aa 787

More travel happiness, less expense…

What if you could buy the cheaper flight, and still get on the more expensive one? Or better yet, what if you could make it home a few hours early, or extend the trip a few hours late to enjoy a special meal with a long lost friend? One thing you can always count on in travel is that plans will change, and American Airlines has a pretty great program when it comes to changing your flight.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

$75, Unless…

You can avoid paying the insane fees to change a flight far in advance, and change your flight to another flight you’d much prefer within 24 hours on American Airlines. This works only if you’re flying domestic in the USA, or to London. There are two types of changes: confirmed seat and standby. Either option is going to be $75 unless the fee is waived because you are…

  • Flying first, business or “full fare” economy. – 
  • Concierge Key, Executive Platinum or Platinum Pro with American.
  • Flying on a ticket booked using American AAdvantage miles. 

This is cool because of course, you have more flexibility when things pop up, but also because sometimes $75 will be a lot less than you would’ve paid to change your flight just hours before. Change fees for changes in advance of 24 hours on American Airlines are $200 + a difference in fare for domestic flights, so a flat $75 fee for flight changes within 24 hours is a really big win. Of course, nothing is guaranteed when you wait until the 24 hour mark, but if you play the game right, it can work out in your favor. It’s even better if you have elite frequent flyer status…

a sign on a standIf you have elite frequent flyer status with any OneWorld airline, which gives you OneWorld Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald, you’ll be entitled to free standby changes to another flight, or the option to confirm a seat for $75 within 24 hours of your flight time. This includes elite status with airlines like British Airways, Iberia, Qatar, Qantas, Finnair, Cathay Pacific, LATAM and more. We’ll shortly show you a trick which can help you get a seat without shelling out the $75. This free standby also applies to active duty U.S. military members.

a hand holding a cell phoneApp It Up…

The American Airlines app is your friend here, and by far the easiest way to take advantage of this great standby program. Download it, enter your reservation details and be ready to press buttons once your flight is within 24 hours. If your flight is at noonWhen you open the app, if your flight departs within 24 hours, you will see an option to “change flight”. The app will list all available options where a confirmed seat or standby is available. If you don’t have any elite status, you might as well just pay the $75 flights in the app, but if you do have status, we’ll show you how to play the game and perhaps avoid the fee.

a screenshot of a computerExpertFlyer

ExpertFlyer is a paid tool, which is life changing for frequent travelers. We have an idiots guide to get you started, not that you’re an idiot or anything. It’s just a bit complicated. If you have elite status, and even if you don’t – it can be really useful in helping you figure out which flights will actually work out for standby or a confirmed seat. That’s valuable. If you know there are tons of seats on a flight you want, you can make an educated guess that your flight change will work out and plan accordingly.

You search “flight availability” on ExpertFlyer, enter your route, dates and airline and hit search. If there are lots of seats in “Y” or any letter after that, it means there are lots of open seats on that flight and therefore your chances of getting a seat either by paying $75 or by flying standby are very high. If there’s any number of seats above zero in “E” class, that flight is almost definitely open for same day confirmed changes or standby. You’ll only be able to see “E” class availability within 24 hours, but using Y,B,K,H or L availability is a good indicator of how full the economy cabin is.

a large building with many peopleAn Example At Work

Confused? This stuff is both boring and confusing. Let’s say you have an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles two days from now, and you’re confirmed on the 7AM, but that sounds awful. Maybe you know you’re going to be hungover, or maybe you want just one more great day in NYC. There’s just one thing: you absolutely need to leave on that day. Before the 24 hour window, you can get a great idea of how things will go and the probability of things working out by using the ExpertFlyer app to see how full flights are. If they’re all full, you’d better set that 5AM alarm for your 7AM flight and not make any crazy plans.

Look how many “Y” and below seats are unsold. If there are lots unsold, there’s a much higher chance that once inside the 24 hours, flights with unsold seats will be made available for standby or confirmed change. Inside 24 hours they’ll be on display in the American Airlines app, and on ExpertFlyer as “E” space. You can even set alerts on ExpertFlyer to let you know if “E” space pops up, so you can grab it before others. If you don’t have status – you pay anyway, so just confirm your seat, but if you do have it, save the $75 by playing it savvy on the day and just rolling with standby.

Have you used American’s same day change offer?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. E class availability on EF is no longer a guarantee of SDC availability on AA. This changed a few months ago. Only the app, website, or phone agent can offer SDC availability.

  2. Golds and Platinums can go standby for no fee, just not confirmed. That is a bit misleading from your intro though I realize it is confusing given the number of rules/exceptions to have a nice, concise summary.

  3. the benefit is close to be useless cuz all the need inventory for SDC nearly never ever opens up, even within couple hours of departure (unless you’re flying tues 10pm, then sure it’s wide open).

  4. Just wanted to change flights in this SFO runway construction chaos but turns out you are not allowed, or to be more precise their software doesn’t support it and no overwrite possible by phone agent, but if one of the legs on your trip is in premium economy, same day flight changes are not possible. Total bullshit. Paying more and getting less.
    That should be clearly pointed out in this article.

    And their fee waiver for this runway chaos only allows to switch flights to a different airport, not an earlier one from SFO. Who thinks this through??? Doesn’t make sense.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *