American Airlines clarifies refund policy after canceling 31,000 flights

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The airline is trying to establish a norm on how far out it makes schedule changes

After American Airlines’ announcement that it is shaving 31,000 flights off its November schedule, travelers – especially those going somewhere for Thanksgiving – were likely wondering what that meant for them. And that’s a good question. 

To try and find out a little more of how those cuts will impact people holding reservations on American, ConsumerAffairs reached out to the airline to get some clear-cut, actionable information. To its credit, American has a very simple, and direct, answer. 

“Customers whose flights may have changed as a result of future schedule changes will be contacted directly with alternate travel options that get them to their destinations,” the company told ConsumerAffairs. “If a change doesn’t meet a customer’s needs, they can seek a full refund under our standard schedule change policy.”

A return to pre-COVID

Typically, U.S. airlines open their booking window around 330 days in advance. For American, it’s 331 days. But a lot can happen in that span that can throw everything off. 

A spokesperson for American told ConsumerAffairs that, just like its peers, it regularly makes adjustments to its future schedule so its schedule aligns as best as it can with customer demand and set up the types of airplanes it uses, the routes its customers want to fly, etc., so it can corral the resources it has available for the operating conditions it faces. 

In fact, while 31,000 flight cancellations was the headline that grabbed the most attention, American had earlier made adjustments to its September and October schedules. The airline says that travelers can expect schedule changes 100 days in advance, but for only as long as it takes to return to the way schedules were built pre-COVID in 2019.  

“But we still aren't where we need to be. And we have a lot of flying ahead of us still in the summer,” American’s CEO Robert Isom said in the company’s second-quarter earnings call.

“So, we're investing in our operation to ensure we meet our reliability goals and deliver for our customers. We're taking proactive steps to build an additional buffer into our schedule for the rest of the year. As I said a minute ago, we're sizing the airline for the resources we have available and the operating conditions we face, and we'll make other changes as needed.”

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