American Airlines has today eliminated the $75 close-in booking fee for booking an award ticket within 21 days of travel. That appears to be great news, though we recently saw United do the same only to add a mileage surcharge on close-in ticketing. At the moment, there does not appear to be a catch with this change from American Airlines, but I think the current tone among most members is on the pleased side of skeptical.
No close-in fees
JT Genter at The Points Guy found that close-in awards like any of these itineraries between New York and Chicago for travel tomorrow:
He was further able to verify with American Airlines that this is indeed an official change, stating that American is “always looking for ways to make AAdvantage award redemption easier for our customers, and this update offers more flexibility when booking award travel and requesting mileage upgrades.”
On the surface, that seems like great news.
What’s the catch?
I share One Mile at a Time’s skepticism here: with no official press release about a change that would be largely welcomed by award travelers, I have to wonder if there isn’t something more coming with this. You’d think that American would be happy to get some positive press if the news were all positive and would have been pushing this change out to spread the word.
We recently saw United eliminate the close-in fee only to raise prices by a few thousand miles on close-in tickets. As OMAAT points out, that type of change is particularly negative for elite members since top-end elites weren’t subject to close-in booking fees before but now pay more miles for those awards the same as everyone else. Will American follow that lead?
Delta long ago got rid of close-in ticketing fees. They have been running regular flash sales where you can fly round trip on some routes for as few as 10K miles round trip. However, we all know that these routes are usually fairly inexpensive and that Delta also charges exorbitantly high award rates on some routes, often making it difficult to get much more than 1c per mile in value for travel on Delta flights. Will American follow that lead?
On the other hand, I almost never book close-in travel with American Airlines miles because I can often book the same flights with British Airways or Iberia and pay no close-in fee. The same was true with United since most of its partner airlines do not charge close-in booking fees. Many (most?) foreign programs do not charge close-in fees. Will American follow that lead?
I’m not sure which way this is playing out, but I don’t imagine American is forging its own path here and didn’t send out a press release about it. At the moment, it looks like awards are pricing as expected — whether for travel on American or on partners — but without close-in fees. It’s possible that American’s move to more dynamic pricing means that they will simply adjust the price of close-in awards accordingly over time or it’s possible that there is a larger announcement to come. Time will tell.
If you’re looking to use American Airlines miles to book close-in travel, the good news is that there is no longer a $75 close-in booking fee. You’ll still pay the phone booking fee if you choose to book over the phone (unless your award can not be ticketed online). At the moment, that’s all the news there is on this topic, but we have to wonder if we’ll see some other change to compensate for this.