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 prefunds.aa.com 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 prefunds.aa.com, 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.