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Why You Shouldn’t Buy AA Basic Economy Tickets This Month

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Airlines have given travelers unprecedented flexibility to change or cancel flights for free – and not just for previously booked flights, but new tickets for travel as far out as spring 2021, too. They've continually extended those policies to drum up ticket sales amid all this uncertainty; most major airlines currently allow you to change or cancel (for a voucher) any fare booked by June 30.

Even the cheapest, most restrictive basic economy fares can typically be changed or canceled free. But now American Airlines is changing its tune.

While American is waiving change and cancellation fees on fares purchased by June 30, its cheapest basic economy fares are no longer included. That's a change from its policy last month. And it's a big departure from how most other airlines are handling this: Delta, United, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines all allow free change and cancellation to basic economy tickets booked this month.


This exclusion was part of a small tweak American made to its coronavirus policies late last week. Luckily, previously booked basic economy fares for travel through Sept. 30, 2020 can still be changed or canceled for free.

But this move could seriously come back to bite travelers who had come to expect this freedom with basic economy.

Read more: What's included with an American Airlines basic economy ticket?

Excluding basic economy fares from this free change/cancellation policy means you'll have to pay more for a main cabin fare to get that flexibility. American and other U.S. airlines typically charge roughly $70 more to avoid basic economy on domestic U.S. flights, though the price can vary wildly by route.


Bottom Line

Most airlines are still giving travelers buying a basic economy this month ticket the ability to change or cancel flights free. But watch out if you're looking at American Airlines.

It could easily be worth paying another $70 (or more) to get the flexibility that once came for free.

Above all, this just reinforces a critical mindset: Always read the fine print. If you don't, it could come back to bite you.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

6 Responses

  • In late March, I bought a Basic Economy fare for an American itinerary (first time ever on any airline). American had just changed their policy to allow travelers to purchase seat selections at the time of booking on Basic Economy reservations, and I chose to reserve seats, at an added cost of about $17.
    In late May, I changed the reservation to new dates. There was no incremental cost to the ticket price, but if I wanted advance seat selection on these new flights, it would be $15. In other words, the first seat selection fee was not credited on the new purchase, and seems to be non-refundable.
    Doesn’t seem right, does it?

  • Above all, this just reinforces a critical mindset: Avoid flying American Airlines at all costs. Worst. Airline. Period.
    One can only hope they fold; perhaps one silver lining of a pandemic will be to rid us all of this dumpster fire of an airline.

    • American has my support since 1983. Always responsive. Good loyalty program. What planet are you on?
      Loke airlines that put dogs in overhead bins better? Hiw abkut dragging people off?

  • I used to fly AA frequently for work and they never refunded or credited seat selection costs when ticket changes were made, even if the issue was on their end (rebooking flights). I have had some success getting a seat selection refund when the flight change happened because of something on their end. I have moved all my flight travel to Delta when possible and Southwest as 2nd choice. Agree AA is difficult to work with.

  • AA’s website now has two seemingly incompatible change fee rules on its website. I’m thinking of booking a basic economy ticket for October, but would like to be able to change it if I need to. The second rule would seem to give me a free change.
    What do you make of these rules?
    For travel this summer
    We’re extending our offer to waive change fees on existing and new tickets booked by June 30 for summer travel through September 30, 2020. This offer includes AAdvantage® award tickets.

    Keep in mind:

    You may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.
    You’re allowed to change your origin and destination cities as part of this offer.
    If you rebook, travel must be completed by December 31, 2021.
    Plus, if you have a ticket that is expiring between March 1 and September 30, 2020, the value of your unused ticket can be used for travel through December 31, 2021.


    For new travel booked by June 30
    For new tickets booked between now and June 30, we’re expanding our offer to waive change fees for future travel. This offer includes AAdvantage® award tickets but excludes Basic Economy tickets.

    Keep in mind:

    You may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.
    You’re allowed to change your origin and destination cities as part of this offer.

  • Whoops! That was all the “first rule.” This is the second, contradictory rule:

    Changing your trip

    You’re allowed to make a change to your trip once, and the change fee will be waived. You can cancel your trip online and call later when you’re ready to rebook, including Basic Economy tickets bought on or before June 30, 2020.

    Keep in mind, you may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.

    Visit the travel alerts page for information about rebooking as waivers are based on destination and dates of purchase.

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