American Airlines Expands Change Fee Waiver

Filed Under: American

Update: American is now waiving fees for those who booked tickets prior to March 1.

Over the past several days we’ve seen most of the major US airlines start waiving change fees on newly booked tickets, including JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.

This is clearly being done to drum up business, given that future bookings are way down as a result of the uncertainty caused by coronavirusSouthwest’s CEO even said the drop in demand has a 9/11-like feel, and airline stocks have plummeted.

While American Airlines was the first of the “big three” US carriers to introduce a change fee waiver several days ago, the company has now made it more generous, since clearly the old one didn’t cut it.

American Airlines’ initial change fee waiver

With American Airlines’ initial waiver, the airline waived change fees for tickets booked between March 1 and March 16, 2020, but only allowed changes made at least 14 days prior to travel.

In the meantime Delta and United introduced significantly more generous policies, so clearly American is following along.

Initially American only allowed changes 14 days out

American Airlines’ expanded change fee waiver

With American Airlines’ updated change fee waiver, the airline is waiving change fees for tickets booked between March 1 and March 31, 2020. Furthermore, the requirement to cancel at least 14 days in advance (which completely defeated the purpose of feeling at ease when booking) has been eliminated.

Be aware that:

  • Change fees will only be waived on published non-refundable fare tickets with original travel by January 30, 2021
  • Changes must be made prior to departure of your original flight
  • You’re allowed to make a one-time change
  • Any fare difference will apply, but the (typically $200) fee will be waived
  • Travel must be completed within a year of the original ticket issue date
  • For tickets purchased between March 1 and March 4, the original restriction will apply — tickets can only be changed at least 14 days before the original travel date

American Airlines is waiving change fees on new tickets

Bottom line

At this point most of the major US airlines are offering generous change policies (and Southwest Airlines offers free changes and cancelations even when there are no coronavirus fears) as a way of trying to drum up business.

In general it can be very worthwhile to plan travel at the moment, given that we’re seeing great fares at the moment, and on top of that change fees are waived, so you can speculatively book great fares.

Are you taking advantage of the waived change fee policies of any airlines to lock in travel at the moment?

Comments
  1. It’s really a shame that the airlines are not allowing changes for past bookings. I have a few flights booked with AA to Europe in late March and April and I don’t think the situation with Covid-19 will be resolved anytime soon. I feel like we have no choice but take the risk and travel. I do believe that airlines should allow some flexibility.

  2. So, if you book a flight in the future, say $400, and the price drops to $250 before the 14 days out….you should in theory get a voucher for the difference, right?

  3. The AA policy is different in that it will cover changes thru early 2021.

    Aside from the 14 day advance change requirement, their window is much larger.

    DL and UA will catch up. What about the other international airlines?

    Curious that I haven’t read anything about the ME Big 3?

    I’d hate to be in airline management right now, for any airline.

  4. Might be fine to gamble for domestic travel but if booking a discounted business overseas you could end up pretty screwed when the change you are looking for is coming in $3K higher.

  5. What is interesting to me with this policy, given the 14-day advance notice rule, is they are not so much looking at situations where they will ultimately have to issue a waiver (a la flights China/S Korea/Japan) but more as a stop gap to goose sales. My guess is they are seeing the book of reservations rapidly deteriorate for the rest of the year. They are trying to give customers any extra excuse to books flights now rather than wait and see.

  6. How will the flight re-scheduling work if you have bought a RT ticket to London from the US on AA and have a separate BA flight from London to Italy ( Venice and back from Rome) Will they consider waiving all the tickets?
    I am scheduled to travel on May 2nd. Hopefully, things may get better. Keeping fingers crossed.

  7. “Any ticket purchased from March 1 at 4:30 p.m. CST and March 16, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CST will not incur change fees if changes are made 14 days prior to travel.”

    This does not make sense. Any ticket PURCHASED? Don’t they mean travel dates? So on top of everything else, even AA’s communications department is inept?

