Update: American says that if you call reservations they’ll fully honor travel waivers over the phone for Basic Economy customers.
A week ago I wrote that American Airlines travel waivers — the ability to change your travel when the air system is disrupted, such as because of weather or strikes — won’t fully apply to customers booking Basic Economy fares.
This is something American Airlines explicitly promised wouldn’t happen with new Basic Economy fares but that I predicted.
When you want to go reschedule your flight in advance (before it’s substantially delayed or cancelled) because you don’t want to travel during a major weather meltdown or a terrorist attack American waives their fare rules and lets you do it. Unless you’re on a Basic Economy fare in which case they’ll expect you to fly. Even into a terrorist attack.
That’s because they now require Basic Economy to be available on any flight you want to change to, whereas American will let other customers switch to any flight they want regardless of the inventory available. And in the case of extraordinary events flights quickly sell out, there’s usually none of the cheapest inventory available.
American Airlines doesn’t offer Basic Economy yet on transatlantic flights but they prepared for the new restriction by spelling out that Basic Economy customers couldn’t fully avail themselves of the travel waiver for the strike at the Barcelona airport.
You may think I’m exaggerating when I say that American now expects customers buying their cheapest tickets to fly into floods and terrorist attacks. But in the last week American has issued several travel waivers. Take a look.
There was a waiver for New Orleans flooding, and American spelled out that Basic Economy customers couldn’t change their travel plans unless new flights also had Basic Economy available.
There was a waiver for Northeastern weather as well. But special restrictions apply to Basic Economy customers.
Here are the ‘inventory requirements’:
Exception – tickets issued as Basic Economy fares must be booked in “B” inventory only. If “B” inventory is not available, then an alternate flight must be selected.
And as we saw with waiver this week for Barcelona (again, where Basic Economy fares aren’t actually yet a thing), basic economy customers don’t get to change their flights like everyone else even in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
No matter how much resolve the airline industry had after 9/11, it took Basic Economy fares for the terrorists to have won?
In the event of terrorism or a natural disaster, the real travesty it seems would be a customer who gets away with an assigned seat or a carry on bag without extra charge. Even so, the way to handle this is for agents to oversell Basic Economy when coach inventory is available, not to say that force majeure event waivers — Acts of God — don’t affect Godless Basic Economy Customers in the same way.