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.