AAdvantage Devaluation Hedging: How Will American’s Cancel Without Redeposit Option Work Compared To United’s?

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In December 2013 I wrote a post advising people to use United’s “cancel without redeposit” feature to lock in awards under their old award chart.

United would only say that date changes would be allowed and wouldn’t comment further.

Other bloggers wrote that I would be proven dead wrong.

But I booked a half dozen awards and it worked better than I imagined. Having such a ticket allowed full access to the old chart, even if you changed the origin and destination!

American’s devaluation that is coming on 03/22 does a lot to copy United, but the truth is that it’s much worse. United has very generous routing, and stopover, and open-jaw rules that cushioned the blow. American has very strict routing rules and they don’t allow any stopovers or open-jaws. At least they didn’t copy Delta in deleting their award charts, but it’s not pretty.

American too says that they will allow date changes without being forced into the new award chart. And best of all AA doesn’t charge for date changes on awards.

Changing the origin or destination will likely result in having to use the new chart, but what about a change to the connecting city?

What will happen if you’re booked on Etihad business class from JFK to the Maldives and a first class apartment opens up? Business class is only going up from 67.5K to 70K, but first class goes up from 90K to 115K.

Or what will happen if you’re booked on Cathay Pacific business class from JFK to Hong Kong and a first class seat opens up? Business class will “only” be going up from 55K to 70K, but first class goes up from 67.5K to 110K.

Will you be able to upgrade that seat under the old award chart or will you have to use the new award chart?

It’s impossible to say at this point.

But if you know you want to fly somewhere in business or first class that’s getting significantly more expensive I’d risk it and use the same cancel without redeposit method. Find the availability on your preferred route for any date and book it. Then after it’s ticketed just use the cancel button on AA.com. That puts the itinerary in an inactive state. When you find dates that work for you just call AA and give them your existing record locator and they should be able to put in those dates without any charge.

Of course it can be tough finding business and first availability months before a flight. Typically the best award space is released as the flight date gets closer.

AA hits their non-elites with a $75 close-in booking fee, but that’s nothing compared to the cost increase to fly in first class after the devaluation.

Of course AA.com doesn’t show most partner awards. You can call AA to search for awards or you can use partner sites like Etihad to search for Etihad awards (AA can book awards labeled “Guest”). Or you can use a site like BA.com to search for Cathay awards before calling AA to book.

While you’ll never find many first class seats for JFK-Vancouver in advance, the entire 6 seat first class cabin is wide open for tonight! (You can read my 2012 trip report here) Currently those are 32.5K awards, come 03/22 and they’ll be 50K awards. My proposal would be to book a close-in award like this, cancel it right after it’s ticketed (there’s no charge to cancel without redepositing the miles), and then call AA back at a later date when space opens up on a flight that works for you. Note that tickets are only valid for a year, so if you don’t use it within a year of ticketing you’ll have to pay to redeposit those miles. Currently AA charges $150 redeposit fee for the first passengers and $25 for each additional passenger.

 

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Same story for JFK-Hong Kong. Currently 67.5K in first class, soon to be 110K. Beat the increase for travel after 03/22 by locking in current rates on dates with available space:

 

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It’s worth repeating that word of caution: Nobody can tell you with 100% certainty what exactly will happen with changes made on 03/22 to tickets booked under the old award chart and nothing is foolproof. But based on past experience I’d feel very safe using this method myself. Of course you’ll have to assess your own risk tolerance level to decide whether the upside (savings tens of thousands of miles per passenger) outweighs the potential redeposit fees if this method doesn’t work out after 03/22.

Will you be using this method to lock in awards under the current award chart? Or are you not the gambling type? Hit the comments!

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41 Comments on "AAdvantage Devaluation Hedging: How Will American’s Cancel Without Redeposit Option Work Compared To United’s?"

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UK

Wouldn’t it be better to book for a date far, far out, and wait until after March 22nd before doing the cancel-with-redeposit? That way you can see how AA behaves in the first few days after the changeover, and if the cancel-with-redeposit doesn’t work you have enough time to allow schedule changes to happen which would allow to get a mileage-refund without fee (assuming that that is what you would want to do). or am I missing something?

EJB

@UK:

Unless you want 3+ seats of a route that will only have availability close in.

Dan

Correct, the issue is that close-in availability is much better than future availability.

If you can find far-out availability, then by all means, grab it!

AP

I’m not sure that I understand why you even need to cancel your booking in the first place/ I was thinking about booking something for February/March 2017, and then adjusting the flight to any date prior to then. What is the benefit of “cancel without redeposit” versus changing the dates with of active reservation?

