American Imposes New Restriction on Same Day Flight Changes

UPDATE: this isn’t actually a new policy.

American Airlines has updated its same day confirmed change policy and not for the better. (HT: Traveling Better)

American’s same day change page simply says in order to change ($75 for most passengers, free for Executive Platinum members) 24 hours prior to departure you need a new flight which:

  • Has the same origin and destination
  • Is for the same calendar day of departure
  • Has eligible seats available
  • But there’s actually a new requirement. Same day changes must keep:

    the same routing, number of connections, and cannot change to a co-terminal in a multi city airport.

    That means I can no longer change from Washington National – Dallas – Austin to Washington National – Chicago – Austin. I still have to connect in Dallas. That means far fewer choices for same day confirmed changes.

    This policy change vexes me somewhat.

    1. This change makes the US Airways merger less useful. Just as US Airways is being folded into the American Airlines reservation system, making the two airlines finally one, you lose the ability to connect across the hubs of both airlines when making same day changes to tickets.

    2. Small and mid-sized cities get shut out completely. Some cities don’t have multiple daily flights to each hub, so passengers leaving those cities are completely shut out from making same day changes. Previously they could take a different connection through a different hub (say, the once-daily flight to a different city). That’s no longer an option.

    3. This change reduces the incentive to ‘buy up’ to discounted first class. One of the great benefits of discounted first class is that same day changes are available into ‘A’ inventory, i.e. the flight you want to change to just needs to have discounted first class space available. That’s often more available than the “E” same day change inventory required for coach tickets.

      • Buy up to first class (“P”) on those Thursday or Friday 5pm – 7pm key business routes, since those are the tough upgrades to clear anyway.
      • Then if you can get out of the office early, you had plenty of opportunities to change flights — and stay in first class, even.

      With buy ups costing less than a ticket’s change fee, this can be a great deal. But taking a ton of change options off the table, since if you’re routed through Dallas you can’t change to a connection through Chicago or Charlotte or Philadelphia (for instance) makes those buy ups less attractive.

    4. This presents fewer opportunities for American to charge incremental revenue. American charges all except Executive Platinum (100,000 mile flyer) members for same day confirmed changes. With fewer flight options available to each flyer, they’ll sell fewer same day changes.

    I assume that the airline has revenue-protecting reasons for doing this. Perhaps they believe they’ll sell more full fare tickets if they don’t make discount tickets easily changeable on day of departure. I wonder if it will reduce the incentive for buying up to first in the first place.

    One way American could test is is to look at Executive Platinum booking behavior during the first six months of 2015, since the free same day change benefit was new (even Executive Platinums had to pay $75 for same day changes up through last year). Did 100,000 mile flyers buy more discount first class fares this year than last? Although I caveat that I’m not sure how many Executive Platinums understood how much more flexible these tickets became so perhaps six months of data wouldn’t have been enough to see the effect.

    Regardless, it’s not clear the upside to the airline but it’s certainly clear the downside of this change to passengers.

    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. The way that ORD gets hammered with snow in the winter and DFW with thunderstorms in the summer, this makes workarounds much more difficult. I’m sure if there’s a flight canx, this can/will be waived, but it still makes it harder to be proactive…

    2. Complimentary same day changes have been free for Executive Platinum for over half a year now as part of the merger (and announced a long time ago as part of the frequent flyer program merger).

    3. Wow… Delta clearly outshines AA here on domestic same-day changes. DL charges $50, AA charges $75. DL gives it to Golds, Plats, and Diamonds for free; AA gives it to just EXP. DL does not have any routing restrictions; AA does. To be fair, DL is more restrictive in same-day confirmed in that the booked fare class has to be available (for main cabin tickets only), otherwise the passenger will get same-day standby. But still… no doubt that DL>AA in this frequently-used customer benefit.

    4. I attempted to change (not same-day) an existing award reservation from CDG-JFK (AA) to ORY-JFK (Openskies) and multiple agents told me this would require canceling the existing award and getting a new one.

    5. I loved and will forever miss USairways. They were beyond good to me. At first I couldn’t figure out why they always wanted me to ride in the front of the plane. Still trying to fly them as much as I can right until the end!

    6. UNITED leading the way with same day change benefits. All you need is the fare class and routing doesn’t matter. Even change to the following or prior day.

      Meanwhile HPdbaAA taking another step backward.

    7. Good. Glad they made this change. Top benefits should go to EXP. The people that make the airline a profit should get the benefits.

    8. @Billy D you realize US executives are in charge right? That’s like the sCO people complaining about sUA ruining the airline while Smisek is at the helm. Get a clue people!

    9. Hmm. Isn’t AA one of the airlines that disallows throwaway ticketing? On the grounds that A to B to C is a ticket from A to C, not a ticket from A to B and then B to C?

      Yet somehow when it comes to ticket changes, you’ve actually bought a ticket from A to B to C, not A to C.

    10. Dumb rule. If there is space in the bucket it should be able to be confirmed regardless of routing. UA the surprising leader on this front by a long shot.

      I can see having this rule for regular Non-confirmed standby but for confirmed why irk your customers who either are willing to pay or are your best flyers.

