Planning the perfect travel award can be difficult and time consuming, which makes it especially frustrating when those plans go astray.
You may need to stay at home or choose to visit a new destination. Perhaps the airline or another travel provider implemented a change. Whatever the reason, it is important that you become familiar with the change and cancellation policies of your airline loyalty program before booking a ticket.
In some cases airlines will have different fees for award changes vs. cancellations. Strictly speaking, a change involves booking a new award and either a credit or debit for the difference in miles used and any other airline taxes and fees. A cancellation involves returning the miles to your account as well as refunding any taxes and fees already paid. If the cancellation fee is lower than the change fee, it might make sense to cancel and book a new award separately.
Fortunately there is good news. Some programs have very flexible award change and cancellation policies that may even be free! Compare that to typical revenue (paid) fares, which may have change fees of $100 or $200, or refundable fares that cost hundreds more for the right to cancel. When redeeming miles through the right program, award tickets can be a good substitute if you know your plans are likely to change.
Change and Cancellation Fee Summary
These fees apply to each ticket in the reservation and are explained in more detail below. Round-trip travel booked as two one-way awards in separate reservations may be subject to additional fees.
- Air Canada Aeroplan — Change or cancel: $90
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue — Change or cancel: €45
- Alitalia Millemiglia — Change or cancel: €55
- Alaska Mileage Plan — Change or cancel: $125 / Free if more than 60 days
- American AAdvantage — Change or cancel: $125 for first ticket, then $25 each
- Avianca LifeMiles — Change: $150 / Cancel: $50
- British Airways Executive Club — Change or cancel: $55 / No fee if you forfeit taxes
- Delta SkyMiles — Change or cancel: $150
- Korean Air SKYPASS — Change or cancel: free
- Singapore KrisFlyer — Change: $0-20 / Cancel: $30
- United MileagePlus — Change: $75-100 / Cancel: $200
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — Change or cancel: £15-30 (originating in U.K.) or $50
For all loyalty programs, you may be entitled to a free change or cancellation when the airline makes an involuntary change to your itinerary, such as substituting a new connecting airport, discontinuing a flight, or adjusting the arrival or departure times. If you don’t have an immediate need for your miles to be returned, you could wait to see if the airline makes a schedule change and use that as your excuse. In other cases, review the information below for fees that apply to voluntary changes.
Free Airline Change Policies
Alaska Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines officially charges $125 per ticket to cancel or change each award ticket. This fee is waived entirely if you redeem miles from the account of an MVP Gold or 75K elite member. However, all travelers can take advantage of free changes or cancellations made more than 60 days before departure. In addition, Alaska Airlines offers “refundable” awards on some routes. These require more miles, but can be cancelled at any time before departure.
Korean Air SkyPass
Changes and cancellations to Korean Air award tickets can be made without paying any fees. However, changing an award requires that you stay within the same cabin class and the same season (award prices vary with season). It may be easier to just cancel the award and rebook it later.
Moderate Airline Change Fees
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Most changes and cancellations require a €45 fee per ticket, and there are no fees for “Flex Awards,” which are more expensive. On the other hand, if you book a discounted “Promo Award,” then no changes or cancellations of any kind are permitted.
Alitalia doesn’t collect any fees to change the dates or time of your award travel. You can also request the airport staff to rebook you in a higher cabin class at check-in. However, all other changes and cancellations will require €55 or 5,000 miles per ticket.
Many changes to American AAdvantage awards do not require a fee as long as the origin and destination remain the same. This means that you can adjust the dates, times, and even the connecting cities. You can also change an existing award to a higher cabin class and just redeem the extra miles.
When making other changes or canceling an award, you’ll receive a discount for large parties. American collects $150 for the first passenger while additional passengers on the same reservation cost just $25 per ticket. These fees are waived entirely if you redeem miles from the account of an Executive Platinum member.
Changes to Avianca awards will require a $150 fee. However, canceling and redepositing the miles will cost only $50. Keep in mind that all changes or cancellations must be made by phone, and Avianca’s Spanish-speaking reservations team could make this a challenge for some customers.
British Airways Executive Club
British Airways charges only $55 to change an award ticket or to cancel it and redeposit the Avios. However, you have the option to redeposit the Avios and pay no change fee if you are willing to forfeit the airline taxes and fees already paid. In the example of a one-way U.S. domestic flight, these fees start at just $5.60, so you would pass on a $5.60 refund in order to avoid a new $55 charge. Keep in mind that no changes or cancellations (or new reservations) can be made within 24 hours of departure.
Singapore Airlines permits free changes to the date of travel on its own aircraft without any fees. However, changes to the cabin class, route, or award type (more expensive awards have more availability), will require a $12 fee. For changes to travel on Star Alliance partners, Singapore Airlines will collect $20 per ticket for any change.When canceling a ticket, expect to pay $30. These fees increase to $75 for Singapore Airlines and partner airlines when you make them within 24 hours of departure.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic collects just £15 (domestic itineraries) or £30 (international itineraries) to change or cancel award travel that originates in the United Kingdom. However, all itineraries originating elsewhere are assessed a $50 fee per ticket.
Expensive Airline Change Fees
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan will collect the same $90 fee per ticket regardless if you are making a change or canceling the award. However, changes and cancellations are handled very differently. Changes to the destination, routing, date, or departure time can be made up to two hours before departure. Cancellations are only permitted up to 21 days before departure. If you cancel after this time (but still two hours before the original departure), then you will be forced to make a change — the miles will not be returned to your account, but you may use them for a new award up to one year from the original ticketing date.
Delta will collect the same $150 fee per ticket regardless if you are making a change or canceling the award, but this fee is waived if you are redeeming miles from the account of a Diamond or Platinum Medallion member. Changes can only be made at least 72 hours before departure (the same deadline for booking new tickets).
United operates a sliding fee schedule with different charges depending on the type of change made. General members without status will pay $75 per ticket to change the dates of travel more than 21 days before departure or $100 if within 21 days of departure. Changing the origin or destination of travel at any time costs $100, and cancellations are $200. Premier Silver and Gold members may see some of these fees reduced, and they will be waived entirely for Premier Platinum and 1K members.