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Last week, American Airlines eliminated close-in booking fees. These $75 fees were previously imposed on award tickets booked 21 days before departure. American is seemingly following in the footsteps of United, which eliminated close-in booking fees after introducing dynamic pricing.
So what does this news mean to the average AAdvantage member? On the surface, it’s a positive — though it may also signal negative changes to come.
The positive implications
The elimination of close-in booking fees is a good thing for award travelers since some award space doesn’t open up until a few weeks before travel. When these seats opened up in the past, it was annoying for travelers to have to pay a $75 fee for something that was essentially out of their control.
This was especially expensive for those who booked one-way flights or award tickets for multiple companions. As someone who regularly books travel for four or more people at a time, I’ve had to pay $300+ in close-in booking fees before. So it’s nice that American Airlines decided to rectify this situation, especially for those folks who were forced to book last minute due to a lack of award space earlier than that.
If you’re a last-minute award traveler, now you won’t have to worry about being on the hook for $75+ in fees in these situations. Impulsive travelers and procrastinators will appreciate this development.
» Learn more: The complete guide to redeeming American Airlines miles
The possible negative impact
So how could there be a downside to eliminating close-in booking fees? It could be a sign of negative things to come. There have been rumors that American Airlines is moving toward dynamic pricing, like Delta and United already have.
As part of this model, award redemption rates would depend entirely on demand and ticket prices. While this can lead to some great deals (see SkyMiles Deals), it would also make redemption rates unpredictable and award travel difficult to plan in advance.
Because United announced a switch to dynamic pricing when also eliminating close-in booking fees, these rumors have some people worried that American will soon follow suit. Perhaps this close-in booking fee elimination is a way to soften the blow in advance of the news.
The bottom line
American Airlines has made many improvements to its online award search over the years, and eliminating close-in booking fees is another step in making miles easier to redeem. Hopefully any negative news, including dynamic pricing, is a long way off. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to redeem your AAdvantage miles at current rates while you can.
So take that trip to Singapore or try out the coveted apartments offered by partner Etihad Airways. You won’t be on the hook for booking last-minute booking fees — and if dynamic pricing does go into effect, you’ll be glad you put your miles to good use.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
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Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide American Airlines bag fees: How they work, how to avoid them Find the best travel credit card for you