      Frequently I find if I am going form a small east coast city back to the west coast there are usually options on my airline once we hour but options to my ticketed city only once every few hours. This effectively ruins trying to just shave an hour off. Hopefully they see the fallacy in this and amend.

    11. Isn’t this another change with no notice (and seemingly no announcement) which they told you they would never, ever do again, after the fiasco with explorer awards and stopovers disappearing overnight last year? And you said you believed them and still trusted them. Still believe and trust them? Slipping it into the rules without telling anyone seems like a classic Delta move (and, unfortunately for AA fans, a pretty typical US Air move).

    12. @Farnorthtrader – this has nothing to do with AAdvantage. I would make a pretty strong argument (and I bet DOT might even be inclined to listen) that any pre-existing ticket purchases might have a good reason to take advantage of the old rule

    13. @Nick – standby has different restrictions, could be worse, I’m verifying my interpretation of them before posting but will update shortly.

    14. This also puts additional pressure on those 5pm-7pm business or Sunday post vacation routes where some people would have moved to an earlier flight and opened up some capacity for standby or irops, etc. I always thought that letting folks move to earlier flights with unsold seats would help operationally.

    15. I have complained about this rule change for some time now as I am based out of PIT and the same routing restriction is ridiculous. If I book PIT-LAX n/s (a route I take often) then I am forfeiting the ability to SDC. Really AA?

      I have touted this as my favorite benefit with UA before making the switch to AA. SDC has been tremendous in many circumstances for me, particularly when I can forsee my trip being in jeopardy. Let’s say I am in LAX heading to PIT with a 40 minutes connection in ORD. is showing high chance of thunderstorms hitting ORD later that day, I would SDC via DFW to avoid the risk of delays before any waiver the airline puts out. Or maybe my inbound plane is 20 minutes late and with a 40 minutes connection I would proactively SDC to make sure I minimize any potential delays.

      That is what I use SDC the most for, but there have been a couple instances where I could head out earlier or would like to spend another day at my destination.

      This is a huge benefit over at UA. I will be happy to compromise that original fare class must be available (instead of E) if they remove the same routing restriction and same day requirement (24 hours before or after original flight). Heck I would do away with some EXP benefits for this minimal restriction benefit. With UA, I didn’t care how difficult upgrading as a 1K was as long as they did not mess with SDC as this benefit was far more important than complimentary domestic upgrades for me.

    16. ($75 for most passengers, free for Executive Platinum members)

      As usual, Gary did not read all of AA’s terms:

      The following passengers may standby at no charge based on availability:

      — Customers who purchase unrestricted Economy Class fares (Y class of service)
      — Customers who purchase Business or First Class tickets
      — Active U.S. military personnel traveling on orders or personal travel
      — Active U.S. military dependents traveling on orders
      — American Airlines AAdvantage® Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold members
      — oneworld® alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby members

      — Customers flying on the same reservation as an American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold member or oneworld alliance Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby member regardless of frequent flyer status or fare type
      — AAirpass® members
      — First and Business Class MileSAAver® Awards
      — First, Business and Economy Class AAnytime® Awards
      — Customers who purchase a Choice Plus fare

    17. with less competition – the airlines are going to stick it to you. this is not the last time American or any other airline will change something that costs the public more.

    18. While UA has a better policy i.e. flexibility, it is changing. I was unable to reroute a SDC through another city because agents said I could not do it. I spoke to 5 different agents, and SDC was not available through rerouting anymore. I think this rule is changed over at UA without notice. Also good luck finding a non-middle seat on SDC on United. Their planes are consistently packed now.

    19. Everyone’s planes are packed, I do like though that American holds back some first class seats to the gate usually and also blocks a few premium coach seats, so that when you do same day change or get moved to another flight due to irregular ops, that you can still get a decent seat and often an upgrade.

    20. Gary, when you mention “buy up to first” are you saying this is possible after you are already ticketed in discount Y? Or even after you’ve flown the outbound and want to “buy up” on the return?

    21. Can someone clarify whether all these new restrictions (e.g. same connecting point, no co-terminal) apply to standby as well.

    22. @jofo – UA’s website states the following “Can I change my routing and qualify for the same-day flight change discounted fee?
      Yes, when a change can be confirmed, provided the new routing is permitted by the fare and no changes to the origin or destination airports. You may not, however, change routing when standing by.”

      Maybe your original booked fare class was not available in order to SDC and the agents tried to let you standby, but couldn’t as routing cannot be changed under the standby program?

    23. What I find frustrating today was realizing that as a revenue passenger in F, my priority is below those in Y on upgrade list. This means that on busy routes (like today’s DFW-LAX), I might as well kiss goodbye to clearing upgrades. My incoming international flight came in DFW early and I cleared immigration and customs in lighting speed — and now I have to sit here for another three hours. That’s surely the way to treat your revenue F passengers, AA.

    24. haha get ready for the dollar spend requirement AA is gonna announce for next year, Im leaving AAdvantage soon, just pondering which one to join next. Anyone know what good frequent flyer programs award you elite qualifying and redeemable miles based on what you fly, not based on what you spend? thanks folks. im thinking copa, but any other suggestions would help me a lot

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