Hang Up, Call Back: Changing American Airlines Partner Awards

I’ve heard from several readers that have had problems changing American Airlines partner awards. They’re told that unless all flights in the itinerary that they want to keep are available with award space at the time they’re making the change, they’re out of luck. They can’t just keep the award flights they have, and change or drop a segment.

For instance, readers that have had business class AAdvantage awards on Qatar Airways to Africa couldn’t change the short segment from Doha to Africa, either to a different flight on the same day or to a different city, since the long haul segment (that they wanted to keep the same) no longer had new award space.

However American Airlines award change rules for partner awards have not changed. For instance,

  • You can change from one oneworld carrier to another on your itinerary.
  • You can drop a segment as long as your origin/destination remain in the same region.

I asked American Airlines whether they now disallow changes, or if these are rogue agents that readers are running into, because AAdvantage award rules have long allowed members to make changes, such as date changes, connecting flight changes, or even destination changes (in the same region of the world) if the new flights had the required inventory. For instance, flying Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Bangkok on Cathay Pacific:

  • A member could change to a different Hong Kong – Bangkok segment if available (and if within connecting time limits)

  • They could also change to Hong Kong – Singapore, since Bangkok and Singapore are in the same region.

  • A member could also “drop a segment” as long as it didn’t change the region of the award. So a member could drop the Hong Kong – Bangkok segment, and end their trip in Hong Kong, without having to rebook the award.

To be sure, there are changes which are not allowed. For instance,

  • American now has ‘web special’ awards (involving travel on American Airlines itself) that cannot be changed
  • American sells its own connecting inventory on a married segment basis and they don’t allow changing individual segments
  • In these cases, rebooking requires fresh inventory to be available for the whole one-way award.

    American Airlines assures that nothing has changed with respect to partner award rules, with a spokesperson offering “As long as partner inventory is available, and the points you note below aren’t violated, a member should be able to update their trip.”

    So if you’re told no – hang up, and call back. And if you’re told no again, hang up and call back again. And feel free to reach out to me, I’d love to get several examples in front of American for better agent training on this issue.

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