How I Avoided American Airlines’ $200 Change Fee

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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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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

4 Comments on "How I Avoided American Airlines’ $200 Change Fee"

  1. 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.)

  2. 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!

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