Exclusive: American Airlines makes positive change to its seat fee refund policy
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While most airlines have been making it harder to get your money back for changed or canceled trips, American Airlines is making it easier.
The Fort Worth-based carrier has just made a major change to its refund policy for seat fees. Effective immediately, American Airlines will let you request a voucher for the value of your non-refundable seat if you cancel your trip during the coronavirus travel period. The policy applies to flights booked by June 30, 2020 for travel through Sep. 30.
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While it’s always preferable to a get refund over a travel credit, this is still a positive move. Previously, you could only get a refund if you paid to upgrade to a premium cabin, canceled your flight within 24 hours of booking or if the airline rebooked you for a reason beyond your control and couldn't get you a comparable seat. Under this policy, you'll be eligible for a voucher if you take advantage of the airline's flexible booking policy and voluntarily change or cancel your flight.
There’s a limited selection of seats available free of charge when purchasing a standard main cabin ticket. The rest are reserved as Main Cabin Extra (extra-legroom economy) and Preferred seats (standard economy seats located in “preferred” areas of the plane) and cost extra for non-AAdvantage elites. Or, if you purchase a basic economy ticket, even selecting a standard main cabin seat will cost you extra.
Related: A beginner’s guide to American Airlines economy seats
In mid-May American added a new feature that allows you to purchase seats using miles on certain itineraries. While the value proposition isn't great, you should also be eligible to get your miles back if you use this redemption option.
Related: You can now purchase seats with miles on American Airlines, but it’s a bad deal
Aside from flights canceled within the 24-hour fee-free refund period, refund and voucher requests are not automatic, and you must submit separate refund requests for your flights, seats and other purchases. You can make this request online or wait and call when you're ready to rebook and apply the value of your ticket and seats to a new trip.
Refunding passengers for seat fees when making voluntarily flight changes is not entirely new. As far as other U.S. airlines go, carriers like Delta, United and Alaska already issue vouchers or refunds for any seat assignment fees paid when voluntarily canceling a flight.
As a reminder, American Airlines is letting passengers who book tickets through June 30, 2020, for travel through Sept. 30, 2020, make a one-time change free of charge. If you're paying extra to select a seat, you should use a card that comes with an airline fee credit that will reimburse your purchase, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (enrollment required). The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Which American Airlines expenses trigger the American Express airline fee credit?