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 July 31.
While even pesky basic economy fares qualified for free change or cancellation, American started to change that last month. Earlier in July, the airline said that only basic economy tickets booked this month for travel before Sept. 30, 2020 would qualify. And that's why we warned travelers not to book American basic economy fares – losing that flexibility stung.
American was the only major U.S. carrier to give basic economy fares the shaft this way. But now, American is adding free change and cancellation policies back to all basic economy fares booked this month. Plugged-in Twitter user @xJonNYC first reported the news.
AA basic econ something or another: pic.twitter.com/qCTrnTUJCD
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) July 14, 2020
Read more: What’s included with an American Airlines basic economy ticket?
With this change, all American basic economy fares booked from July 14 through July 31 for flights as far out as June 2021 will qualify for free change and cancellation. Tickets booked earlier in the month will, too – it will just require some extra backend work.
This gives would-be travelers much more freedom to book American's cheapest tickets and change them down the line without shelling out $200-plus in change fees. But why is American doing this?
As coronavirus cases spike across much of the nation, it's clear travel demand has started to dip. Delta executives said yesterday that ticket sales have started to slip. United Airlines has said much the same.
At a time when travel is more uncertain with hot zones across the country and growing state travel restrictions, American can't afford to lose out on paying customers who want more flexibility. While you could have paid more for a more flexible main cabin fare, it seems that wasn't a successful strategy for American.
American Airlines basic economy fares booked this month can once again be changed or canceled (for a voucher) for free, and that's good news.
And with all the uncertainty surrounding travel, American (and most major airlines) will continue offering this flexibility for the foreseeable future.