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American joins United in offering free changes ahead of full flights

May 27, 2020
3 min read
American Airlines Economy A321T_JFK-SFO_BDORSEY-15
American joins United in offering free changes ahead of full flights
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Alaska, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest continue to block middle seats (or their equivalent) from sale, limiting the number of passengers on each and every flight. While the practice is aimed at helping customers feel more comfortable when it comes time to return to the sky, it can also become incredibly costly, with — in many cases — at least 33% of seats held back from sale.

While United Airlines isn't withholding seats, earlier this month the carrier began notifying passengers booked on a flight where at least 70% of passengers have checked in, giving customers the opportunity to move to a different flight without paying a fare difference or change fee.

Now, American Airlines is implementing a similar program. As the carrier explains, "As more people get back to traveling ad loads are higher, American is deploying new tools to notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost."

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American's 3-3 economy cabin on the Airbus A321T. Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy.

A spokesperson confirmed the new flight change option, and explained how it'll work. When passengers begin the check-in process online or via the airline's app, they may see a special note, stating: "Your flight may be busier than you expected. If your trip is eligible, you will see the option to move to another flight at no charge when you check in."

The carrier isn't able to confirm what threshold might trigger a free flight change, but if the note does appear, customers will be able to select a flight with lower load factors on the same day, or the day before or after their original flight. American is also limiting the number of passengers booked on mainline and regional flights, but the airline isn't able to confirm how many seats are being withheld.

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American has already begun rolling out this flexible rebooking option, and plans to expand it to more flights soon. Additionally, the airline is waiving change fees for travel scheduled through Sept. 30, though a difference in fare may apply. Be sure to check out our complete guide to airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies for more.

Other AA news: American Airlines’ most premier domestic route is finally back

More: American, Delta and United plan to fly these long-haul international routes in June