  8. Any idea if this means we can get a full refund if we decide to cancel the trip rather than just change it?

  9. The terms and conditions use the language of “change your travel” and “new travel.” Conspicuously missing are the words “cancel” and “refund.” Is it really the case that one could cancel a trip entirely and have the full fare refunded? The way I am inclined to read this offer, you are committed to traveling, you’re just allowed to make a change to dates and destination one time (with travel still completed within a year).

  10. @Andy – you will not get a refund. If you cancel you will get the total amount as a voucher for future travel, without the normal $200 change fee. So if you buy a ticket for $1000, and you cancel you will still have $1000 to apply to future travel (whereas AA’s normal policy is you would have $800). Now if prices rise, and your new fare costs $1500 you still have to make up the $500 obviously.

  11. @Jeff – huh? In what way? Sure, AA is often last to make changes, but in what way is this “last place”?

  12. @Tom I agree, travelers who trusted the airlines through bookings in the last few months toward travel in the next few months are being entirely ignored — one would think that, at a minimum, carriers would allow a free schedule change for any existing bookings as the virus crisis is becoming truly global.

    Relatedly, I imagine that there will be a ‘threshold’ of sorts at some point in the near future – at this point, carriers like AA continue to cancel routes based on crew refusals to fly, demand dropping off etc. But for how long is it sustainable for them to continue this pattern? As the crisis increasingly affects every corner of the globe, carriers won’t simply continue to cut every imaginable affected route – I would think that there will be a point in time when they will simply stop cutting routes….how many planes are they willing to park for months into the future?

  13. @OCTinPHL — yes, thanks for clarifying. I had read Ben’s post a bit too quickly and saw the word “cancel” in it—but only in the context of canceling a booked flight, not to canceling a trip and receiving a refund.

    I can’t say that this is going to accelerate my bookings very much . . . I’m AA Executive Platinum for nearly ten years now and normally on planes every week, most of them AA because I’m PHL based, but about half that travel is for conferences and there’s a great deal of uncertainty about whether those kinds of events will be held this spring and summer.

    I doubt this policy will move the needle much for AA. Not that they have done anything to earn my sympathy or loyalty the last few years. I feel bad for the line employees but nothing but scorn for the executives who have done their best to lose my business.

  14. I agree with your point it seems they are just trying to drum up business. I would have thought they would first take care of customers that bought tickets earlier, like January or February and now have plans changed or conferences canceled in March or April due to the virus. I hope we will see updates to their initial sales effort.

  15. could it be any more confusing. Changes with AA aren’t easy. I gave up on an award trip and just cancelled the trip, $150 fee included. The agent just kept babbling on about certain itineraries must be booked online. Ultimately I had zero options.

  16. @OCTinPHL
    I would say they are in last place because of this ridiculous stipulation that you must make the change 14 or more days in advance of your trip. JetBlue and Alaska are allowing changes up until the time of departure.

  17. @Boston – YMMV – I think AA’s policy is much for useful (for me) than JetBlue / Alaska.

    As @Gary Leff said: “It is simultaneously less generous and also more strategically useful than what JetBlue and Alaska have done in the face of weak bookings resulting from coronavirus fears”. And as Lucky himself said above: “Frankly I think this is how change fees always should be, as their temporary system better reflects the cost airlines incur when passengers make changes.”

    My point to Jeff was really that United and Delta haven’t announced anything similar – so how is AA in “last place”?

  18. This new policy is just another example of AA and thier view of the public as nothing more than revenue generators. Make any ticket purchased during this outbreak returnable for a credit you block heads. People are scared!

    I have flown any millions of miles on AA and now I am just a source of income.

    Martin

  19. Likely a dumb question – but if you choose to use the waiver, do you have to rebook your original itinerary? We are only booking a flight for a wedding, and we would not want to rebook the original destinations. Any insight would be helpful. Thank you!

  20. LAME! I have my in-laws booked on flights the first of April, and we’re getting worried about them traveling (75 and 70, father in law is on dialysis). But since we booked this flight back in January, we can’t change it? Why would you waive change fees for people who book now, if you book NOW you KNOW WHAT YOU’RE RISKING. When we booked in January we had no idea.

