American Airlines Flight Cancellations | What to Do When an Award Flight Schedule Changes

This week I’ve have the unexpected pleasure (yes, pleasure) of working with American Airlines to change some itinerary schedules after they changed the schedule.

Today, I’ll give you a few pointers to help you navigate the situation in case you find yourself in the same boat.

Tip of the day: If you book an award flight and decide you cannot take the flight, do not cancel it immediately. Wait until the last moment that you can make a cancellation (set a calendar reminder). Typically, when you cancel an award flight, you’ll pay a fee. However, if the airline makes schedule changes, you can usually get a no fee cancellation.

American Airlines No Longer Flies into Budapest

I was reading a post by Lucky at One Mile at a Time, and he mentioned a conversation about how American was canceling their service into Budapest. Since we had award flights into Budapest, I was quite interested in the news.

I signed into my account online, and sure enough, I now only had tickets as far as JFK, and the rest of my flights disappeared.

I was not contacted by AA, but I called the help desk.

At first, the agent said they re-routed my wife and I on a flight through LHR, but the connections were horrible. 17.5 hours to get there and 19.5 hours to get home. That’s too much flying for a short five day trip.

I asked for some alternative flights, and she said that what I was suggesting was not possible. Her reason made no sense – because my flight was through JFK they only had to provide the best connection from JFK – not my originating city.

Lesson Learned: Some phone agents simply don’t know what they are talking about. Refuse to waste your time with such agents.

I immediately asked to speak with a supervisor who would be willing to be a little more creative with my routing. I was on hold for five minutes and told that the supervisor couldn’t do much more for me, but I could call back during business hours.

Lesson Learned: Daytime supervisors are better equipped to handle unique requests than those who work in the middle of the night.

I called back at about 3 p.m. EST.

I explained my situation using words like – work with me, help make this possible, and find a better alternative.

Lesson Learned: Even when you’re frustrated, don’t pit yourself against the only person who can help you. Instead, act like teammates seeking a similar goal.

I told her the exact flight that I wanted to be rebooked on.

Lesson Learned: Do your homework. The airline may offer you an alternative option, but it might not be the best one for your needs.

She justified, explained, and gave reasons why that wouldn’t be possible. I was persistent.

Lesson Learned: Be persistent.

Finally, she transferred me to a supervisor.

After explaining why we needed a better itinerary, the supervisor was very accommodating and managed to get us on the exact flights we wanted.

Lesson Learned: Eventually, you’ll need to be speaking with a supervisor.

American Airlines No Longer Flies into Cheyenne, Wyoming

The next day, I somehow came across the fact that American is no longer flying into Cheyenne. We had other award tickets booked into Cheyenne this summer.

I called an American Airlines customer service representative. Interestingly, she spent all of her time trying to convince me that American was still providing service to Cheyenne.

The next day, the Cheyenne leg dropped off my itinerary. I guess I got the information before the American Airlines employees.

I had the option to change my arrival city or cancel the flights and get a full mileage and fee refund.

At first, I tried to get on a flight to Denver. She said there was no inventory on the same day into Denver. I told her that I thought they should open up some award space due to our circumstances. She said she would pass the information along to the revenue department to see what they could do.

Lesson Learned: Always ask them to open up award availability if you’re dealing with a cancellation or schedule change.

Once I got off the phone, my mind started working.

Why not turn this into an opportunity to get a free flight to Hawaii?

So that’s what I did.

I asked them to change the destination to HNL. At first, I was told that is not possible because of how American segments Hawaii. However, I knew that for international flights it doesn’t cost any extra miles to fly into or out of Hawaii.

Lesson Learned: Know your stuff and be firm.

Eventually, the agent came back on the line and confirmed that it would be possible.

We can now use 4,500 British Airways miles (transfer partner of both Ultimate Rewards and American Express Rewards) per person to get to Denver. And we ended up with at least one way free to Hawaii.

Don’t worry, I’m starting to work on the details to get us back for free. I even had to review my own post on getting free hotel stays to be sure we’d have everything arranged for a free week of hotels in Hawaii.

If you’ve been affected by any American Airlines schedule changes and need any advice, please let me know.


    • Craig says

      I think we’ve got it all worked out. Looks like we’re going to get a flight to Hawaii that’s only going to cost us the BA miles to get to DFW. For the family it’s an extra 22,500 miles and $12.50.

      My next task is to take care of free hotels!

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