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Here’s how to cancel an American Airlines award without paying the $150 fee to reinstate your miles and cancel the award.

  1. Be an Executive Platinum canceling an award booked with miles from your account. The reinstatement fee is waived for Executive Platinums.
  2. Hope for a schedule change greater than 60 minutes on one of your flights, and call to cancel for free because the new schedule doesn’t work for you.

To help #2 along, when you are one month from departure, if you haven’t gotten the magic 60 minute schedule change, call to change your award to a later date for free. Change the award to a date as far in the future as possible. You are only limited by the fact that the new travel date must be within one year of the award’s original ticketing date. Now you have more time for a schedule change.

My Experience

I booked two awesome one way trips as one American Airlines award.

  1. Bangkok to Doha to Luxor with the first segment in Business Class on the new Qatar A380. (anatomy of an award)
  2. Cairo to Abu Dhabi to Washington DC with the second segment in First Class on the new Etihad 787. (anatomy of an award)
Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

 

Combined these cost only 120,000 American Airlines miles, and I was excited to fly in ridiculous luxury.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.09.15 PM
Bar on Qatar A380

 

Then I was invited to a wedding that made my trip impossible. Only a five minute change had been made to my itinerary since booking. (I did try to get a free cancellation for that change, but I had no luck.)

The flights were originally scheduled to begin April 30, 2015. Any changes made within 21 days of departure cost $75 to $150. But if you change an American Airlines award

  • more than 21 days before your original departure
  • your new flights are also 21+ days out
  • you don’t change the cabin
  • you don’t change the origin or departure
  • you don’t change the airlines
  • and you don’t change the award type (MileSAAver or AAnytime)

…your change is free.

My award had four flight segments, I searched for award space on those four segments as far in the future as possible. I started with my last segment and worked backwards. I found award space for all four segments in mid-February 2016 on the same routes in the same cabins of the same airlines. (Read the Anatomy of an Award posts linked above to see how I searched.) The only restriction on my new dates was that all flights have to be completed within one year of my original booking which was at the end of February 2015.

I called American Airlines and fed the agent my new flights by giving him the date, flight number, and cabin of each segment. He changed my itinerary for free and sent me a new confirmation email. Now I’ll wait.

If a schedule change is made, I’ll call to cancel for free. I’ll get my miles and taxes back. If no change is made, I’ll call in February 2016 and cancel. I’ll get my miles back but have to pay $150 minus what I already paid in taxes.

Right now I have plenty of American Airlines miles, but if I need these 120,000 desperately, I can always change my plan and cancel at any time for $150.

 

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