If you have to cancel your flight, there is a chance that you can get your miles refunded. In some cases, just what you have to do to get your miles deposited back into your account varies by program, and sometimes varies due to the level that you are on within that program. Regardless, it is likely that you will have to lose some miles in the process.
For Air Canada, for example, a cancellation fee for an award ticket is $90 without any exceptions. For Alaska Airlines, it is free 60 days prior to flight but costs $125 if it is within 60 days – however, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members don’t pay at all.
Your status has more to do with how much it will cost you – sometimes, higher ranked members won’t have to pay at all. The other option is that, if you are able to rebook immediately, you might see a benefit in that as well.
One of the good things with most programs is that you can change the date of your departure if it is more than 21 days into the future as long as the new date is also 21 or more days into the future.
Another thing to consider is that larger airlines are typically less forgiving when it comes to redepositing your miles.
One of the trickier things you can do to avoid paying redeposit fees or losing your miles altogether is to simply wait it out. If your flight departure time changes, you might be able to put up a fight because it will throw off your travel plans.
You might also be able to call a customer service associate, hear what they have to say, and then call back again. Sometimes, one worker will do something that another will not. This is generally the case if you are able to get someone with more power.
It is very important to know the policies of your program if you know that you will have to change your flights on a regular basis. Look for programs that will have lower and no redeposit fees. Another thing you may want to consider is travel insurance, which may reimburse any cancellation or redeposit fees.
At the end of the day, changing or canceling your flight is costly to your miles, but you are likely to be able to get at least some of them back when you do.