What are the award ticket change fees for United, American, Delta, US Airways and other airlines' award tickets? This question comes up regularly with my Award Booking Service clients, so I figured it was time to create a resource for them and TravelSort readers to refer to, especially given changes this year to award change and cancellation fees and policies.
First, a couple pointers:
- U.S. airlines permit a no-fee cancellation of your award IF you weren't able to hold your award ticket prior to ticketing. This applies, for example, to United, Delta and Alaska Airlines, as they don't allow holds, but not to American or US Airways, which do allow you to hold an award ticket prior to ticketing.
- If you do have to pay a change or cancellation fee, consider using the Barclays Arrival Card, since with its 40,000 "miles" signup bonus you effectively get a $400 statement credit for travel spend, including fees paid to airlines, then another $40 statement credit for future travel spend, plus the "miles" you earn from 2X miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
United Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
As I wrote back in June, United has increased its award change fees and cancellation fees for non-elite MileagePlus members:
For non elites (United MileagePlus General Members):
- Changes 21 or more days before departure to cabin, award type, carrier, date or time (no change to origin or destination) are $75 (previously no fee)
- Changing the origin or destination at any time, or any change fewer than 21 days before departure is $100 (previously $75)
- Cancellation fee is now $200 (previously $150) to redeposit your miles
The good thing with United is that it's easier and cheaper than, say, US Airways, to make routing and class of service changes, and then just pay the difference in miles and fees. For example, if you booked a business class award but later, prior to 21 days before departure, see first class available on enough of the segments to make it worthwhile to book it as a first class award, you'll just pay the $75 fee to change your class of service, as a non-elite. It would be $150 per ticket on US Airways.
American Airlines Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
- Changing the origin or destination at any time: $150
- Cancellation Fee/Redeposit: $150
American is the most generous with its 5 day holds, which in my view constitute a big advantage over the other programs. Do keep it mind that, because you're able to hold award reservations prior to ticketing, you aren't entitled to a free cancellation within 24 hours of ticketing. Strictly speaking, there's no cancellation fee, but the $150 fee is charged to redeposit your miles, which presumably you want to do if you're cancelling an award.
While technically you should be charged a change fee to change your class of service, in my experience, American doesn't charge this if you're upgrading your travel, for example from business class to first class; you would just pay the difference in AAdvantage miles and fees. But if you downgrade your class of service you would pay the $150 change fee, just as you would for any other award changes to routing, type of award (saver vs. standard) etc.
Delta Airlines Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
- Any Change Prior to 72 Hours Before Departure: $150
- Within 72 Hours of Departure: No Changes Allowed
Not only does Delta make it difficult and expensive to use SkyMiles, since there is very limited low level award space, there are no first class partner awards, and one ways price the same as round trip awards--it's also impossible to make any changes within 72 hours of travel. Any award type changes basically entail redepositing the award and rebuilding it.
Alaska Mileage Plan Award Ticket Change and Cancellation Fees
- Change/Cancellation Fee (Online): $75
- Change/Cancellation Fee (by Phone): $100
Alaska has made great strides in bringing most partner awards online, although Cathay Pacific awards must still be booked by phone. Note that the $25 partner award booking fee is nonrefundable.
US Airways Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
- Any Change Prior to Departure: $150
- No Changes Permitted After Travel Has Begun
US Airways is very strict, which is one of the reasons I dislike booking awards through them--should you have any emergency of any kind after starting your award travel--kiss your miles goodbye, there are no changes and no refunds.
And even changes prior to date of departure are pricey, at $150 per ticket for any type of change. On US Airways, even if your award is in first class but only business class was available for certain segments, you usually won't be able to get free change if you later see first class available for one of your business class segments--you'll stay pay the $150 fee per ticket to make a class of service change that simply puts you in the class of service your award ticket is for.
British Airways Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
- Date or Time Changes: $40
- Cancellation Fee and Redeposit: $40
I highlighted British Airways' low $40 cancellation fee in Frequent Flyer Awards: Low Fee Backup Options, but their low $40 change fee is also worth bearing in mind, especially for short award flights, such as domestic U.S., intra-Asia, intra-South America etc. award flights. And there are no close-in ticketing fees either. When your plans may change, it's always good to be only out $40 per ticket, rather than $100-$150.
Singapore Airlines Award Ticket Change Fees and Cancellation Fees
- Change of Date on Singapore Award Flights: No charge
- Change of Flight, Date, Route or Carrier for Partner Flights: $20
- Cancellation Fee and Redeposit: $30 if cancelled >24 hours; $75 if within 24 hours of departure
Singapore awards aren't the cheapest in terms of miles and fees required, but it's hard to beat their very reasonable change and cancellation fees. Also keep in mind that no surcharges are charged for U.S. domestic flights on United and US Airways.
Frequent Flyer Awards: Low Fee Backup Options
Barclays Arrival Card Review
United increased award ticket change and cancellation fees for non elites
Diversify Your Miles and Points Portfolio
One Way vs. Round Trip Award Tickets