I have a love-hate relationship with American Airlines (AA). I live in Los Angeles and they’re my primary carrier since I have Executive Platinum status, their top tier elite level since I fly so much with them or their partners.

I chose American Airlines because my primary destinations used to be Miami and New York and they service those destinations better than their competitors — especially in Business Class, which I could often get for free thanks to my status, or find inexpensive premium tickets using miles and points.

In addition, American Airlines has excellent lounges in all three of these airports and the lounges are a haven to pass time in if your flight is delayed. On top of that, the Flagship Lounges are usually staffed with knowledgeable ticketing agents who can help when plans go awry. I also love American’s social media team because if you’re in a real bind, they usually respond right away.

What I loathe about American Airlines is that they make using their flight credits and systemwide upgrades almost impossible. For the flight credits, you usually have to call and speak to an agent so it’s a total time suck. United and JetBlue make this process quick and easy by allowing customers to do it all online.

I just called American Airlines’ Exec Plat line to use some credits that are expiring soon for a HNL-LAX trip in early January. After the agent put me on hold to check with their exchange department (my credits were from a U.S. to Canada flight), she came back to tell me that the credits couldn’t be used for the HNL-LAX trip as travel would have to be completed by December 31.

What?! I politely asked for an extension and she said sorry, she couldn’t do anything about it and that I would have to contact their customer service team.

Per her suggestion, I sent American an email via their Contact Us form of their website, asking for an extension and quickly received this automated response: “As an AAdvantage member, if you have an original ticket issued between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the value of your unused ticket can be used by September 30, 2022 for travel completed by December 31, 2022.”

Is this not the most ridiculous airline policy or am I overreacting? First of all, Covid has been raging so we’ve been very careful about flying – especially with two little kids. Secondly, my kids are in school so it’s not like they can just take off and use them before December 31. Lastly, this whole travel credit thing is a total sham. Why do they have an expiration date to begin with?

Southwest Airlines made headlines last week when they announced that they’re “eliminating expiration dates on all Southwest flight credits unexpired on, or created on or after July 28, 2022. This additional flexibility applies to all currently valid, existing flight credits, with no action required by Customers with flight credit in the bank, and will apply to any new flight credit issued.”

Now that’s how every airline should treat their customers when it comes to travel credits, instead of some scheme to rake in more money. But unfortunately, as Southwest noted, “it’s a first-of-its-kind policy among major U.S. airlines” and so far, no other airlines have followed suit.

I purchased these tickets with my own hard-earned money and ended up rightly canceling because of the pandemic. But because we’re not able to travel by a certain date, they’re just going to keep my money? This doesn’t sound right to me.

Are you having problems using your American Airlines flight credits, too? Do you think these rules are draconian too?

50 Comments On "Heads Up: Many American Airlines Flight Credits Are Set to Expire So Use Them or Lose Them"
  1. Carrie|

    My husband opted to not take a trip at Christmas and he received a sizable credit. I wanted to have my daughter use the credits and we also tried to use it to purchase a flight on a partner airline ti no avail. I used a credit and purchased the cheapest flight I could for $90 and then credit was re issued in a way that I could purchase a ticket for my daughter… it was a pain but finally I got clued in on how to play with the system, but I did have to waste $90 to get the flexibility!

  2. Lynda|

    We had a similar Situation from a trip to Rome we cancelled and wanted to use them to fly to Hawaii in January, 2023. The first agent said we had to use them by December 22, 2022. My husband called American again that afternoon (after scrambling around trying to think of where we could go this Fall to use the credit). This second agent was very gracious and spent 1 1/2 hours trying to work it out. This is what we did: we’re flying to Boston from Chicago (by way of Washington DC) and back for an overnight trip. This was the cheapest flight the agent could find. That makes our credit active and now we are able to use the rest of the credit for our January Hawaii trip. Crazy, huh?!!!

  3. Deena Quilty|

    I agree. These credits should NEVER expire. Perhaps somebody should initiate a class action lawsuit. If this isn’t illegal for them to keep our money, it should be.

  4. Honolulu Lulu|

    I am trying to read “This Travel Hack Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars When Booking Flights” but only get this AA credit article. Please advise. Thx

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Sorry! I just resent it with the correct link but here it is https://johnnyjet.com/this-travel-hack-can-save-you-hundreds-of-dollars-when-booking-flights/

  5. Anonymous|

    I ran into this problem with Southwest and lost a $500 credit because I could not complete a trip before the expiration date. Really glad future credits cannot be eliminated.

