American Airlines Brings Back Change Fees For Many International Tickets

U.S. airlines began permanently eliminating change fees during the pandemic, starting with United Airlines though others quickly followed suit.

  • Permanent in the airline industry only means until they change their minds
  • The details differed by airline – generally the major airlines eliminated change fees on domestic itineraries, but whether they were dropped for some or all international trips varied
  • And basic economy fare details varied too – whether there was any way to change or retain credit when cancelling at all.

American Airlines, which is rumored to be considering the elimination of free standby for non-status customers (a benefit introduced at the same time change fees were dropped), is bringing change fees back to some itineraries.

Specifically you can expect many international fares for trips originating outside the United States to come with change fees:

This doesn’t just affect non-U.S. based customers. Americans buying one way travel to another country and one way travel back (or booking an award one way, paid ticket back) may find themselves with fares that include change fees that haven’t had those in recent times. So it’s something to watch out for.

American flags this as being ‘in line with its partners’ – when foreign airlines still have change fees, American Airlines doesn’t want to offer more attractive fares (or a way to circumvent partner fare restrictions). Now that travel is returning to prepandemic levels, and predeparture testing is no longer even required to fly to the U.S., the airline doesn’t have to go as far to convince customers to buy its tickets or to have confidence in doing so.

Just something to watch out for.

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. Tell me again why Congress gave $54 billion of US taxpayers dollars to these companies?

  2. And this is applicable to pre-existing bookings for a later date? Thats crazy as we made one way bookings to and from India later this year and might now be subject to this if need to change/cancel when wasnt expecting a fee to be applicable.

  3. @Luke they need to clarify its booking made after that date. I hope it’s not retroactive, that’s some bull hockey if so. But wouldn’t surprise me a bit since US airlines are awful.

  4. Headline reads as if this is a done deal, already in effect. Is it? Has this already taken effect? Is this currently just a rumor, or a trial balloon?

    I have international award travel on AA partners (booked with AA points), coming up in October. Booked as two one-ways, so one trip “originating outside the United States”. I may or may not be able to take this trip. I’ve been assuming that I can cancel without penalty. That seems like it may no longer be the case going forward. I would at the very least expect some advance notice of such a major policy change (however I remember how, back before the pandemic, American Airlines seemed to look for — and take — every opportunity to f*ck members of their loyalty program, so re-adding change fees that had been “eliminated forever” and with zero notice, would be perfectly in character with their historic contempt for customers).

  5. @Bobo Bolinski – from description it sounds like you booked the prospective tickets with points. If this is the case you can always cancel that ticket and get points redeposited (and any fees credited back). These change fees apply to purchased tickets. Award tickets have always been more flexible so likely doesn’t impact you.

  6. @AC — See Gene’s post immediately above. That’s my concern exactly.

    Remember, this is American Airlines we’re talking about.

  7. Gary, would love to hear your views on the pontential strike at British Airways. Basically the chances of it happening and when. Also, if you have an award ticket on BA and there is a strike what options do you have?

  8. @rjb… This is why they got the Cares Act. Let me educate you.

    Without the funds to keep staff running EMPTY PASSENGER FLIGHTS, the Cargo was full of Critical medicines, masks, food, mail, organ donations from dead people to dying patients awaiting transplants, diapers, baby formula, things you may never even imagine critical to not just US but every country in the world. How do I know? It’s my JOB.


  10. It only effects new tickets. US law prohibits US airlines from changing terms like this after purchase. (Most countries are the same)

    No different than when bag fees change. The date of purchase rules govern.

  11. So is it clear that award tickets one way from Europe to US are not subject to either a change fee or a cancellation or mileage redeposit fee?

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