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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.
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.
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.
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