As you may have read earlier, I'm heading to Maine and Boston in April. Since I have to fly on a specific date, I wanted to lock in the flight early. I booked an award ticket on February 6th for 22,000 AA miles (plus $5.60 in taxes/fees). Fast forward to February 21st, and the same flight cost in miles dropped to 18,000 AA miles. Because this was booked as American Airlines award travel, I did what any rational person with 5 minutes to spare would do. I canceled and re-booked the same flight and selected the same seat, all with zero penalties. I saved a difference of 4,000 miles, worth a minimum of $40 or so in cash terms.
Interestingly, the cash price of this same ticket from when I originally booked to when I rebooked increased from $330 to $340. Over the same time, the American Airlines award travel miles cost decreased from 22,000 to 18,000. This is a good reminder that points and miles do not always correlate with cash prices.
A Cash Fare vs. American Airlines Award Travel would not be so lucky
American Airlines' lowest fare class, Basic Economy, would be unable to cancel and rebook without penalty. Basic Economy tickets cannot be changed or canceled. For whatever reason, American Airlines award travel and cash tickets are entirely different products. See the cancelation email from American below for more context:
Other Airlines and Wrap Up
If you want to cancel and rebook with a non-American Airline carrier, double-check their policies before doing so. Actually, always double-check, because these rules change all the time. The current rules at American Airlines haven't changed since Covid times, when airlines were desperate to get butts in seats. A great points and miles travel blog called Upgraded Points has a lengthy article that details the cancelation and changes fees for all airlines.
My heuristic for most points and miles programs is that 100 miles or points should buy (at least) $1 worth of something. Lots of websites love to calculate different conversion ratios for each loyalty program. Those calculations skew toward business class and higher redemptions, and I think they make this already-complex world too complicated. Especially with airlines, if a $200 cash ticket costs 20,000 points, then paying with points is a great option to consider. Award tickets like American Airlines award travel usually have additional flexibility, like the ability to cancel and rebook. It's another reason why points and miles are a great payment option to have in your wallet.