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American Airlines drops nearly every change and reservation fee

Nov. 19, 2020
4 min read
American Airlines drops nearly every change and reservation fee
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The next time you change an airline ticket, odds are that you won't need to pay the pesky $200 (or more) change fee. And that's especially true if you're booking with American Airlines.

Effective immediately, the Fort Worth-based carrier will no longer charge change fees on (most) long-haul international flights.

Thursday's news builds on American's late-August announcement that it would permanently stop charging these fees on domestic itineraries, as well as short-haul international flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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This is big.

It now means that nearly every ticket issued by American will no longer carry a change fee. (Note that if you voluntarily cancel your plans, you'll be issued a future travel credit, as opposed to a cash refund.)

The one major exception to American's no-change-fee policy is that basic economy tickets are excluded — regardless of destination. Through the end of 2020, every ticket, including basic economy, can be changed for free through the carrier's flexible global waiver. (But unless that gets extended in the new year, newly purchased basic economy tickets will once again carry the pre-COVID restrictions.)

There's one more caveat. Only long-haul itineraries originating in North or South America will enjoy free changes; international tickets originating in other regions will still carry a fee.

American confirmed to TPG that the new policy applies to flight bookings made through AA on its international joint venture business partners: British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Japan Airlines. If you book a codeshare flight on another partner, like China Southern, on an American ticket you'll still be charged a change fee. Likewise, if you book a long-haul AA flight through another partner, change fees may apply.

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Earlier this month, AA also made award tickets more flexible than ever.

Effective Nov. 11, the airline dropped all change and cancellation fees for AAdvantage award tickets, regardless of destination or class of service. This even applies to revenue-based Web Specials awards. While they remain non-changeable, anyone can now redeposit them for free.

But American isn't stopping there.

The carrier is also dropping the fee to make a reservation by phone. Previously, the carrier charged $25 for domestic and $35 for international itineraries booked by phone. I personally can't recall the last time I picked up the phone to book a flight, but this is definitely welcome news for those who prefer a more hands-on experience. (American also dropped the fee to book an award ticket by phone earlier this month.)

Related: American’s loyalty chief hints at AAdvantage improvements you’ll see in 2021

Before the pandemic, Southwest was the sole U.S. carrier to have never charged change fees. So, how exactly did we get here, with nearly every major U.S. carrier removing these fees?

In March, airlines began issuing global waivers that allowed passengers to change any reservation without a fee. After months of gradually extending these limited-time waivers, United jolted the industry when it announced it would permanently eliminating most change fees.

Within hours, American and Delta (and others) matched. But, the devil's in the details.

Related: How airline no-change-fee policies stack up against Southwest

For instance, United won't issue a credit if you end up switching to a cheaper flight. American and Delta will. Additionally, Delta's no-change-fee policy only covers domestic tickets, including those to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. United's policy covers domestic flights, as well as those to or from the Caribbean and Mexico.

And now, of the Big 3, American Airlines' tickets are the most flexible. But it may be only a matter of time until the other two match — or outdo — AA's move.

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.