    Seriously, does these people even think?

  21. Coincidentally, I had been watching fares closely for a particular route, different days for the last week. After I received the “good news” email, I checked fares. Each one ticket had increased 200.00 each! This is for June travel. BUYER BEWARE!

  22. Check out how the Chinese airlines handled change and refund during the outbreak and AA should be ashamed.

  23. I agree with others complaining about purchasing tickets a couple of months ago. We didn’t know about coronavirus and my husband has lung issues which would be detrimental to his health if exposed. We are flying to the DC area which is a little more exposed to international travel. I feel if AA allows changes to tickets purchased in the next two weeks with the consumers knowing about the virus they should give us the same consideration.

  24. Please help!!! Just found out late am on 3/2/20 that our Son is being deployed to kuwait early and had no leave time to spend with my husband. which has purchased a ticket Feb.13th to fly into Phoenix Arizona on 3/6/20 stay till 3/10/20
    Bit was just informed that there is no way that his Son can spend anytime with him because he will be flying from Yuma Arizona sooner then thought and they have taken all his leave time away? We purchase the ticket for 250$ on our Discover card. Can’t get any help to cancel the flight and get refunded or even have American Airlines work with is ? What should we do??? Even now as I try and post this for help they say I have all ready posted this??? Which has never happened??? PLEASE HELP…!!!

  25. @Danny Broadhurst~ was the class of ticket Refundable or Non-refundable? If it was non-refundable I think you have done your money if you don’t use it on the ticketed dates, as it pre-dates their new window of opportunity. You could appeal ‘special circumstances’ and call on their better nature, but there has been scant evidence of that trait at AA.

  26. It is my understanding that American’s just announced waiver of rebooking fees does not apply to award tickets. Remember that you can always change an award ticket on American with no change fees, unlike Delta and United which always charge for changes, both revenue and awards.

  27. @Joanne Reg – Do you have a source for the lack of cover for award tickets?

    I know that date changes are always free, but changes to origin/destination or ticket type (AA or partner metal) require payment of a fee. Would be mighty useful if those fees were being waived!

  28. Any airline really wanting to encourage 2020 travel AND take care of their customers would waive all change fees AND additional flight costs across the board as long as COVID-19 is active.

    This may seem extreme re: flight costs, but a key real world concern in this situation is getting to your destination and not able to get back on your scheduled flight.

  29. American needs to issue a travel advisory to Seattle and eliminate change fees for travel there regardless of when ticket was purchased. The governor has advised against attending large gatherings (work conferences).

  30. Dear AA:

    Once agian you have offered your loyal cuatomers somthing that is clearly first and formost to your bennifit. Customers who purchased tickets before March, so sorry, too bad.

    By not allowing changes to tickets purchased before March, those who are not finincially able to just toss the ticket, they may just decide to ” Take The Risk” and fly when they should not.

    What will your response be to passangers who try to board showing signs of the flu?

    The only descent and responsibile response to this human tragedy is to make any ticket changeable untill the crisis is over.

    Thank you for taking the time to read and considering my views.

    American Flyer
    Martin

  31. Can you please confirm that this applies to Basic Economy fares? The language “non refundable” is confusing me! Thank you!

  32. Thanks Ben for providing these updates, but even what AA is saying can still be unclear. Yes, the $200 “change fee” might be waived; but as I believe that more than a few international tickets have a larger cancellation (vs. “change”) fee, it seems important for all of us to really confirm that flights are specifically “cancellable”… even if the “refund” will only be in the form of a credit! Also, as partially referenced in another post above, the 14-Day issue becomes a question, as some of the many conferences I travel for are already being cancelled… though within 10 day windows, thus making the 14 day factor useless. So it’s quite fine that the time element has been removed. Yes, it’s all a big dilemma… though no less than the question of whether we should be traveling as much now… or soon at all.

    Yet on the fun front, as I’m in DC today, please note that Uncle Donald has sort of said that there’s really nothing to worry about… because it will probably go away by itself!!! Have a good day!

