American Airlines Bereavement and Critical Illness Change Fee Waiver and Refund Policy

When my grandmother passed away last year I had to change an American Airlines ticket, instead of flying home to Austin I needed to head to South Florida. The telephone agent waived half the change fee for me when I explained why I needed to make the change.

I wound flying Washington National to Miami — hub to hub, on a Thursday afternoon, in winter — yet because American was flying a small Airbus A319 I wound up with a non-economy plus middle seat. I kept checking the seat map and traded up to an aisle. I was grateful to be able to make it down quickly of course.

Under American’s current policy, at least, I was overcharged. That’s the message I take away reviewing their BEREAVEMENT-CRITICAL ILLNESS WAIVER. The entire change fee should have been waived.

In fact, American will waive change fees or provide a refund to the original form of payment in the event of death or critical illness of an immediate family member or travel companion.

  • The policy applies to American Airlines, American Eagle, and American marketed codeshares on partner airlines.

  • You still have to cancel or change your existing flight before scheduled departure.

  • This applies not just to immediate family but also a traveling companion in the same reservation. Immediate family is defined as:

    Spouse Domestic partner Children/Step-children Son/Daughter-in-law Grandchildren Brother/Sister, Step-brother/sister, Half-Brother/Sister Brother/Sister-in-law Parents/Grandparents, Step-Parents Father/Mother-in-law

  • American will not handle a waiver for opaque tickets (e.g. vacation package)

  • If the flight is part of a companion ticket, they’ll waive the rule requiring companions to fly together.

  • If you’re making a change due to a death expect to be asked for the name and phone number of the funeral home. (“If the customer is unable to provide the funeral home information at this time the change charge will apply. The customer may request a refund of the change charge at once required information can be provided.”)

  • For changes due to critical illness American will ask for the name and phone number of the hospital. This matched my experience last year with Delta. Critical illness is defined as “serious injury, life threatening illness, hospitalization, terminal illness, hospice care etc…”

  • Refunds should be requested online at, provided the death occurred 15 days before or after travel. They’ll want a copy of the death certificate.

If you have a domestic basic economy ticket the process is more manual. The phone agent has to contact the tariff department rather than processing the request themselves.

Oddly American waived my full change fee last year when my dog became critically ill, but only part of my change fee when my grandmother passed. Now I’ll know to insist on a full change fee waiver if a family funeral conflicts with travel in the future.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. When my grandmother passed a couple years ago, I believe American also waived half of something (can’t remember what) on the spot, and then the second half after writing in as they asked me to do. I was surprised to get a condolences card in the mail a few days later too.

  2. @ Gary — I seriously doubt AA actually checks with funeral homes and hospitals. They shouldn’t even be able to ask for the information, as it is a violation of your privacy, which should not be for sale.

  3. @Gene you are asking them to go against their normal policy, so I think it’s reasonable for them to ask for some basic information to justify that you qualify for this exemption. I doubt they actually check unless they suspect someone is abusing the system. If you don’t want to give them the info, that’s fine… just expect to pay the normal change fees.

  4. What’s critically ill means? It sounds like the patient must die to get refunded but if the person recovers?

    Is having stage 3 cancer that requires an immediate surgery one of them?

  5. Funeral home, which is used in the USA is not a description known in other countries, It is not unusual to leave a body in a hospital or a retirement place and get the interrement from there,
    The robots should be tuned to act on this fact

  6. I was misconnected in MIA on a flight to BDA. Since the next flight wasn’t for 24 hours, we documented it as a trip in vain. I can’t get AA to refund the segment I did not fly because AA misconnected me. Guess who doesn’t fly AA any more? What a sh*thole airline!

  7. I’m surprised AA goes as far as they do, with refunds, in those situations. There seems to be so little goodwill anymore unless you’re Executive Platinum or higher.

  8. Hi, Good morning, my name is Mara Rivera I need to talk to someone who be able to help me please. My Mommy Ana Rivera was supposed to fly 1625 From ORD to DFW. Because medical condition she needs a lung transplant and she’s fighting with lung infectionplease I need to live the fly open Thanks

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