If you’ve flown with American Airlines in the past, you may be wondering if the airline still makes a great option in COVID-era travel times. Here's what you need to know about American Airlines policies and what you can expect when you're ready to travel again.
What to expect when flying American Airlines this year
American Airlines has been in business for over 90 years. Throughout the years, they’ve experienced many changes and have altered how they do business. If you’re asking, “Should I fly American Airlines after everything that has happened with COVID?” the answer is yes.
American Airlines has made changes to some of their policies that make them a more flexible option, like:
No change fees
American Airlines eliminated change fees for all fares except basic economy in 2020. Now if your travel plans change, you won’t be subject to additional fees — you only need to pay the difference in fare price for your new ticket.
For example, if the price of your new ticket is more, you’ll pay the difference. If it’s less, you’ll receive airline credit. This policy is valid for flights originating in North or South America to many major destinations worldwide, including Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America and the United Kingdom.
Fly standby for free
American Airlines has also adjusted its standby rules. Travelers can now fly standby to the same destination on the same departure day without being charged extra fees. This policy is valid for domestic travel, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Upgrades available for basic economy tickets
For travelers who book basic economy seats, they now have the option to add upgrades, including priority boarding and seat upgrades.
AAdvantage elite members get all benefits, regardless of seat purchase
AAdvantage elite members can take advantage of elite benefits, no matter what ticket fare they choose to buy. Previously, there were reduced benefits for basic economy.
It’s easier to get status
American Airlines has adjusted its elite status qualifications for 2021. These new requirements for Elite Qualifying Dollars, or EQDs, Elite Qualifying Miles, or EQMs, and Elite Qualifying Segments, or EQSs, can allow travelers to reach elite status faster.
Here’s what to expect for the new status requirements:
The usual requirements for status are as follows:
As you can see, fewer EQDs, EQSs and EQDs are required, which is nice for travelers who may not begin flying again until later in 2021.
All of these newer American Airlines policies are notable as the airline used to be less flexible, and these COVID changes give travelers more incentive to book with American Airlines.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
How does American Airlines compare to other airlines?
You may wonder if these new policies make American Airlines a better option than other airlines, or what other airlines are doing to encourage travel.
American’s no-cancellation-fee policy includes both North and South America origination flights. This makes it a better option for many travel routes over Delta and United, which are more geographically limiting. Both United and Delta allow for no change fees on all ticket types, including basic economy, for trips booked through March 2021 — the same as American.
Southwest Airlines has no change fees; it's had this policy in place for a long time, well before COVID-19. It also offers two free checked bags on all flights. These two perks are a big reason why so many travelers choose to book air travel with that airline. However, its flight options internationally are far less copious than American.
As for elite status requirements, Southwest and United have also adjusted their requirements for 2021. Delta has extended Medallion Status through Jan. 31, 2022, and also announced that Medallion Qualification Miles from 2020 will rollover to 2021. Southwest Airlines has extended Companion Pass perks through June 30, 2021, and A-List and A-List Preferred members will also have their status extended through Dec. 31, 2021.
The bottom line
Consider your ticket type before you book. You may want to avoid booking a basic economy ticket so that you won’t have to pay change fees if your travel plans change. But, if you’re ready to travel again, American Airlines is ready for you. They’ve adjusted their policies to be more flexible so that travelers feel more comfortable booking in the COVID-era.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card