Will a Cancelled Award Ticket Reappear in Inventory for Rebooking? TravelSort reader Richard writes “I reserved a Cathay Pacific First Class award for 140,000 British Airways Avios points, but would really prefer to rebook it with Alaska Mileage Plan miles, as it's only 70,000 miles. If I cancel the award, will the seat reappear so I can rebook using Mileage Plan miles?”
This is a common question I get from clients and readers, who want to rebook with a different frequent flyer program because it would save them miles, want to cancel and rebook because they can no longer fly but a family member or friend can (and airlines don't permit name changes) or need to rebook because the ticket can't be changed (such as with Emirates Skywards, when changing the origin or destination such that a new award is needed).
Unfortunately, the answer is: it depends. That's because in virtually all cases, the cancelled award ticket goes back to Inventory Management, which decides whether to rerelease the seat as an available award seat, or to keep it only for paid bookings. It goes without saying that just because an airline is selling tickets, doesn't mean there are any available award seats. If there are exceptions to this, it's with the revenue based frequent flyer programs, such as JetBlue True Blue, where it's impossible to get great value from the program because the redemption value is directly linked to the cost of the tickets.
Here are a few recent examples:
Example 1: Emirates First Class Cancelled, Did Not Reappear for Rebooking
We managed to book an Emirates First Class award for clients returning from an African safari via Dubai. They ultimately decided to cut short their time in Dubai, and we let them know that there weren't any first class award seats for their new dates, only business class, which they were fine with. After cancelling the award, we monitored the original date they'd booked, but the Emirates First Class award didn't reappear in inventory, at least not in the 7 days we monitored it.
Example 2: Cathay Pacific First Class Award Cancelled and Reappeared for British Airways
Cathay typically only releases 1 Cathay Pacific First Class award in advance, so I reserved Cathay First Class for my husband on an upcoming trip, and reserved Cathay Pacific Business Class for my son and me. My husband had to return earlier for work, so I cancelled his ticket, and decided to try to nab it for my son or me if it reappeared. Within seconds of cancelling it, it reappeared, so I rebooked it.
Example 3: Cathay Pacific First Class Award Cancelled and Reappeared for British Airways, But Not Alaska Mileage Plan
Similar to the above, we'd reserved one Cathay Pacific First Class and two Cathay Pacific Business Class seats. As it turned out, we changed our plans and none of us needed to rebook these flights. I noticed that as in Example 2, the Cathay Pacific First Class seat reappeared on the British Airways Executive Club site within seconds of cancelling it, but as an experiment I called Alaska Airlines' Partner Desk, and Alaska was unable to see or book the seat. Interestingly, American AAdvantage was able to see and book it. This reflects what I've observed in my posts 3 Reasons Alaska Miles Aren't Worth Earning and AAdvantage Trumps Alaska Mileage Plan Again although I will say that almost without exception I've had very pleasant conversations with the experienced agents at the Alaska Partner Desk. That still doesn't make up for worse award availability than AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club when it comes to Cathay Pacific First Class awards, however.
In sum, to answer Richard, I wouldn't cancel and redeposit his existing award unless he's fine with the very real, even probable risk of losing his Cathay Pacific First Class award and not being able to rebook it with Alaska Mileage Plan. He could monitor the flight (or if he has flexibility, the entire period he's able to fly) for a first class award, as sometimes Cathay does release more availability closer to departure. If he's able to secure a first class award with Alaska miles, he could then cancel and redeposit his existing Avios award for $55, as long as this is done at least 24 hours before departure.
If you've cancelled and redeposited an award ticket in hopes of rebooking it under another name or with a different frequent flyer program, what was your experience?
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