American Airlines Drops Close-In Booking Fees!

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

Last month, American Airlines dropped its $75 close-in booking fee for awards ticketed less than 21 days from the date of travel. At this point, this seems to be a genuinely positive change, without any obvious downside. While United made a similar change back in November 2019, they simultaneously increased the number of miles required for trips booked within a month of departure—effectively canceling out any positive impact.

In American's case, nearly a month has gone by since the change took effect, and we haven't seen any increases in the miles required for close-to-departure bookings. We're cautiously optimistic that this is a rare case of giving customers more value without taking something away. That said, AA's lack of fanfare about the change could be a sign that a negative development is on the horizon.

American Airlines Aircraft

Avoiding AA Close In Fees

Prior to this change, it was possible to book American-operated flights without a close-in fee by using points from a partner program like Etihad, British Airways, or Iberia. It's worth noting that each of these programs prices award travel differently than American AAdvantage, so it's still worth looking at options before you commit to spending American miles. Still, in cases where American offers better award pricing, the elimination of the $75 fee is a significant improvement.

Our Take

Unless the other shoe drops, we'll take this news as a well-deserved win for American loyalists. Only time will tell whether American will follow United and Delta by charging more miles for trips close to departure. If they do plan to adjust their pricing, they're certainly taking their time. At a minimum, it's great news that the AAdvantage program hasn't copied United's punitive 2,000–3,500 mile close-to-departure premium.

With American's expanded Web Saver Awards and the ongoing Reduced Mileage Awards for Barclay and Citi co-brand cardholders, there are tons of great booking opportunities—especially if you can be flexible about dates or destinations. Now, you can book those discounted award tickets as last-minute getaways without forking over an extra $75.

 

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

    Good news at last. Fingers crossed….

  • I use AA often, and usually book ahead of time for better fares. Still, I do sometimes travel at the last minute, so this is good news. One would think that close in booking would be cheaper because of seats being a non replenishable good. If they don’t sell it they lose it, and within days before flight time, they now if they have spare seats that are going to go unsold.

    • Initially, I thought the same. However, the flip side is that the last minute customer is captive to needing to fly. And, in no way do the airlines want to incentivize waiting until the last moment to buy a seat. That’d be for a number of reasons, including, I have to believe, because they need to see demand to plan in advance. But, what I know with certainty is that they’ve run the math, and it’s more profitable to charge more late and risk seats going unsold.

  • Only time will tell if the advantage remains. In fact, the lack of fanfare is not a good sign for the future. For now we are using and enjoying. Thank you for sharing your predictions in this article.

  • The removal of the $75 fee for travel within 21 days makes Aadvantage a program to look at for those types of bookings. I big win for customers.

  • My bet is that AA will wind up doing something that’s basically dynamic pricing, and that when they do, they’ll effectively charge more miles for a close-in booking (the way United has). But I hope I’m being too pessimistic. We’ll see.

  • I just took AAdvantage of this last week! A friend of a friend needed to fly from South Carolina to Michigan for a funeral but could not afford $500 for a round-trip ticket. I had an orphan account with 3000 miles & a seat was available @ 5K, so I bought 2K miles for $80 (Yeah, I know it’s overpriced) to get her a one-way ticket for the next day. We found another friend with 7K miles for the return. Seats are available @ 6K.
    Otherwise I would have had to use 15K BA Avios each way!

  • So when will they get with the rest of the legacy airlines and stop mileage expiration?

  • I would consider this as a truly positive development in the miles and rewards world since a loooongggg time. At this time AA is the only one that’s still running a “traditional” award redemption among US airlines (besides probably Alaska).

    This combined with the Alaska and AA announcement is really tempting me to jump from *A to OW.

  • woohoo! Happy about the good news. Crossing fingers that more positive things are on the horizon.
    Now that AS and AA are partners, I am wondering what changes are coming. I am hoping that AS doesn’t go the way of AA on miles redemptions and earning status.
    Now if they could get rid of their expiration date and do credit card transfers that would be great.

  • Indeed, this is a positive change.
    I hope there will be no negative changes in the immediate future.

  • It seems positive but I am waiting for the negative to occur. Despite being treated generally well by American Airlines, I don’t see why they would do this unless they planned to do something that would benefit them overall.
    However, when I do use my miles at the last minute, it will be very nice not to pay that fee anymore.

  • Well, finally, a positive for the customer from AA!

  • Good news from American. Hopefully it’s not short lived.

  • Yay! I’m happy about this because this goes well with my planned trips for this summer using AA miles.

  • Definitely liking it for sure!

  • Love saving with AA reduced mileage awards, but it is annoying they are only released every two months and have to be booked over the phone. Just spent 30 minutes on the phone to book 2 reduced mileage flights – but at least I didn’t have to pay the $75 fee!

  • Take 10 benefits away throw one good one in

  • AAdvantage will probably win the program of 2020 honor.

  • Quite cynical(and probably correct….) to expect another shoe to drop.

  • It never made sense why they charged this fee, so I’m happy to see it go. Hopefully another shoe doesn’t drop 🤞🏽

  • This is a positive move, but probably means dynamic pricing which makes close in fee obsolete.

  • Nice to finally see positive changes in an award program.

  • Good news. Would be nice if United did the same without extra miles cost

  • I’ll take a win (even if a small one and even if for a little bit) whenever I can! It seems lately like a few brands are trying to really improve the customer experience, and from what I’ve read/heard American is one of them. Hopefully they keep making these positive changes. Looking forward to the next big thing they roll out with fingers crossed!

  • Both the views of those who were happy and those who think that many things can be and should be improved in AAdvantage are valid and normal, but the fact is that in this article we have good news that has been maintained so far. Now let’s use and celebrate. Nobody knows about it tomorrow, but let’s stay with today’s status for now.

  • That will make travelling with them more enticing but thanks for forecast of negative “improvements”

  • Such Great News!

  • AA took its time to drop these fees. Thankfully its following UA steps.

  • This is good news, as the close-in booking fee was a huge disincentive for me. Would love it if they started offering better short haul reward options, instead of the usual series of bizarre/long connections.

  • Unsurprised since AA doesn’t ever take the lead on program changes. They copy others. In this case, it’s a positive change.

  • Great to see some airline making a smart decision. Encouraging people to redeem miles when you have empty seats that wont be sold by not penalizing them by charging more is a win win. Gets those miles off the books at AA and fills empty seats and gets people to redeem and earn/buy more. United could learn from this.

  • Avoiding this last minute fee is one reason I liked having at least Gold status on AA, if possible.

  • Dhangfun Karnasuta says:

    Good news. I think it fair for the customer, 21 days seems too long. Sometimes we just make a last minutes plan. This will encourage people to redeem miles when you have empty seats that won’t be sold by not penalizing them by charging more. We both win

  • graciela ortiz says:

    It¨s good that American drops the fees as United made. This give us the option to return to fly with American in low distance domestic flights

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

**You may receive 5 bonus AAdvantage miles for leaving a comment (Details/FAQ)