  33. I booked a few AA tickets on the night of the 4th around 10:30pm. Last night though I found some cheaper tickets and canceled my existing ones. I also noticed the new policy and first thought it was the original one (and I must have misread your post), but then I remembered AA wasn’t as forgiving, so I knew something was up 😉

  34. Lucky,

    For lack of a better place, I am posting here a slightly unrelated comment which, I believe, should be given maximum publicity:

    BRITISH AIRWAYS is refusing to waive the change fees on two of my tickets:

    One is a One Way BUD-LHR-CDG in 10 days, this when the number of cases in France and the UK is expanding significantly. I do not know about Hungary (I hope not)

    The other one is a RT LCA (Larnaca) -LHR-JFK, this when cases increase in the UK and when they explode in the US Northeast and NYC.

    The agent (BA Gold Customer Service) quoted me impressive change fees which look inflated to me, added that the tickets were non-refundable, (I knew that) and that the refund of taxes would be minimal if I cancelled. She added that any price difference would be added to the change fees, BUT THAT IF THE NEW PRICES WERE LOWER (as has been hapening a lot these last weeks), THE LOWER PRICE WOULD NOT APPLY.

    The other airlines I have dealt with this week to address this situation (AY, AA, CX) have made no difficulty whatsoever to apply changes without a fee.

    IN OTHER WORDS, BA IS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE PANDEMIC TO MAKE A TON OF MONEY, SOMETHING WHICH, JUST BY ITSELF IS WORTHY OF A LONG-LASTING BOYCOTT.

    I fully intend to to give their behaviour a maximum of publicity, have contacted one of the networks and await their response. It is my belief that you and OMAAT can play a part too and I hope that you will.

  35. Has anyone confirmed if this applies to basic economy?

    The most literal interpretation of their policy leads me to believe it does not- since they are waiving “change fees”, and basic economy fares not eligible to be changed.

    It seems weird that they are not clarifying in their terms since basic economy is their default fare.

  36. On their WebSite

    – Exception policy –

    “We will waive the change fee only on published Non-Refundable Fare tickets.”

    I would read that to include “ANY” published Non-Refundable Fare.

    My take

  37. What about the customers who purchased before this. Cruise ship are letting us change and now we have to eat the cost of our tickets if we don’t go on non refundable ticket. Will not book with American Airlines again.

  38. @marrin Jacobs Yes, Basic economy fares are included on these waivers. Contact reservations to have them rebook your ticket for you. If you bought your ticket on or after Mar 1.

  39. No American Airlines is not waiving the $200 cancellation fees if your flight was booked prior to March 1. I had flights on March 14-15, which were booked on Feb 10. I requested that they waive the $200. They didn’t. I think it is unfair and deceptive practice by American Airlines. It violates the UDAAP requirement and exposes American Airlines to class action law suit.

  40. Generous? If it were realistically beneficial it would include tickets purchased before March 1. Why NOT let people change those tickets????

  41. I had an award trip booked to UK depart March 1st….I cancelled Feb 21st in regard to Virus concerns. AA charged me $150, would not let me rebook ticket.
    Going to dispute CC charge. Sick of their ridiculous consumer unfriendly attitude.

  42. GO FOR IT !!!!

    Why won’t they let you rebook ? Planes are EMPTY. Anything helping them lower outstanding miles at zero cost to them except your weight and the dog food should be godsent…

    Athens- Paris yesterday, AF A321, 12 passengers. I was surprised they did not cancel it. Must have needed the plane on the other end.

