American Airlines makes big improvements to travel credits

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American Airlines has announced major improvements for how they handle travel credits. The Points Guy reports that American Airlines will convert existing “Flight Credit” into “Trip Credit” and that credit will gain a good deal of flexibility in the process. This won’t be immediate as they are piloting the program right now, but this is a very positive change overall and one that we can hope other airlines copy.

American Airlines Planes

While many airlines have had flexible change and cancellation policies due to the pandemic, the difficult thing has been navigating what happens to the various credits. Under the current system for most members, cancelling an American Airlines paid ticket results in a flight credit that can only be used by the passenger originally scheduled to travel. Furthermore, only one flight credit can be used per booking on AA.com (and only two over the phone), so if you have multiple credits from multiple cancelled trips where you were scheduled to fly, you couldn’t combine them and book a new trip for yourself, nor could you use them to book separate tickets for your friends or family members. That system results in having multiple small credits that have to be tracked and used separately.

On the flip side, the new Trip Credit will work very differently: “Trip Credit” will be more easily combinable since you can use up to eight separate trip credits on a single booking. Furthermore, you’ll be able to use it to book travel for anyone, so you won’t be limited to booking for the originally-ticketed passenger(s). You will also be able to use it to book travel on American’s oneworld or other partner airlines, so Trip Credit will have a lot more flexibility.

Trip Credits will also be automatically stored in your AAdvantage account, which makes it a lot easier to track. I’ve appreciated this trend from airlines of making those credits easier to track. The last time I took a voluntary bump a couple of years ago, the gate agent encouraged me to take a picture of it with my phone so I wouldn’t lose the information (telling me that it wouldn’t be retrievable if I lost it). Being able to find this stuff right in your online account is a lot more convenient.

So far, American is only rolling this out to select elite members and only on relatively simple single-passenger bookings. However, from what TPG is reporting, it seems that American does intend to eventually roll this out to all members. That’s great news as this policy makes a lot of sense. The previous policies weren’t particularly customer-friendly.

I very much hope to see this catch on at other airlines. In the past two weeks, I have rebooked a single United flight no less than 5 times. I saw this morning that the price of the flight I’m on now has dropped another $30 since I last rebooked it yesterday and I didn’t immediately cancel and rebook specifically because of the hassle of small travel credits that can’t be combined (I already have several $30-$80 credits on United that can’t be combined, which kind of stinks). This new AA policy would be a welcome change indeed.

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