(Updated) American’s poor “waived award redeposit” policy

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American Airlines Planes

Note: We’ve received a number of success reports of recent cancellations with waived fees despite the way the terms are written and quoted below. It looks like American is indeed waiving redeposit fees for those booked by 5/31 for travel by 9/30, though as you’ll see via quoted policy below, it’s far from clear that this is official policy given the way they have structured the announcements

In this morning’s post about COVID-19 cancellation policies, elite status extensions and updated requirements, I noticed that American Airlines was allowing free award redeposits for awards ticketed by May 31st, 2020 for travel by September 30, 2020. While that’s true in the most cursory of senses, I hadn’t noticed just how restrictive the policy is. Most readers will probably find that they indeed have to pay for award reinstatements with American if the policy is enforced as written.

Update: Gary Leff in the comments shares his understanding that the restrictive policy below only applies to bookings cancelled online. The page dedicated to this change indicates that if you do not qualify for automatic reinstatement online, you’ll have to call and the page goes on to detail the fees ($150 for the first passenger; $25 per passenger thereafter). Reader J.J. shares that his recent experience has been waived fees despite not meeting the online redeposit requirements. At the very least, the policy is unclear as written — though it is possible that American is following Gary’s interpretation in practice (as indicated by J.J.’s experience) it is difficult to know if they will continue to follow that interpretation without clearer guidance by policy.

Update #2: We’ve had an additional report from OHTravelDad on Twitter indicating waived fees and cancellation via Twitter.

What led to my update saying that the fee for reinstating award tickets would be waived is this part of an announcement that was widely covered on April 13th (see our post here):

Waiving award reinstatement and change fees for award bookings
We’re giving you more flexibility with waived award reinstatement and change fees for awards booked by May 31, 2020, for travel through September 30, 2020.

If your trip is eligible, your miles will be automatically reinstated within 48 hours of canceling your trip online. For all other trips, contact Reservations to have your miles reinstated.

You can find that announcement here on the American Airlines website.

At the time, the bad news that I caught in the announcement (and that other blogs subsequently reported more widely) is that American is doing away with its long-standing policy to allow changes to date and routing. American has long allowed members to change the date, carrier, or routing of an award ticket provided that the origin and destination did not change. They will no longer be doing that going forward (though they will no longer charge a redeposit fee when you cancel at least 60 days in advance for travel booked from 6/1 onward — again, see this post for more).

However, what I had totally missed at the time is how poor American’s policy is in terms of defining what travel booked by May 31st is “eligible” for waived redeposit fees. For award travel ticketed by May 31, 2020 for travel by September 30, 2020, here are the conditions your reservation must meet to be eligible for automatic reinstatement of miles with no fee (this information is here on American’s site):

Automatic mileage reinstatement
If your trip is eligible, your miles will be automatically reinstated within 48 hours of canceling your trip online. For all other trips, contact Reservations to have your miles reinstated.

Eligible customers / trips must meet these requirements:

  • The reservation is for a single passenger.
  • The traveler and the AAdvantage® member whose miles were redeemed are the same.
  • Travel is on American Airlines flights only.
  • The ticket was purchased directly with American in the U.S. or via our U.S. website.
  • Travel for any portion of the trip has not begun.
  • No changes have been made to the trip since the ticket was issued.
  • Refunds for the purchase of ancillary products such as seats, pre-paid bags or priority boarding will need to be requested separately.

That’s a pretty restrictive policy. It means that anyone who is traveling with another person, on a partner airline, or who had previously made a change under American’s long-permissive change policies would be ineligible for a free reinstatement. I imagine the pool of customers eligible for free reinstatement is slim.

The page goes on to later state that if your travel is not eligible for automatic reinstatement, you’ll need to contact reservations and it details the associated fees as per the following:

If your trip is not eligible for automatic reinstatement of your miles, contact Reservations for help with canceling your flight award reservation and requesting mileage reinstatement.

You can request to have your AAdvantage® mileage reinstated for a wholly unused AAdvantage® award if your reservation is canceled before departure and if the ticket has not expired.
The reinstatement fee is $150 per account for the first award ticket. Additional award tickets reinstated to the same account at the same time will have a $25 fee per ticket.

That’s unfortunate for those with award travel booked in the upcoming months. If you are in that boat, your best bet is likely to wait for American to cancel your flight and then I would think you would qualify for free reinstatement — though given this customer-unfriendly policy, I would expect some hassle still.

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Gary Leff
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Gary Leff

Nick, I think there’s some confusion here.