  43. For those of you asking the obvious question, “why is American Airlines offering waivers or change fees on non-refundable flights ONLY for people who buy tickets in March?” please don’t delude yourselves into thinking AA would do anything that costs itself revenue, unless forced.
    Of COURSE no refunds or waivers are being offered to those who purchased tickets before the crisis was known. That revenue is locked in. The sole reason the rules are being relaxed is to attract more business in the face of the worldwide travel industry downturn. In December I bought $2,000 of non-refundable tickets for my family to travel from Nashville to Costa Rica in May (the only way we could afford it). That money is forfeited; I can’t take a chance that I, my husband or my two college students will not be allowed back in the U.S. Of course, Costa Rica will be solidly infected by then, just like almost everywhere else. It had one case yesterday and nine confirmed tonight with 34 more suspected cases. The writing is on the wall.
    If AA wanted to be helpful to both its customers and to the world, it would allow customers to change or delay ALL tickets. This would make it easier for people who aren’t sure if they are sick to delay their trips and avoid infecting other flyers. As it stands, the policies of all airlines are causing the disease to spread more rapidly by not allowing previously-purchased tickets to be delayed at no charge. The airlines already have blood on their hands and it’s progressing from a trickle to a torrent.
    The best hope would be for Congress to force airlines to allow free changes, in the interest of containing Covid-19. Will it cost the airlines money? Will it save lives? Yes to both questions. Industries have up cycles and down cycles and these large airlines have survived both (think 9/11). With oil prices plummeting, the savings on fuel will help reduce expenses at a convenient time.
    I will probably contact my senators and representative to see if they are interested in saving lives with some temporary laws for consumers. If enough people complain, they may act on this. And airlines may find it cheaper to offer free changes rather than have legislation shoved down their throats.

  44. I purchased my American Airline tickets in December, before this outbreak. Why won’t AA allow me to cancel or change my flights (non refundable) without the $200 per ticket penalty? Why is my life not as valued as those who purchased in March?

  45. AA you need to look at the fact it’s not your health on the lines and not put making money a priority I was wanting to give my stroke survivor husband a bucket list travel to Niagara Falls i was told Canada government is telling the folks not to fly any where right now.why would one fly to canada and then not able to leave and get the virus Toronto has 22 cases I purchased the tickets Jan 23 we live on ss.I had to save hard to get the tickets
    American you are be very unfair to ticket holds and you will loose future travel and lost of money if you will not change the waiver fee..do what’s right

  46. We have premium economy flights books on AA for a Venice to Barcelona cruise in April. The cruise line will let me move my booking to the same cruise a year from April. As I understand the AA change waiver, I can cancel my flights and rebook a new trip without change fees(Italy destination), but it must be used within a year of the original ticket issue date which was September of 2019. Is there any way to be able to move my tickets $ forward to use for a cruise in 2021. I have $3200 invested in my air tickets so I don’t want to lose this money.

  47. I have a reward flight on hold with a web special rate. I called American today and asked if the no fee change policy applies to reward travel booked with web special, and the rep said is does not.

  48. @Jenn, I also called them yesterday. I have an economy Award ticket that I booked in November, for travel starting March 26. I still want to travel (same dates and itinerary) but now I’d like to upgrade to a First Class Award. Obviously I would use more Miles. They told me I have to redeposit my miles, pay $150 “redeposit fee” and then purchase the new First Class award. I’m just going to wait and see what happens.

  49. @Carla: American is totally out of step. They will pay the price in public opinion.
    Hard to believe how greedy and disrespectful of their customers they are.
    This is an industry that forces punitive restrictions that other industries would never dare to implement, together with nickel and dime mentality and outrageous bag fees at every step of the process.

    I cancelled my award ticket, and got punished with a $150 redeposit fee.
    Going to dispute the charge with my card co. I’ll make them work for their pound of flesh.

  50. Soren, that is disgraceful behavior on AA’s part. It was supposed to be an award for your loyalty; now you’ve been charged $150 for literally nothing. Good luck with the credit card company. Keep us posted.

  51. Good afternoon I am not a frequent flyer so I do not know how to obtain this credit for a future flight. Does anyone know how to do this? I am trying to get a hold of American airlines and it is impossible, as it can be imagined.

  52. They’re lying, I just tried to change my flight and they still are charging me $200. Also, the wait time on the phone is over 2 hours. My flight is tomorrow.

