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Last week I was supposed to fly to San Francisco to cohost a 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 , 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

18 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. Hundredbacklinks

      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 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. Hundredbacklinks

      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. Hundredbacklinks

      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. Hundredbacklinks

          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. Hundredbacklinks

            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 ;-)

  7. Christine Street|

    Where can I access the AA policy that says they provide a full refund for a 1-hour delay? I’m a Platinum member but have never heard of this!

    1. Hundredbacklinks

      It’s not written. You just have to ask.

  8. Aotearoha|

    Hi Johnny,

    We are traveling to the US from New Zealand in December.

    I have a flight from DFW to MSY booked with AA. We have found out that we actually need/want to be in ATL before the flight to MSY, so will miss this flight. We will need to book a new flight DFW to ATL. The two tickets to MSY cost $210usd which i was happy to pay so far in advance and for a confirmed connection after our long haul from NZ.

    I am happy to lose the cost of this ticket and do not expect a refund.

    Since customer service have been little help (basically told me I should have booked refundable). Can you confirm (in your experience) if i cancel the two tickets it will cost me $400usd + the original $210usd? So by my understanding I’m better to no show the flight and rebook losing only the $210usd? Have you ever come across a no-show fee?

    I could use the trick in this article to hopefully get a refund if the flight is delayed, but i wouldn’t be counting on it. Which I am prepared to do.

    If i book my DFW to ATL flight (1 day prior to when I’m supposed to be flying to MSY) with AA would that tip them off to my plans to no-show? OR am i giving the airlines investigation skills too much credit!


    1. Hundredbacklinks

      Hi! You’re giving them too much credit so don’t wait to the last minute to book. I wouldn’t cancel the ticket I would just rebook and hope to get a refund (With AA’s dispute with labor there’s a better chance now that your flight will be delayed so definitely monitor it.) But I once had AA cancel one of my flights because I had two tickets on the same day because I wasn’t sure where I was going to go so it would be best to book with a different airline since AA now cancels same day. If you’re flying to ATL then you want Delta or Southwest (you have to book their tix on Southwest.com).

  9. Aotearoba|

    Thanks very much for the reply Johnny, exactly what I was thinking and I wasn’t aware of the labour dispute. Looks like I will simply have to miss the flight.

    This is my first and last time burned by AA and never again, but this was my error. Will be booking with Southwest for these flights (and whenever I can for this trip and on future trips) in case plans do change again. Only minor issue is changing Airports from DFW to DAL but oh well!