American Airlines Experimenting With More Flexible Approach to Same Day Flight Changes

American Airlines offers same day changes for $75, waived for Platinum Pro (75,000 mile) elite members and higher. The rules for these changes are more restrictive than United’s or Delta’s though.

  • Same day change (“E”) inventory has to be available, not just any seat on the new flight or a seat in the same fare class you’ve purchased
  • You can’t same day change into a lower cabin (first class passengers can’t same day change to economy)
  • You can’t change routing – if you’re connecting through Chicago you can’t change to a connection through Dallas, Charlotte or Philadelphia.

Last summer American even limited the ability of telephone agents to be more flexible with these rules.

Fortunately American appears to be experimenting with a more liberal approach to same day confirmed changes, specifically making more inventory available on certain flights to test if that’s something they’re willing to move forward with.

JonNYC reports that this is a test on flights to and from Chicago O’Hare and that not everyone will be afforded this improved flexibility (seems it’s some form of A/B test). It’s not clear how long this test will last, though I wouldn’t count on it being ongoing, or how long it will take to roll out more broadly if that’s the decision that American makes.

The airline likely wants to make sure that being a bit more flexible – as its peers already are – doesn’t lead them to lose last minute sales on flights and also that it doesn’t cause the airline to overbook flights.

The real benefit, it seems to me, would come from addressing the airline’s change rules which are stricter than peers. What use is having the world’s largest airline with multiple connecting points to customers, if they can’t use those connecting points to get to their destination? Same day changes shouldn’t require a customer to keep an identical routing. And first class passengers should have the flexibility to voluntarily downgrade to coach if it means getting home earlier.

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. Say what you will about UA, but their flexible SDC policy is a major reason I keep flying them. Knowing I can get home sooner (or later), including changing routings (even going from one-stop to nonstop) is huge!

  2. I agree with you 100% and AA’s issue is not really primarily driven by lack of E space (which I presume is what AA is testing now) but the extremely restrictive rules they put in place on SDFC.

    If AA wants to win more high yielding business customers this is easily one of the key benefits that can easily help drive more revenue from these customers.

  3. So they perceive there may be an issue with SDFC, whether it be from complaints or reports, that is good. But without addressing the actual problems with its current policy, what are they hoping will improve? They’ve wasted so many IT man years developing SDFC around draconian business rules that handicap the entire concept of GETTING HIGH VALUE FLIERS WHERE THEY NEED TO BE WHEN THEY WANT TO GO.

    Planes are fuller than ever, so finding E space on an alternate flight, through the same connection point, on the same day as travel is laughable for an airline with operational reliability as sloppy as AA’s (i.e. all the IROP rebookings are going to eat away at the higher booking codes that E is nested under). I’m just sayin’…

  4. AA is also experimenting with nuking accounts bc their banking partner had loose terms and poor controls. Unlike you, I will not gripe about them while still giving them business.

  5. When i was a 1K and moved to AA, United’s awesome SDC policy and flexibility is what i missed most.

  6. Their SDC policy is uncompetitive and inefficient. They actually hurt themselves by not giving people rerouting options onto less full flights through other hubs, instead keeping them on their current flights and helping their Continental-esque IDB rates. Why be so passenger unfriendly when it is simultaneously bad business?

  7. Sounds as if it has garnered enough customer attention to get an actual trial started, probably to confirm that it won’t gum things up in unexpected ways before releasing it widely.

  8. I sometimes wonder if their inability to do this is due to the software they use? They also seem quite a bit behind their peers from the IT perspective. They ought to employ better/more developers or come up with a better third party software solution. I’m always amazed at how much better Delta and United are, particularly with how much better their software appears to guide them through IRROPS.

  9. I agree that AA needs to get rid of their routing restrictions. On my last paid F transcon, it was literally cheaper to buy a walk-up F ticket on DL or UA than to try and change the return of my AA round trip—there were seats available on earlier flights through literally *every* hub other than the one I had ticketed, so AA wanted a $1900 add-collect (all the flights were F/J1 as they usually are on the day of departure). DL, UA, and AS all would have made the change for free. Completely idiotic, and contributed to me not renewing EXP this year.

  10. You mention the other members of the Chapter 11 Three as being more flexible but for many of us the point of comparison is Southwest. With no change fees they are simply far easier to do business with. Even to the point of paying higher fares on SWA vs. AA.

  11. I usually find myself needing this most when my AA flights are delayed/cancelled, which is unfortunately most of the time. It is very frustrating how often AA has issues and how poorly they handle their issues.

  12. Since I have been flying AA before USAirways merger, I used to LOVE their SDFC policy. As long as it was THAT day to the same-end city, I was good to go.

    Having to worry about class downgrades or exactly-the-same-routing is absolutely stupid.

    Here is what works best at AA: when there is “something” that is “weather related”… then the EP desk has flexibility to do anything with the trip, time, routing or class.

    I once flew DEN-LAX-NYC because it got me where I needed to be when CLT was a mess. I was good with that, EP desk was good, AA got its revenue and all was well with the world.


    THAT is how it should be for ANY day. Seriously! I mean, if there is a seat on a plane and it is THAT day, then put my ass on it!


  13. I’ve been flying AA since 1999, and when I reach 2 million miles, and get the platinum status for life, I will consider switching to United. Doug Parker has killed AA. When merger just occurred, I noticed the difference immediately. As a ExPlatinum member, Aavantage Customer service was the first available agent, and one time I was flying into Phoenix. operating separately by US Air. I called my ExPlatinum service desk for rebooking, as flight was cancelled. The AA desk had to call US Air agent, they put the Aavantage desk agent and me on hold for 25 minutes. And now after the complete merge, this is common practice. You expect a call back in 30 minutes, and there is no difference between ExPlatinum and regular flyer. Or maybe they wait even much longer. Customer Service is dead at AA.

  14. Not to Chicago but… Tried it this week (Jan 2). Lowly gold member. Flying paid 1st class MYS to DCA direct flying at 07:25, trying to change to 11:07 – From the manager “[I’m sorry sir, there is only one 1st class seat and we do not have the option to give it to you. But even if we could it would be a $200 change fee]” Flew 6 times in 1st on American last year. They might as well have just flicked me off. Prob make the jump to Delta this year. So tired of AA’s race to the bottom.

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