Dan

@AP:
You’re not going to find 3 let alone 6 first class seats on Cathay for 2017 like you can for a close-in flight. You’d be lucky to find even 2 first class seats.

TT

Used to be 75k BA for one way fc & 50k for biz. Cathay . And you could transfer from Amex to continental.

Dov

@AP

There is no need to cancel you could work on an active reservation and still make adjustments to your dates

Dan was just recommending the cancel option if somone does not intend to fly on a specific date and to potentially have a back door access to the old chart through an open pre devaluation ticket

ilherman

What part is still unknown? If a change in class of service will trigger the new award chart? Of course it will. All they will allow is if you just make a day change then there will be no need to add more miles. If you change your connection city and leave class of service then there is a chance you will win, but a change in class of service WILL trigger the new award chart as they will have to reprice the award.

As far as your UA prediction which worked out, it was not the UA official policy and over the phone it was not easy at all to have it changed for the old chart but it’s more than that, it didn’t even have to do with booking before devaluation and canceling without deposit, even booking made AFTER the devaluation if you tried changing them online you were able to get the old award chart prices. All in all it was a bug on united.com which had nothing to do with booking BEFORE devaluation.

Dan

@ilherman:
1. “If a change in class of service will trigger the new award chart?” Of course it will.

It likely will, but I would not put that at 100%.

But that has nothing to do with the point of this post which is whether this method will allow changes to an inactive PNR after 3/22 without repricing the award. I think it’s extremely likely for it to work, but it’s not 100% either.

2. “it was not the UA official policy”
UA policy post deval was actually very generous about changes, just some phone agents weren’t informed about how generous it was.

3. “even booking made AFTER the devaluation if you tried changing them online you were able to get the old award chart prices”

That’s false and you know it. Only very limited awards triggered the old award chart and only for a limited period of time.
Whereas the canceled without redeposit awards continued to work even after that trick died.

ilherman

@Dan:1. “But that has nothing to do with the point of this post which is whether this method will allow changes to an inactive PNR after 3/22 without repricing the award.”

Gotcha, I didn’t realize that the official AA policy was only for active PNRs, you’re right inactive PNRs may work out differently. But I agree, it will likely have the same policy as a PNR with active segments for a later date.

2.“UA policy post deval was actually very generous about changes”

Link? Statement from UA? As far as I know it was a error on UA IT problem but I may be wrong.

3. “Only very limited awards triggered the old award chart and only for a limited period of time.
Whereas the canceled without redeposit awards continued to work even after that trick died”

All I know is that on the routes I tried it it did work. I don’t remember trying it on different routes where it didn’t work. When that trick died I was not able to get the old award chart on booking made pre devaluation either. But maybe that was just me. Were people able to get the old award chart on your method after July ’14 when the above method stopped working?

Dan

@ilherman:
2. Original UA statement (only date changes allowed):
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-airlines-mileageplus/1517647-changes-mileageplus-award-upgrade-policies-eff-3-feb-2014-a-42.html#post21710197

Post-deval UA statement (O/D changes within same region allowed)
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-airlines-mileageplus/1517647-changes-mileageplus-award-upgrade-policies-eff-3-feb-2014-a-173.html#post22283437
3. Regular awards didn’t trigger that, only complicated ones did.
And it did still work after July.

Ken

@Dan trying to replicate the “JFK-Hong Kong. Currently 67.5K in first class”, but my options are 105K for Business, 140K for first. What am I doing wrong? New at this. Thank you

Dan

@Ken:
“You can use a site like BA.com to search for Cathay awards before calling AA to book.”

Aa gold

Hi dan what about Elal are they coming back to aa and if so how can a book a ticket now

alcwj

Will it work if you change class as well?

So if i read it right, you book one before 3/22, cancel after ticketed, then wait for the availability show up?

Jerry

@dan What happens if I book now a 1st class ticket JFK to HKG, and on my real date only business will be available. Will AA just downgrade me?? Thanks.

High end hobo

Dan have you ever tried to upgrade class of service?
I’m willing to bet that to upgrade class of service they’ll charge by the new chart, given that in order to upgrade they cancel, redeposit and then reissue. Agents have no control over the pricing, it’s not manual.
I’m saying this because when you cancel and redeposit you lose the 10% miles back, and then earn it again

AJK

@Jerry: No, you’d pay a redeposit fee and have to be rebooked at 70K per person in business.

ABC

@Dan,
“Then after it’s ticketed just use the cancel button on AA.com. That puts the itinerary in an inactive state. ?

For how long can an itinerary stay in an inactive state?

Why Cancel?

