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.
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.
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.