  53. As Cathie points out, the American (and apparently other airlines) rebooking policy is very discriminatory to passengers who book their travel way in advance. We booked tickets in January 22, 2020 for travel on April 2, 2020. We now have to cancel our plans for a tour. We can rebook that trip for April 2021 but the American policy says we have to use the airfare credit by January 22, 2021 (fly by January 22, 2021). It would make a lot more sense to make the deadline with 18 months of the originally planned travel date. It is not clear what percent of American passengers are hurt by this restrictive policy but it will forever create ill will. Somebody should rethink the policy.

  54. I am so angry with American Airlines!! Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Canada announced (CTV News) that all Canadians should return home “while they still could”. He said very sternly, “let me make it clear, if you’re traveling, you need to come home”. In light of that announcement, and in light of the fact that my parents were worried, are in their 70s, and my mom is extra high-risk because of her diabetes and health issues, we decided to cancel other traveling vacation plans (a vrbo we had booked in Petit Jean, Arkansas), and change their flights to an earlier return date, if possible. They are visiting me in Louisiana from British Columbia, Canada. I got on Cheapo Air, where I had originally booked their flights, and found that there was a straight-through flight leaving on Thursday, March 19th, instead of their original flight, on the 23rd. I remember it popping up as a $99 sale flight, because I almost booked it when it was taking me hours to get through to the airlines to make a change, but didn’t, because I didn’t want my dad to be out the extra $200.. I wish I would have, because it would’ve been cheaper than paying the $385 that American Airlines then forced me to pay to change my ticket—after the fact!! When I finally got through, the agent rescheduled their flight, saying it was no problem, and they would only charge us one penny to process the transaction. They were emailed their confirmation for the flight change, and everything was processed, but today the agent who booked us called back and stated that it had not processed (a lie because we had the confirmation) and they were going to change our flights back from the 19th to the 23rd unless we paid them an extra $385 for the price difference to fly earlier!! Even if that is United policy, there is no way they should have to pay later! They should have made that clear when I originally made the change, and not called back threatening to change the tickets for two high-risk, older people (Or anyone for that matter!), who are worried about getting back home, and now forced to pay at a later date, AFTER the flight had been booked and confirmed!! I feel like they are price-gouging, given the current situation, and maybe trying to make up for the $200 fees they are supposed to be waiving, especially since I KNOW I saw those flights on that date for $99 from Dallas to Vancouver (Listed as an Air Canada flight, but apparently run through United) 🙁 I didn’t want to make too big a fuss (nothing I said changed their attitude anyway), because it would upset my parents, but frankly, I don’t trust any business that would do this. My dad just gave them permission to charge it, but that’s going to be over $500 Canadian for him and Mom, on top of what they originally paid for their tickets, which was just a little over $500 US —so they basically paid for their flight twice!!!
    #steaminginLouisiana
    #onemorereasontoflySouthwest!!

  55. In regard to my previous post☝️I make the correction that I am angry with United Airlines, not American. I was confused, because my flight shows up as an Air Canada flight, but every time I speak to a cheapo air agent, they reference it as a United flight. So, I got United and American mixed up.

  56. I booked my tickets in November for a trip to Belize on April 15th. Now I don’t mind the credit (as I purchased non refundable tickets) but if I have to use the credit within a year, is it a year from booking or a year from travel dates?

  57. The normal is one year from date of purchase. This is not normal. Just wait untill the day before to cancel as AA will most likely change or cancel your flight and that entitles you to a refund.

  58. Could someone kindly answer this: On American let’s say before April 15th I purchase a domestic non-refundable ticket for travel by January 30th, 2021. Let’s say the ticket cost $200. If I later decide to make a change & the new fare is $300. then I pay an additional $100., got it! But how about if the change is $100. cheaper, do I get a refund or credit of $100. ? Their rules state ‘”ANY fare difference will apply, but the (typically $200) fee will be waived”.
    Thanks in advance for your input!

  59. I purchased a American Airlines international round trip ticket in Feb. for $709 to travel in June for a wedding. Price of the ticket when down asked for difference because they said on the website we wouldn’t be charged the$200 change fee. My flight was cancelled due to COVID. They refunded me $444 back to my CC and charged me for a change fee. I’ve called and emailed. Three weeks later I’m being told that I’ll receive the$200 in a voucher. Why??

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