On April 20, American Airlines made a change to policy that helps customers who show up late for flights get to their destination – at no charge. The airline will let customers be confirmed immediately on the next flight with space available at no cost, but only if they make it to the airport within a short window of time.
Effective 20APR21, late-arriving customers are now able to be confirmed on the next flight if they arrive to an airport agent after check-in cutoff, but prior to 15 minutes after flight departure.
American says that “[t]his policy update will help reduce mishandled baggage and lengthy priority lists, while providing an elevated customer experience.”
Agents processing this must,
- Use same booking code (or the lowest one available)
- Rebook to the same destination, though co-terminals (e.g. Washington Dulles vs. National, New York JFK vs LaGuardia) are permitted.
- Allow routing changes (change of connection city), and “INVOL reissue” the tickets to permit this
However agents can’t overbook flights to put a customer on the next one, the flight used has to be one with seats available for sale. They can also only book American Airlines segments this way, not segments on partner airlines (codeshares on other airlines can be changed, however).
For most U.S. domestic flights check-in cutoff is 45 minutes prior to departure although in practice you may be able to get an agent to check you in closer to departure. If you arrive too late to check in, or even just a few minutes after the flight departures, you can get on the next flight.
Last fall American Airlines introduced free standby for all travelers. If you show up at the airport and can make an earlier flight, the airline won’t charge you to stand by. Previously they’d charge non-elites $75 to be confirmed on the flight if available, but only offered no charge standby to elites. The standby option isn’t available after checking bags, unless you have AAdvantage elite status.
Now in addition to standby, all customers – even those without status – can be confirmed on the next flight for free if they show up after the check-in cutoff time for their flight but within 15 minutes of when that flight departs.