First JetBlue announced they would suspend cancellation fees on new tickets purchased through March 11 for travel completed by June 1. If you buy tickets and decide not to travel you can take the full value of the ticket and apply it towards a new one later, as long as you travel within a year of the original purchase. Then Alaska Airlines suspended change fees through March 11 for new ticket purchases.
Now American Airlines has come out with their own convoluted copycat of waiving change fees on new ticket purchases. It is simultaneously less generous and also more strategically useful.
- Buy tickets by March 16
- Those tickets will have no change fees up until 14 days prior to departure
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This is only offered on new tickets. The tickets you already have don’t get coronavirus fee waivers unless there’s a specific waiver for your trip. What’s more, it’s reasonably likely that you’ll only know how advisable it is to fly within 14 days of your trip.
On the one hand this is far less generous than JetBlue’s offer (there are no such 14 day restrictions). It’s the exact opposite of Alaska’s offer which waives change fees for a short time.
Nevertheless you can buy tickets now – in the next two weeks – for up to 11 months in the future. Those tickets will have no change fees at all until much closer to departure. Tickets you’re reasonably likely to use should be ticketed right away, as long as you value American Airlines credit and can definitely travel within a year.
So why no change fee waivers within 14 days? American sees the change fee as crucial to their business model separating business fares from leisure fares. Their fare structure is all about charging business travelers more than leisure travelers for the same seat. And they need to keep their fares ‘gated’ in order to do this.
Nonetheless there’s one way in which this waiver undermine’s American’s fare structure: Basic economy fares should be changeable (“This is available for any of American’s published fares.”).