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I redeemed 200,000 American Airlines miles to fly Emily to London last weekend. The regular redemption rate is 100,000 miles for a round trip business class ticket at the MileSAAver (low) redemption level. But I didn’t have much flexibility since I planned Emily’s visit just 8 days in advance.
Emily couldn’t leave on a Thursday night because of a class, and so I had to book her on the first flight on Friday. That way we could have Saturday to be together in London.
I booked her on the 9 am flight on Friday from Kansas City to London (via Chicago), and it arrived in London at 10:30 pm. And for the return journey on Sunday I wanted her to not only be on the same plane, but in the seat next to me!
To make matters worse, American Airlines was operating Boeing 767s with no First Class instead of the larger 777s with a separate First Class cabin. So not only were there fewer seats on the flights, but there was a lot of competition for the Business Class seats.
I set up Expert Flyer seat alerts (Expert Flyer is a paid service which monitors for award seats on certain airlines) for the low award level seats, but they never cleared.
So I had no option but to redeem double the regular redemption rate and book an AAnytime Award to get Emily to London. Most airlines let you redeem double the award rate to get last seat availability. In general, this isn’t the best use of miles, but in this case it was well worth it!
I also managed to get an extra 25,000 AA miles for my work Business Class trip to the UK and back, thanks to AAdvantage Geek so I didn’t feel too bad (ok, maybe a little) spending the extra 100,000 miles.
However, American Airlines also wanted me to pay a late booking fee of $75 (waived for elite members) since I was booking the ticket within 21 days of departure.
And since I was booking 2 separate 1-way tickets, I would have to pay $150 ($75 X 2) over and above the ~$250 in taxes and fees to fly out of Heathrow.
I was looking for a way to pay less in fees, and wondered if I could book a ticket to London for next month (and so not pay the late booking fee since it was more than 21 days from the departure day) and then call American Airlines to change the ticket to an earlier date.
One of the benefits of award tickets with American Airlines is that they don’t charge fees to change the dates on award tickets (provided the origin and destination remain the same).
Would the agent charge me the $75 late ticketing fee in this case?
I booked 2 separate 1-way AAnytime tickets to London and back with departure dates 2 months away. I then called American Airlines and asked them to change the departure date from 2 months out to next week. I explained to the agent that I wanted Emily to join me in London and to return back to the US on the same flight as me.
The agent was very helpful and within 5 minutes had made the changes and Emily was all set to return from London next to me!
And there was NO mention of having to pay the $75 change fee. 😉
I generally don’t make broad extrapolations from 1 single occurrence, but this just might be the way to avoid paying late ticketing fees on American Airlines.
It didn’t appear to me that American Airlines has a control in place (manual or automated) to charge late ticketing fees when an award ticket with a departure date more than 21 days away is changed to a departure date within 21 days.
If you do decide to try this out remember that award availability keeps on changing and that your award seat may disappear in the time it takes to ticket a seat and to call to change the date.
However, there is lower risk with AAnytime (or redemptions at twice the regular rate) since you are guaranteed last seat availability.
I’m curious if anyone has personal experience with avoiding late ticketing fees on airlines (American, United or others) by booking a flight for a later date and then changing it to an earlier date.