I have used AA awards several times where the original flight date long passed and with 1 phone call you could reinstate the ticket to a future date. All tickets are valid for 1 year from the day of ticketing, regardless of the travel date.

mindy

All tickets are valid for 1 year from the day of ticketing, regardless of the travel date— Is this from the original ticketed date? If I change the dates does the clock restart? I want to book a trip now to Europe before the increase but don’t plan on traveling until April 2017. I plan on changing the dates as soon as April becomes available to book.

Dan

@Aa gold:
You can’t use AA miles to travel on El Al.

@alcwj:
-That isn’t known at this point.

-Yes.

@Jerry:
That isn’t known at this point.

@AJK:
That’s the probable outcome, but United backtracked and allowed it in the end.

@ABC:
It’s valid for a year from ticketing.

@Why Cancel?:
You are blocking that space from others selfishly for no reason.

Repeatedly doing it and not showing up for the flight would likely get your account shut down, which quite frankly would be deserved.

@mindy:
Officially travel needs to be completed within 1 year, but some agents may book travel for later dates, so YMMV.

Marland

Hi Dan! First off, thank you for all that you do! My dream has been to fly Cathay Pacific for years. I obviously need to lock in the 67.5K before the devaluation but just so I am crystal clear, let’s say I want 2 First Class seats and tomorrow’s availability opens up. I would book the 2 flights over the phone (of course have AA waive the phone fee) and then once they have been ticketed cancel them on AA site with the option to not redeposit the miles. Then is my one year to change to a new flight starting from my booking date or my travel date?

Dan

@Marland:
Correct. And it starts from your booking date.

And Cathay First is amazing. Most comfortable seat and bed in the sky.

Andrew

Will changing connecting cities incur the new rate? Thanks.

Royce_1980

Thanks, Dan!

Will try this cancel without redeposit for the wife, using AA miles.

Any idea if this will work with BA avios (cancel without redeposit)? Gonna use avios for myself and the infant, since I’m reading that BA has the best infant policy.

Dan

@Andrew:
Unknown.
I’d venture they won’t, but we won’t know for sure until 3/22 in all likelihood.

@Royce_1980:
Even with the better infant policy, BA will be way more miles for J/F class travel than the current AA chart. Plus BA charges fuel surcharges.

Royce_1980

@Dan:

Yeah, we’ve been stockpiling Avios in order to do this. What is the fuel surcharge looking like for JFK-HKG?

Dan

@Royce_1980:
You can search on BA.com, but with the extra miles required I can’t imagine that will be a smart move.

Marland

@Royce_1980

Get the 50K American Advantage card for both you and the wife. Then buy the miles (hopefully the bonus is still around) to get to 67.5K. I think going that route is still cheaper than paying the taxes BA charges.

Rileywiles23

For anybody who is locked into a specific time slot to travel, just remember that there is a chance that close in, there won’t be availability. You then would have to pay the redeposit fee for all the miles.

sam

Is Eithad the only AA option and does it pay to fly through Singapore or directly to the Maldives?

Jondaba

Danster:

I have 180,000 AA miles and I want to go to TLV. What do you recommend?

Anonymous

@AJK: really? i thought if first class domestic connections to gateway cities were not available, you can fly coach.

TJ

@Dan:

so you’d be hit with $75 close-in booking fee now and worst case is $125 to redeposit miles if you never take trip?

Marie

Just to confirm:
If I book a flight on March 21 for a flight for the following year on Feb 15, 2017, can I call on Feb 10, 2017 and change that Feb 15 flight for a flight for January 1, 2018?

DL

Does doing an award cancel-without-redeposit allow to change the names on a ticket? For example, I book an award now for myself and person A, after which I do the cancel-without-redeposit. When I reinstate the award, can I switch person A for person B? And can it be done without getting a reprice? Thanks

kelev

Will I be able to change a ticketed May 23, 2016 MileSAAver Off Peak 20K award to a March 23, 2017 MileSAAver 30K award ticket without spending another 10K?

It’s in the same time period, however AA’s new chart did away with “Off Peak MileSAAver” awards to South America 2 region.

adam

Dan-

If i cancel without redeposit as soon as I’m ticketed , in essence I’m still within the 24 hours of booking, will this force AA take the initiative and redeposit my miles free of charge?? Should I wait until I’m out of the 24 hour time frame or does that not matter in this this instance?

Kelev

@kelev: @kelev:
Status: ON HOLD – Purchase By: Mar 26, 2016 11:59 PM EDT flight date November 24, 2016.
Let’s see what happens when I try to change to March 23, 2016

Anonymous

@Kelev: It worked! I changed the tickets to March 23, 2017 using the old award miles. 🙂

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