  6. Judy McTighe|

    Just booked a RT same day ticket to PHX to protect the remainder of my ticket credit $988. Do I actually have to fly this trip? If not would have been smarter to fly one way. Any suggestions?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I would ask the airline what the cancelation policy it is

  7. Bob Kaden|

    We are in an almost identical situation as described in your article. We postponed our January, ’22 trip to Jamaica due to COVID and rescheduled to January 2023. Try as I might, AA will not extend us for two weeks into next year to allow us to use our credits. We talked about flying somewhere in the fall just to use the tickets but, thought it was impractical to spend money on a vacation we’re forced into taking, just so as not to lose the flight credits. I’ve been denied an extension multiple times in writing and I’m going to try and speak to a real person in September giving it one last shot but, from what I read, we’re about to lose the money. The thing is when we rebook for the January trip, I will probably use AA again since those are the most convenient flights from where we live. I guess in reality though, people lost more than flight tickets during COOVID so in the overall scheme of things I should not be too upset.

  8. Amanda|

    Experiencing similar issues as well. My husband is still not comfortable flying – especially with no mask requirements – as he is immune compromised. I want to transfer the credits to my daughter so she can fly home from school for Christmas, but this far it has been a lost cause.

    I just used my flight credit but was told I could NOT also use my trip credit (from the same flight!) when booking this travel. While the customer service people I spoke to have been lovely, the policies are antiquated… especially that you can’t use flight credits online.

    Wish I could fly SW – they’d be getting ALL my business at this point!

  9. Michael H Baum|

    Having a credit “expire” without giving anything in return is larceny, pure and simple. American just told me over the phone that a COVID-caused credit they’ve said expired at the end of this year actually expired in March. I’m going back at their “Customer Relations” department but the whole situation is unethical and should be illegal. Will never fly American again, regardless of scheduling or convenience

  10. Windy|

    I am having the same issue with Hawaiian. I rebooked with a travel credit from 9/2021 for a trip this November. Unfortunately, I have to cancel/reschedule, but won’t be able to go by 12/31/22. They are saying they won’t extend my credit into next year when I plan to rebook. They just get to keep my $1600??

  11. jayde|

    I called and emailed but they won’t budge. It is use it or lose it. This is not right

  12. Tammy Stack|

    Me and my best friend have (or had) two American Airlines travel credits of $276.00 each for a [Covid] cancelled cruise back in 2019. I changed the cruise and the flights once; however the second cruise was also cancelled. American Airlines issued us both flight credits good through the end of this year, but I just found out that the new flights must’ve been booked by March of this year. I spoke with customer service to no avail. Are we just out the $552 due to no fault of our own? Seems unfair, is there anything else that we can do at this point?

  13. MRH|

    My oh my am I frustrated. I booked 2 tickets with American Airlines for my children June 2020. Cancelled the flight due to the pandemic. We’ve each battled 2 bouts of COVID. Both children were in college, so it wasn’t easy to find time to use the $800 worth of travel credit. FINALLY, the week of 9/23–knowing the credits expired 9/30–I began trying to re-book. AA’s website recognizes the credits and their value, yet does not allow me to us them when trying to book flights. Must call. I tried calling, only to receive–‘we’re too busy, try your call again later’. It wouldn’t even allow me to request a call back at a time that worked for their CS reps. Finally, I got through on 9/29 and was on hold 2 hours before I had to drop the call. 9/30, I was on hold 9 hours–yes 9 and I have the phone record to show it–waiting for a CS rep. Their system dropped the call this time. (Who has time for this?! Not me). After 5 calls on 10/1 (again, call back later), I got into their call back system. Mario called me back–“sorry, you are too late–they expired 9/30”. I’m too late???? Your system does not allow me to be timely. Waited over an hour to talk to a supervisor and the call dropped. Called back today, 10/2 and spoke with Monique. I request to talk with a supervisor. Supervisor says, “sorry. You are too late.” Again, I’m too late??? Your system won’t allow me in, won’t allow me to book, won’t allow me to talk with anyone.
    I’m miffed. They say, “You had 2 years to re-book”. Really? Did I really? As best I know, COVID has continued to be rampant. I was wary to travel–especially hearing the nightmare travel stories form this year. When I finally try to book before the end date, THEIR system craftily doesn’t allow it to happen.
    To answer your question, it’s draconian. It’s thievery. It’s just plain wrong. I know no other industry that can just keep your money. If you have a good and don’t return it within the required timeframe, at least you have the good and can sell it on an online marketplace, even if it’s for less than you paid.

