American Airlines New ’15 Minute Rebooking Policy’ For Those Who Just Miss Their Flight

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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Hey Gary, so how does this impact and/or differ from Americans existing “flat tire“ rule?

  2. So what happens if u are 30 minutes late and u have a nonrefundable ticket? I assume u have lost any use of the ticket value. A good reason to buy separate one-way tickets on domestic flights. From your post, I assume u have to call or go online to cancel the ticket at least 30 minutes prior to departure to obtain credit valid for one year from the date of purchase. Since phone waits are often long at least for now, the best option is to cancel on the AA website or using the AA phone app.

  3. @Dougie: from the screenshot above, if you’re late 15 min to 2 hrs, “current standby policy applies”.

  4. … and would it need to be the same routing (if connecting) or just the same endpoint?

  5. Wow. I often knock American for making customer-unfriendly moves but this is a sensible, helpful change. Nice move by American.

  6. I hate there’s so little time between their connecting flights and then on top of that the gate you are connecting to is so very far away -AA, Delta

  7. This, presumably, would have helped a few years ago when we were late arriving for the first (domestic) leg of an international flight by two minutes. AA refused to let us on, despite there being plenty of time to make it through check-in and security, yet offered to rebook us on the exact same flights for $3500 each. Yes, it was our fault, but there was no reason not to let us on other than pure greed. Fortunately we were smart enough to book the next day on Aer Lingus for one quarter the price rather than take them up on their “offer”. Still, not going to make that mistake again, grace period or no.

  8. Honestly I’d settle for an email notification when the cxl a flight!!! And it’s not just American. This has happened to me twice. First time was at the beginning of the pandemic – fortunately I checked my res and so disaster averted and I wrote it off to the worldwide health crisis. But it happened again this month. And it’s happened to at least two of my friends who showed up to check in only to learn that their flight was cxld which forced them to purchase expensive last minute tickets. How is that legal?

  9. Also interested in how this interfaces with the decades old official or unofficial flat tire rule – 2 hours? It seems like it operationalizes what some but not all agents were doing? Also what about pax that arrive 15 minutes to 2 hours late, pax who arrive > than 2 hours late? For an earlier commenter, I believe you can cancel an AA ticket on the app or web site even under t-30 minutes to departure. I would say you can process the self service cancellation transaction right up until departure time or maybe even a few minutes longer until the gate agent fully closes out the flight and before the pnr is updated with the no show cancellation status,. The PNR update would usually happen anywhere between approximately 5 and 45 or so minutes after the actual flights departure.

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