How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

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It’s always smart to book your travel with one of the best travel insurance credit cards (I saved hundreds when my card’s trip delay insurance claim reimbursed me for an American Airlines cancellation last year). But airlines sometimes have surprisingly pleasant policies when your plans change.

The cost to change paid and award flights varies dramatically by airline. Some offer the luxury for free, like Southwest. Some offer notably low fees, like Iberia. And some will punish you hard. American Airlines is on the more humane end of the spectrum, rewarding you big time for using miles instead of money.

Here’s what you need to know about changing and cancelling American Airlines flights.

(Photo by Soonthorn Wongsaita/Shutterstock)

American Airlines’ COVID-19 changes

American Airlines has issued a broad travel waiver for would-be passengers in light of the coronavirus — If you purchase(d) your flight before May 31, 2020, there is no change fee. Note, however, that you may have to pay the difference in ticket price when you change your flight. And if you cancel, you’ll receive American Airlines credit toward future travel.

American Airlines offers some more details, stating that the change fee is waived if you:

  • Booked an American Airlines flight
  • Bought your ticket on or before May 31, 2020
  • Are scheduled to travel March 1 – September 30, 2020
  • Can travel on or before December 31, 2021

You’re allowed to make changes to your trip once. You can change it now, or cancel and rebook later. Your travel must be completed on or before December 31, 2021. The change fee will be waived but you may still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.

If you bought a ticket prior to April 7, 2020, and are booked to travel through September 30, 2020, you’ll get a full refund if American Airlines cancels your flight. If you decide to cancel a flight that’s still operating, you’ll only get an American Airlines credit toward future travel which is valid through December 31, 2021.

Online travel agencies like Orbitz require you to liaise with them for changes and cancellations — not American Airlines. If you’ve got a travel waiver from American Airlines, they’ll take care of it for you.

American Airlines change and cancellation fees

Paid flights

First know that it’s actually law that you’ve got 24 hours from booking to cancel your flight for free. So long as you reserve your flight at least two days before your travel date, American Airlines will provide you 24 hours to back out.

If your ticket isn’t covered by a travel waiver but you still need to change or cancel it, you have a couple of options. Most American Airlines tickets can be changed or canceled for a fee. The only types of tickets that typically can’t be adjusted are basic economy tickets; however, even these tickets can be changed or canceled under specific circumstances — which we’ll cover below.

If you don’t have a special situation that would allow you to avoid these fees, here’s a chart showing what you’d need to pay to change or cancel your American Airlines flight:

  • Basic Economy: No changes allowed
  • Nonrefundable: $200 domestic, up to $750 international

As stated above, flight vouchers are the norm when canceling an American Airlines flight. You’ll receive a voucher equal to the value of your paid flight minus the cancellation fee.

Of course, refundable fares are zero-risk, as your credit card will be fully credited if you decide to cancel. However, the price is often exponentially higher than a nonrefundable ticket, so it’s never ideal. Using American Airlines miles is an excellent remedy for anyone with travel plans that aren’t set in stone. I’ll explain!

Award flights

American Airlines award flights are far more relaxed when changing and canceling a flight (most award flights, anyway). For Web Special awards, no changes are allowed, and there’s a $150 mileage redeposit fee when canceling. For all other award fares:

  • Free date and time changes, but $150 fee when changing origin or destination
  • You must keep the same airlines if using partner flights
  • $150 redeposit fee when canceling the first passenger, and $25 fee for each additional passenger on the same reservation

As you can see, using American Airlines miles does more than provide you a free ticket — it protects you against potentially exorbitant change and cancellation fees.

Anyone with Executive Platinum American Airlines status is exempt from award change fees.

How to change or cancel your American Airlines flight

Changing and cancelling your flight is so easy your grandmother can do it. First, head to the American Airlines website and log-in or click the “Your trips/Check in” tab at the top of the landing page. You don’t have to log into your account to see your upcoming flight — you just need your name and record locator. If you do log-in, your upcoming travel will automatically appear under the “Your trips” tab.

Then, simply click choose the trip from the list of upcoming flights and select “View/Change.” You’ll be given a rundown of your itinerary and other pertinent details, and you’ll see two links at the top of the page:

  • Change trip
  • Cancel trip

Click the appropriate link and American Airlines will take you by the hand to help you change or cancel your flight. You’ll get an email outlining your changes. You can also make a same-day change to your flight for $75 (waived for Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro status members). The same day you’re flying, you’ll find another “same day” option when going into the View/Change tab.

You might find that you can’t access your particular flight. This could be because you’ve booked your flight through a partner airline, or perhaps an online travel agency. Remember, you may well have to contact the original airline or agency to modify your tickets.

Ways to earn American Airlines miles

By far the easiest way to earn American Airlines miles in a hurry is by earning welcome offers from the best travel credit cardsCitibank and Barclays each offer personal American Airlines credit cards and cobranded American Airlines business credit cards. Read our easy guide to Citi American Airlines application rules to help you choose a card.

American Airlines Credit CardsWelcome BonusMinimum SpendAnnual Fee
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®65,000 American Airlines milesafter spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
$99, waived the first 12 months
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines milesafter spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.$99, waived the first 12 months
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card10,000 American Airlines miles + $50 statement creditafter spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening$0
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®50,000 American Airlines milesafter spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening$450
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®Up to 75,000 American Airlines miles- 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
- 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®60,000 American Airlines milesFirst purchase within first 90 days of account opening$99

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business cards have been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

If your travel plans have been impacted by COVID-19, you can almost assuredly receive waived change and cancellation fees with American Airlines. Check this page regularly to view American Airlines’ current policies.

Changing or cancelling your plans on American can be extremely costly (up to $750!) — but depending on your changes, you may pay zero dollars if you use miles instead of money. Read our post on how to earn AA miles to learn more.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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