  14. Peg|

    My family is in the same boat. Booked 2 trips to Scotland/Ireland and cancelled due to covid. We will be out thousands of dollars not being able to use the credits in time. American Airlines will never willingly get my business again.

  15. Jason|

    Yep, same thing. Booked right before the pandemic hit and haven’t been able to use. When I tried to purchase a trip, just to avoid handing AA $500+ for nothing, I received a message that I could not use the credit to book online. I had to call. When I called, the on-hold time was 7-9 HOURS. I will likely never fly American Airlines again.

  16. Lauren|

    American Airlines canceled my flight in early 2020 (rightly so) and issued me credit. I spent about 5 hours today trying to book a flight using this credit before the expiry, only to have the phone reservation representative tell me that she can’t find my credit. The only instruction she could offer was to email the customer relations team. I will inevitably end up surrendering the money I paid for this flight, for which AA canceled and then conveniently lost my credit. What a sham. From now on I am adding AA to my list of airlines to avoid (along with United).

  17. Anonymous|

    Same. Nothing you can do. Just don’t fly AA.

  18. sabrina B|

    I used my Covid credits to book a family trip in Feb 2022. The trip was Aug 2022. We had to cancel because my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so i chose to spend the time with him. I cancelled in July 2022. Received an email that the cancellation was received, and that we would receive credit. NOWHERE in the email confirmation does it say that we have to use the credit by October 2022 or lose it! NOWHERE. Just went to book a trip to see family in Seattle and told, no you have no credit – it expired two days ago. Umm what?? You are just going to steal $1675 of my money because I could not afford to fly between August until now?? Not all of us have the luxury of planning trips whenever. Some of us have to budget and save to do so. Covid messed up our first earned vacation, and then cancer caused us the next. Now AA thinks its ethical and right of them to just steal my money all the while they continue to perform the way they do, unable to reach an agent on the phone unless you spend hours on hold!! Hours!! I wasted 3.5 hours only to be disconnected. I was forced to type in a chat with a bot before even been prompted an option to connect with “an agent” and then be told, yea, you have no credit. Sorry. The government needs to charge AA for theft!!!

  19. Tim G|

    I had a return flight from UK to USA booked in 2019 for Autumn 2020. It was cancelled in July 2020 and AA told me not to worry that the value of my ticket was safe and to just call them when I was ready to rebook. I tried to rebook by phone this week and was told that the tickets expired on October 31st. The agent was offhand & told me to email customer services if I wasn’t happy. Customer Services thanked me for raising the issue and highlighting problems so that they could improve and then said they hoped to improve on their high level of service the next time I was on board!! Emails to various directors then got a trip credit issued in dollars for 10% less than I had originally paid. Trying to use the trip credit by phone because the online system would not accept it, I was told that it could only be used for a flight from USA and not a return from UK. It looks like I could be $3000 out of pocket but I will be hounding the directors for a few weeks yet. The system is broken and no-one seems to have the will to fix it.

  20. Anon A|

    Same issue as most are having. Had to cancel a flight that I was planning on taking last year around this time. I’ve done chat and email with customer relations and basically we’re out of $1000 dollars worth in flights even though we wanted to use those flights for this year. They refuse to budge because Sept 2022 was when they needed to be booked. I will continue to email or call , social media, etc. This is an insane policy.

  21. Allison B|

    The same happened to me. I had a cancelled trip because I was responsible, took a covid test before flying, and it was unfortunately, a positive test. Therefore, I DIDN’T fly! this was in Aug 2021, and they made it incredibly EASY to cancel, of course, reassuring me that COVID cancellations are issued credits no problem. Now when I attempt to redeem my flight credit, they tell me no, it’s expired, there’s nothing I can do. MEanwhile, I checked my emails, I never received anything even alerting me that it was going to expire.

  22. Taryn B.|

    I am in the exact same problem as everyone else. I just read another article that stated to file a complaint with the US Department of Transportation. I just went and filed a complaint right now, maybe if enough of us file something might get addressed. It’s a long shot but worth a try.

