American Airlines, News

AA Removes Close-In Award Ticketing Fees

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The End of Close-In Award Fees for American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines announced today that they would be following Delta and United in doing away with those pesky (and egregious) fees for booking an award flight within 21 days of travel.

Delta did away with these so called “close-in” booking fees years ago around the time they went dynamic with award pricing. While it had long been the case that great values could be had last minute, that became the case less and less with Delta once those fees went away.

United just did away with close-in award booking fees last year, but then they immediately snuck in a different close-in booing fee – in the form of additional miles for flights less than a month out (up to 3,500 miles). While elite members previously had discounts or waivers on the fee, elites are not exempt from the additional miles.

Until today, only AAdvantage members without status had to pay the close-in booking fee for awards. Even bottom-tier Golds were exempt.

So what does this mean for American Airlines AAdvantage members?

Well, so far it’s nothing but good news. The fees are gone. An award that cost $75 in close-in ticketing yesterday costs nothing extra today.

But we also have to keep in mind that AA has moved to a dynAAmic award pricing model, rolling out more and more Web Savers (which are not available to partners and cannot be changed).

Also see: The Effect of Dynamic Airline Awards on Transferable Points / Partner Awards (Comparing Available Award Inventories)

This gives them the ability, should they so choose, to play with award pricing dynamically on AA operated flights. Hopefully, the biggest win here will be partner flights that still price based on a fixed award chart. Some partners, like Cathay Pacific, are more likely to release First Class flights close to the date of travel – meaning that non-elites will save $75 on these.

I should also note that this waters down AA Gold status a bit, as the lack of a close-in fee was a primary benefit that the American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards didn’t provide.

One of the absolutely most fantastic parts of the AAdvantage program remains that if you book a sAAver or Standard award (but not a Web Saver) you can make free changes to your dates of travel. Delta and United both charge for the same. The increasing prevalence of the Web Savers is a way to coax us away from those changeable fares.

To that end, I really hope that this somewhat ominous tweet from @xJonNYC isn’t referring to any changes in that regard…. but it does sound like we should brace for the other shoe to drop.

Often, when frequent flyer programs give us something with one hand, they take something away with the other. Although lately, more frequently, they simply take away, so we’re already winning on this one.

My fingers are crossed AAdvantage has no such negative changes up its sleeve….

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