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 or cancel paid and award flights varies by airline. But these policies have become significantly more lax with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

American Airlines is on the more humane end of the spectrum, especially when it comes to using miles instead of money. Here’s what you need to know about changing and canceling American Airlines flights.

(Photo by Abdul N Quraishi – Abs/Shutterstock)

American Airlines’ COVID-19 changes

At the onset of COVID-19, American Airlines (and many other airlines) started issuing travel waivers for would-be passengers. But as the pandemic continued, the airline decided to eliminate change fees altogether.

Here are some additional details on canceling or changing your American Airlines flight. They’ve made huge improvements.

Flight changes

American Airlines recently updated the process for flight changes by announcing that they are eliminating change fees for all domestic and short-haul international flights, which includes flights traveling to and from these destinations:

  • Any of the 50 U.S. states
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Caribbean
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

This new rule applies to all fares, excluding basic economy. And it’s worth noting that while American Airlines’ change policy has become more flexible, you’ll have to pay the difference in ticket price when you change your flight. And you can only make a change once.

When it comes to award tickets, here’s an in-depth look at American Airlines’ award change and cancellation policies. In short, there’s no longer a fee for canceling an award flight. And you can now change an award flight as late as the day of departure without penalty.

Flight cancelations

There have also been some changes to the process of canceling an American Airlines flight due to the pandemic. You’re allowed to make changes (such as a cancellation or an itinerary change) to your trip once.

  • You can cancel a flight that was issued by Sept. 30, 2020, and opt to rebook later
  • You will receive a credit for the value of your ticket and can use this credit towards any American Airlines flight
  • Your travel must be completed by Dec. 31, 2021 

You can change it now, or cancel and rebook later. Just remember that while the change fee will be waived you will still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip. If your new flight is less expensive than the original, you’ll get the fare difference in the form of travel credit.

Along with improved policies for paid flights, the cancellation policies for award flights have dramatically increased as well. You’re now able to cancel award tickets as late as your departure date (you used to have to do so at least 60 days in advance). And you can cancel and redeposit your miles for free!

Be sure to look at our piece on American Airlines’ award cancellation policies here.

American Airlines’ fees and penalties

Fees and penalties for changing your itinerary or canceling a flight have become much more forgiving due to the coronavirus pandemic. That said, certain tickets could still incur a change or cancellation fee. 

First, know that it’s actually the 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 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, especially so now that American is waiving all cancellation fees for award tickets!

How to change or cancel your American Airlines flight

Changing and canceling your flight is so easy your grandmother can do it (but after reading this, you can be nice and offer to do it for her). Here are the step by step instructions.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

Simply click choose the trip from the list of upcoming flights and select “View/Change.” Then 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

Step 3

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 this other “same day” option when going into the View/Change tab. Same-day standby is available for free.

It’s also worth noting that 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.

FAQ about changing flights with American Airlines

Can you change a flight on the same day?

You can! If you want to change your flight on the day that you’re departing, you can do so as long as there are eligible seats available on the alternate flight. So if you have booked an economy flight, for example, and there are only business class seats available, you would not be eligible, or you might be asked to pay the fare difference. Additionally, the new flight must still be departing and arriving and the original destinations. You can make these changes online, at the airport kiosk, or by calling American Airlines’ support desk. 

Can a flight be changed to another location?

For any tickets booked before Dec. 31, 2020, you’re allowed to change your origin and destination cities. So, for example, if the origin city on your original ticket was Denver, you could change your departure city to Phoenix. 

Can it be changed for an indefinite amount of times?

With the new, more flexible change fee policy at American Airlines, there are still some restrictions. If you’re planning to change a flight it’s important to note that you can do this just once. So take that into consideration when you’re looking to update your plans.

FAQ about canceling flights with American Airlines

Can you cancel a flight on the same day?

The ability to cancel for a refund will depend on the ticket you’ve purchased. Refundable tickets may receive a full refund up to 24 hours before you fly. Other ticket types might be refunded for credit towards future travel. If you want to cancel a non-refundable flight that departs in less than 72 hours, you will need to call American Airlines to make this request. 

Do you get your rewards back if the flight was booked with points?

Yes! This is what makes booking flights with American Airlines so great, especially when compared to other airlines. American Airlines allows you to cancel award tickets as late as your departure date — for free!

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Erin Lizzo is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where she covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in the Matador Network.

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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