  23. Annie Pfeifer|

    I’m in the same boat as all of you other commenters, and this is unacceptable. AA never issued any sort of communication about this arbitrary deadline, and at the end of the day their so called “policy change” is just a money grab to keep revenue they haven’t earned. No goods or services has been exchanged. We need to bring this to the attention of our state representatives. I suggest contacting your local congressman and the congressman in DFW area where AA world headquarters is located: Kay Granger – US Congress 12th District of Texas, 202.225.5071 or your state’s Attorney General consumer complaint form online. I have done both and will post back if I gain any traction!

  24. Olivia|

    Im in the same boat, booked a trip to Italy for 4 of us out $3500 in vouchers. I am an emergency room nurse and could not travel. I can’t believe they will not honor voucher. Wow great way to start off the holiday.

  25. GT|

    I’m appalled that travel credits expire with AA, especially when they’re only “valid for 12 months” like WHAT? So you just get to keep our hard earned coin with no other alternative? It is so damn annoying and frustrating they don’t offer any other kind of resolution other than kick rocks. I never want to fly American ever again. Cannot stand them.

  26. Janice|

    I just discovered that I’m out a $487 travel credit. I called customer service who would not reverse the cancelation. They suggested filling out the online customer relations form, which I did, but I got another rejection. All this while other airlines are stepping up to honor travel credits, especially Southwest. I’m a nurse who worked through covid, and the only travel I’ve done throughout was to see family in a place that American Airlines does not fly to. Not their fault, they don’t care. I got nothing for the $487 I innocently gave them. I wonder how much money they’ve made (stolen) from consumers over the years for unused travel credits…… What a risk it is to do business with American Airlines. Never again.

  27. veronica|

    Just went to book AA today for my daughters wedding in May with our flight credits of $1200 and they are gone! Happy New Year to us :(

  28. Laurent Y|

    Just tried booking and had the same issue as others. Credit expired of date of booking and not the date of when flight was booked for. They are never getting a dime out of me ever again.

  29. Chandu|

    I faced the same issue.I had $450 in travel credit due to my flight cancellations in jan 2022. I called AA customer service to book flights just to use my travel credits and I was told my credits had expired. this is unethical, We never received any email about the new expiration dates set by AA.I will never use AA again.Such a fruad company.

  30. Karina|

    OMG I’m on the same boat!! $800 in credit due to canceling our Europe Trip in 2020 and with everything that is happening in this world we were not thinking on vacation. Now i need to fly to LA to see my niece that is very ill and they are saying my credit expired in December 2022!! This is STEALING! they need to honor this credits specially now with the after covid disaster!

  31. Kristen|

    I have nearly $300 in trip credit from a canceled flight from CUN – PHL in Feb 2022. I just called to book the SAME flight (CUN-PHL) in a few weeks and was told I couldn’t use my credit bc the flight has to originate in the US. This is an actual WTF moment for me and I will NEVER willingly fly AA again.

  32. Kurt Neumann|

    My family had to cancel my elderly grandmother’s ticket on American Airlines when the pandemic hit in 2020 (value ~$276). She is in her mid-80’s. She could not travel in 2021-22 and now needs to travel cross country for a specialist doctor’s appointment near where other members of our family live. I called and got the same song and dance from American Airlines. No exceptions to their travel credit expiration policy that ended on December 31, 2022. That is total hogwash. With inflation raging, this part of my family is barely trying to make ends meet right now. Talk about adding insult to injury. We will not be flying with American Airlines again. We will also be filing a compliant with the US Department of Transportation.

  33. Tricia|

    My fiancé and I are in the same boat! We booked flights to Paris in Aug 2019. We were getting married on May 4th, 2020 in Paris. We had been planning that wedding for 3 years. We purchased tickets for $2,500. There was no way we weren’t going, so we thought getting the tickets early was smart….eye roll…the Covid hit! My fiancé was out of work for a year and we couldn’t afford to go anywhere by the time the credits expired. I’m livid! When speaking with their complaints department, I told them I’m not looking for my money back. I’m not asking for anything more than what I already paid for. She told me it doesn’t work like that and then thanked me for choosing American Airlines! I’m writing the Attorney General, the transportation department, and going to see what options we have to take legally. Every other company we worked with for our wedding had NOOOO issues refunding us. We even had insurance but because they said we could have credits, we didn’t think it was necessary to file the insurance for the flight tickets. After all, we’re honest people! We don’t want the money and credits. That wouldn’t be fair! Instead, we lost our money/tickets!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      This is crazy. I will help you take it to the next level by writing a post and featuring this comment.

