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American Waives Rush Fees, but Only for Elites

Effective yesterday, July 29, Gold- and Platinum-level elite members of American’s AAdvantage program are exempt from the so-called close-in fees for booking award travel within 21 days of travel. (AAdvantage members who had attained the program’s highest level of elite status, Executive Platinum, were already spared from the fees.)

For background, United did away with these fees more than a year ago. And they did away with them for all members of the Mileage Plus program, not just elites. So: advantage United, both for the timing of their policy change, and for its scope.

Delta, earlier this summer, followed United’s example, discontinuing the fees for all SkyMiles members. So Delta is also ahead of American, both in beating American to the punch and in exempting non-elites as well as elites.

These fees are huge revenue-generators for the airlines—tens of millions of dollars annually for the largest carriers, by my own rough estimate. So it’s no wonder that American wants to keep them in place for the great majority of AAdvantage members.

But close-in booking fees are the very personification of nuisance fees. As I argued in a recent column on airline fees, it costs American no more to allow an AAdvantage member to book an award last minute than to book 21 days out.

Charging extra for a service that costs the airline nothing extra to provide is, to be blunt, a gouge.

Exempting Gold and Platinum members from these nasty surcharges is a step in the right direction. But American has stopped well short of real fairness and decency.

You shouldn’t have to be an elite customer to avoid being gouged.

  • NoRest4wkd

    No offense, but as a Platinum member for most of the past 15 years, it’s nice to see some additional perks for elite members. Sure, one can argue that the fees should be eliminated entirely anyway, but I guess you could argue that everyone should enjoy all the same benefits regardless of status too. Perks have eroded away over the years, so I’m glad to see any move in the right direction – even if it is a very modest one such as this. If you want to talk about “gouged”, I might mention American’s recently implemented ridiculous practice of selling pillow/blanket packs on flights. REALLY?!

  • JIM

    Just one comment on this…
    You can avoid the “close-in” fee by booking the same flights more than 21 days in advance online, then call AAdvantage and change the already booked flights to the dates you really want.
    There is no charge for this…but unfortunate that you have to jump through hoops to avoid this fee..