery. It’s just plain wrong. I know no other industry that can just keep your money. If you have a good and don’t return it within the required timeframe, at least you have the good and can sell it on an online marketplace, even if it’s for less than you paid.

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