  34. Tricia|

    Thank you so much! We are trying everything at this point! Again, we’re not asking for more than we paid. We’re not asking for a refund. We’re just asking for the credits to use in the future. We appreciate any help we can get!

  35. Julie|

    Can anyone comment on whether or not they actually had to take the cheap flight that they used in order to prolong their credit? I just converted $3600 of flight credit ($1600 each for myself and my husband) that was going to expire before I could use it. It became about $3450 in trip credit (now expiring a year from today) by purchasing 2 one way tickets that I won’t use. Is it okay to cancel these tickets before I would be scheduled to fly? I already have the numbers for the new trip credits.

  36. Julia|

    Just found out Ive lost $1200 in flight credit with AA as well. Does anyone have a sample complaint letter to AA, to DOT? etc? how do we do a class action lawsuit?

  37. Lindsey Taylor|

    Same issue here! Had to cancel a Cancun trip due to traveling from US and back Covid restrictions. Had a $948 travel credit that is now expired as of Dec 2022. I found this out trying to book a trip for this March 2023. If feels like AA has stolen our money. If anyone files a class action, include me!

  38. Lindsey Taylor|

    I filed a complaint w/ the US Dept of Transportation today. Let’s see if that does anything

  39. Mindy|

    We have encountered the same issue, we had a trip to Peru planned that was canceled in May of 2020. The only information I received was an email indicating that the value of our tickets were safe, and never received any information otherwise that there was an expiration date. I emailed to attempt to get credit and received a denial email.

    Did anyone receive any notification that the credit would expire? This information should be sent to the ticket holders and not dependent on discovery through their website, when the email I received indicated the value was protected.

    I would definitely be up for a class action lawsuit.

  40. Cook|

    Similar issue on my end. I had an AA credit to use that apparently expired in March 2023. I’ve rebooked a few times, paying additional amounts. I finally had a trip planned to MIlan in Mid May, and unfortunately something important came up, and I had to cancel. I was planning on rebooking for two weeks later. Apparently, even the extra funds I paid towards my final itinerary to Milan on January 13, 2023 expired along with the original credit. I’m out nearly $4k now. It’s funny because I have another travel credit through AA from a cancelled trip prior to Thanksgiving of 2022. I’ve used portions of the credit, and the expiration keeps on getting extended on the remainder of the balance.

  41. Carl|

    I have 2 weeks before my refund credits expire for a flight that AA canceled leaving my wife and I stranded in Miami. I’m thinking we use the credits to purchase flex tickets somewhere/anywhere and then before that flight leaves cancel that flight (flex has free cancelation/date change) and reschedule for a flight later in the year. This oculd extend the expiration date. Any thoughts?

  42. Stephanie H|

    We have the same issues. Covid canceled our trip, and then our $2,500 expired, and AA wanted to keep my money. This is ridiculous. This is MY money, to begin with, and with inflation and all the rising travel costs, we no longer can afford that trip that was budgeted at $2500 3 years ago for us. Talking to AA is like talking to a wall. What gives them the right to take my hard-earned money while service is not provided!!! I loath them and am willing to spend more money with other airlines so I don’t go through this again. The amount of stress they give to me seriously I need to sue them for hospital bills!

  43. Stephanie H|

    No notifications are ever sent to us to warn us that the credits will be expired. whey you call them, they make you hold for 1-2 hrs, so you give up, and then they get to keep your money. I would definitely be up for a class-action lawsuit.

  44. Maye|

    As someone who is also dealing with a similar situation, I am wondering if there has been any movement towards a lawsuit. It’s absurd that they get to keep all of our money when there was no communication on their end regarding the expiration of our flight credit.

  45. KD|

    Just adding my name to the long list of people who lost $1,000+ worth of flight credit because AA says the money has “expired.” I’m speechless…

  46. Simon|

    Just wondering if this thread is still active and if there has/is anything being done to remedy this atrocious behavior exhibited by AA in not honoring hard earned monies paid for travel scheduled when COVID broke. I myself am out over $5000 and just found this out.

  47. Michelle|

    I just had it happen to me, it was discovered 9 days beyond expiration and I apparently have no recourse, although my delay was health related. This is despicable and is tantamount to waste and abuse on their part. I agree there should be an alert with the onset of the expiration of the credit, better yet, why is there an end date. It is money that has already been allocated and payed for with the intent of travel by the named individual, therefore, it should be the customers right to determine when it is used. The issue with AA, is they are not playing fair in the sandbox, which is outrageous and a poor display of customer service.

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