American Airlines Might Soon Stop You From Changing Your Nonrefundable Flight Tickets

September 19, 2018, 9:11 AM UTC

American Airlines Group would consider barring passengers from changing nonrefundable tickets if Congress limits what carriers can charge for the adjustments, Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said Tuesday.

“That non-refundable ticket is of value to us,” Parker told reporters after speaking to a business group in Irving, Texas. “We knew that seat was going to be filled. It allowed us to do other things. We sold the rest of the airplane knowing that seat was going to be filled.”

Doing away with changes to nonrefundable fares would make airline flights more like baseball games or concerts, where customers aren’t typically reimbursed if they buy tickets and can’t use them. Carriers currently consider the ability to change a nonrefundable ticket as a service that carries a cost. Such fees, which run up to $200, anger many passengers.

The language limiting what carriers can charge for ticket changes is being supported by consumer groups as a bipartisan provision. It is in a version of an aviation-policy bill sponsored by Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who is chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Parker called the proposal “really bad for consumers” last week.

While much of the bill has been agreed to by both parties, it hasn’t passed the committee yet as other issues are hashed out. The language on fees isn’t in a House version of the bill.

American (AAL) would have to assess how any changes to company policies would affect its competitiveness with other carriers before acting, Parker said.