You’re describing the conditions for American’s brand new option to reinstate free *online*. This wasn’t even available before the end of April. And the technical ability American has here is limited.
https://viewfromthewing.com/american-finally-lets-most-members-cancel-awards-redeposit-miles-online-only-through-may-31/

Anyone wanting to reinstate miles (fee or no fee) that doesn’t meet the criteria you outlined will have to call the airline to do it. Until May 31 the fee is waived.

Best,
Gary

Allan
Guest
Allan

My miles were set to expire this July. 2 weeks ago, I booked an award ticket for June and canceled today. Did that reset the clock for my miles expiration or would it go back to July, 2020?

Brian
Guest
Brian

Well, this is just a major screw. Major change not allowing changes when awards seats are available in the same category. Terrible. And on top of that they used the Covid crisis to sneak it in.

Milezjunkie
Guest
Milezjunkie

I also recently canceled award reservations with no hassle and no fees. My ticket was a Web Saver award too. I canceled it so I could rebook a Saver award for fewer miles and more flexibility.

Jay
Guest
Jay

Yes. This is #fakenews

That’s for getting your miles back without having to call. Calling in doesn’t negate the free refund

Source: me; 10ish cancelations via phone in last two weeks

Dmc
Guest
Dmc

I was able to cancel my CX award ticket in first via phone and not only did I not have to pay a redeposit fee but I was also refunded about $32 in taxes/etc. I originally booked this international award ticket last year and had changed it twice since the original date

AC
Guest
AC

when was your flight supposed to take place? was it after sept 30?

Dmc
Guest
Dmc

It was supposed to take place May 25.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I’m pretty sure they are waiving everything carte blanche right now. I had an itinerary (1 person) that was cancelled ~8/2019 that was set to expire 4/30/2020 for rebooking/redeposit. Called and asked about redeposit a week or so before it expired. CSR said redeposit fee is currently waived and redeposited miles no questions asked. If they charge you to change flight just cancel, redeposit, rebook no? Or are you trying to ghost upgrade to a higher point cost flight? Yeah, that’s not going to fly with them. Can’t change a saver award to anytime award. Partner carrier would be the only possible hiccup from what I can tell. It’s probably a technical limitation for auto redeposit if the itinerary was previously changed. Southwest used to have that problem too. If you modified a reservation it made it nonrefundable for some reason. (No longer true I believe). Biggest risk is if American goes bankrupt 10/1.

Jay Moore
Guest
Jay Moore

I’ve made at least 10 award ticket cancellations and redeposits in the last 2 months. Mainly because I was testing reimbursement of Amex credits on the taxes and fees. I was never charged for canceling and redepositing.

NK3
Guest
NK3

I think there is a new press release this morning regarding this, including tickets booked through June. They saw all award tickets are included:

http://news.aa.com/news/news-details/2020/American-Airlines-Providing-More-Flexibility-for-Customers-in-June-OPS-DIS-05/default.aspx

Dick Bupkiss
Guest
Dick Bupkiss

The policy as written is highly restrictive. It’s also sloppily written, leaving room for interpretation. If they are in a charitable mood, then it looks like they will be more generous allowing changes and cancellations without fees. But when they are in a less generous mood, the language will allow them to really stick it to people. It’s nice that they are, apparently, doing the right thing right now. But anyone who counts on them remaining that way is a fool. The day will come when they stick to the more restrictive interpretation of their language.

I just recently made an award booking that was highly speculative – I honestly doubt i’ll take that trip. So I wanted to be sure I would be able to get everything refunded if I end up canceling. I read their terms v-e-r-y carefully and noted the many ways that my booking could easily have failed to qualify for their “easy” no-fee cancelation policy. I ended up booking two separate awards and just dodged the mistake of booking a “web special” seat – booking for me and my spouse on the same booking, or having one leg of our flight as a “web special” fare class would have invalidated the ability to get their automatic refund. I’m sure many people will fall into these holes. AA may or may not be so generous when they go to change/cancel. Personally, knowing how hard AA works to screw their customers, I didn’t want to leave myself vulnerably to their arbitrary and capricious policies.

It’s good they are reportedly behaving right now. I wouldn’t count on that going forward.

J D
Guest
J D

I just called after cancelling online a few days ago (before reading this article >.<) and they were happy to reinstate my miles with no fees whatsoever. Very pleasantly surprised.

John Power
Guest
John Power

My experience also. I believe, although Nick is right when he says it is unclear, the restrictions about which flights are “eligible’ merely defines which flights are eligible for automatic reinstatement of miles. My conversations with multiple agents at AA indicated that they were in fact NOT charging for reinstatement of miles for flights affected, but they were forcing those whose flights were not “eligible” (for automatic reinstatement) to call them; whereupon they DO reinstate the miles for NO charge. Pleasant surprise!!!