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Earlier this morning I wrote about how United, US Airways and Delta all increased their ticket change/cancellation fees on routes in North America from $150 to $200 in the past week and speculated that American Airlines would probably soon follow suit.
Well, I didn’t have long to wait to see whether my prediction would come true because American Airlines just announced that it would be matching the ticket change/cancellation increase to $200 for travel within the U.S., between the U.S. and Canada, and between both the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and Central America. International tickets won’t be affected.
While this change is bad for consumers, at least American offers Choice Fares which I personally think are a great deal for my needs since I often buy the cheapest fares, but my schedule changes constantly.
1. Choice Fares: These are basically the discounted economy fares as they are today – the least expensive way to get from point A to point B with no extras added on. You pay fees to make changes and you accrue miles normally.
2. Choice Essential: For an additional fee of $68 roundtrip, these fares will include 1 checked bag, Group 1 priority boarding and no change fees.
3. Choice Plus: These fares cost $20 above Choice Essential (so $88 above Choice/Regular Fares) and have the same three perks as Choice Essential plus a 50% AAdvantage mileage bonus (not Elite Qualifying Miles), waived same-day confirmed flight changes, same day standby and a premium beverage (including alcohol).
With both Choice Essential and Choice plus fares, the change fees are waived, but if the fare on the new ticket is higher, the customer will still have to pay the difference in fares. If the fare of the new ticket is lower, you will be issued a credit in the form of an airline voucher, meaning you can rebook and get a credit if the fare on your itinerary drops. If you purchase one of the Choice fares, you can change your ticket as many times as you want without a fee.
That change fee waiver is the main reason I buy American’s Choice Fares, and it has saved me hundreds of dollars already in the few months that these fares have been available. Even if you go with the more expensive Choice Plus fares and change your ticket once without any fare increase, you’re still saving $112.
All in all I’m not surprised that American matched its competitors’ fee hike, but I am disappointed. Although those Choice Fares make it easier to change your tickets without incurring huge fees, you’re still paying more for them, so the bottom line is, flyers will be paying more one way or another to fly American Airlines.