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Last week I was supposed to fly to San Francisco to cohost a #TravelSkills Twitter chat but I got sick, then my wife caught it and I couldn’t leave her alone with the baby. My non-refundable ticket cost $288 (I bought it 10 days in advance) and I knew that if I canceled it, American would charge me their obnoxious and outrageous $200 change fee.

Since I have elite status on American and I can make same-day changes for free, I decided to call just before my 2pm flight was about to board. I didn’t want to make a change too early in case that flight was delayed or canceled, which would entitle me to a full refund (exactly what I wanted).

When it was clear that the flight was going out on time, I called and changed it to the last one of the day. I saw the weather at SFO wasn’t going to be great so the chances of the last flight being delayed were very good. Sure enough, I soon received a notification that the flight was indeed delayed by an hour, which is exactly the amount of time that American requires to give full refunds. I called and received the whole $288 back. Score one for the little guys! BTW: That flight didn’t end up departing LAX until 1:57am (see above)!

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This is a great trick for those who have elite status. Those who don’t should fly Southwest Airlines, since they don’t charge a change fee. JetBlue would be my next option since they charge a much more reasonable $70 fee.



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How I Avoided American Airlines’ $200 Change Fee
5 (100%) 1 vote

13 Comments On "How I Avoided American Airlines' $200 Change Fee"
  1. Dan Kraft|

    I have to cancel a trip using American Airlines AAdvantage miles. I had worked very hard to get a great routing: Miami – Chicago – Hong Kong – Guilin, China – Kuala Lumpur – Hong Kong – Chicago – Miami all on one business class ticket for 80,000 miles each way per person. When I realized that I had to cancel the trip, I was prepared to pay the $150 for the first passenger and $25 for the second for the privilege of redepositing my miles into my AA account.
    The reservationist asked if I could wait until a month before the expected trip. She explained that if there is any change of any of the individual flights (of at least an hour), I could use the excuse of a time change to completely avoid any change fee.
    I thought it was very nice of that agent! It pays to be polite and they will often go out of their way to be helpful.
    (At least AA doesn’t charge the full $150 per person for these changes as some carriers do.)

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Great tip and very true! Thanks for sharing

  2. Tracy|

    Good tips for us as fellow frequent travelers, who sometimes find ourselves in the same situation. I will say this would’ve definitely come in handy when we flew Spirit (or were supposed to fly) out of Boston; the flight got cancelled and we weren’t able to reschedule or reclaim a dime! Probably should’ve picked a more customer-friendly airline like you suggest!

  3. Harmony,Momma To Go|

    Great suggestion!

  4. Barry Coleman|

    My boss booked a flight for me round trip. I was unable to make that flight. I called him he told me it was canceled and non refundable. So now i didnt get to go make the money but now owe my company the ticket fare plus fees. $1089.oo dollars. This was two days ago. Im googleing around and wondering if maybe the airline would allow a reschedule this late in the game ,with fee applyed . Even one way would be fine with me. American Airlines i would call but im not to savy and dont want to call until i know how to ask to get what i need. A flight out even if one way instead of the roundtrip that was paid for.

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Just ask them. But if you canceled the flight before it took off you should’ve gotten a credit minus the $200 change fee

  5. Barbara|

    I just tried the same “trick” with my non-refundable tickets to Hawaii due to Hurricane Lane and AA refused to allow me to change my reservation unless it was for travel within the next few days. Don’t they understand that hurricanes are unpredictable and can be life threatening? Not only that, I’m not able to adjust my plans because of my work schedule, and accommodations are no longer available. At the very least they could have offered me the opportunity to reschedule at some future time, say within 90 days or whatever. Nope…I would have been slammed with the $200 fee for two tickets. I lost, but so did they. Thanks, AA…you can keep my money, but not my business.

  6. Colleen Sheldon|

    We are flying PHL to MBJ at the end of December and a week after booking, I see that the non stop return is just a bit more $ (at the time of booking it was $300+ more per person). So I called AA preferred line & they told me it would be $200/ticket to do it in advance but if I wait until 24 in advance and call them, as long as there are seats on the non-stop they will charge me $75/ticket to change the tickets. Is this my best option?

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Yes, but if you’re flying during peak season (after Dec 15) then there probably won’t be seats available.

      1. Colleen Sheldon|

        Booooo! I don’t like that answer! :)
        I am bummed… but I think I will have to live with what we have. :(

        1. Johnny Jet
          Johnny Jet|

          You bought too early. Create fare alerts and monitor. Airlines don’t lower fares so far in advance (except low fare carriers)

          1. Colleen Sheldon|

            I used Ultimate Rewards points to book so the flights were almost free. But still….. I screwed up and should have been more careful in my booking. We got the last room available at the resort we booked, so we needed to get the flights done too….. or felt like we did. The travel agent was insistent that it needed to be booked asap. I knew better, oh well..

          2. Johnny Jet
            Johnny Jet|

            Then you did the right thing. What you can do is try to get bumped. The flight might be overbooked so asked to be put on the nonstop and get some $$$ for your next trip ;-)

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