American Airlines is allowing even more flexibility on some tickets. Covid-19 has seen many airlines implement flexible change and refund policies to an unprecedented degree as the industry tries to save a heavily weekend market from total collapse. American Airlines upped the ante recently and introduced a new policy allowing for multiple name changes for corporate customers on existing bookings.
While a significant departure from the usual rule, It should be emphasised that no-cost name changes do not extend to all tickets. Instead, the policy explicitly targets the all-important corporate market. Back in May 2020 AA Sales Link (the company’s travel agent and travel partner information portal) updated its name change policy stating “We are expanding free name changes on applicable tickets for corporate customers to now include Business Extra accounts”. An October 2020 AA Global Sales Update broadened the comments to include the joint business venture with British Airways, Iberia and Finnair stating that “all corporate customers, including Business Extra or On Business will also get multiple name changes on any tickets falling in the Global Travel Notice Waiver dates.”.
However, the small print narrows the range of passengers that can benefit from this. Firstly, a contracted Corporate Travel Agreement, Business Extra, or On Business account must be active. Secondly, tickets must contain a valid CART/Business Extra number or an OnBusiness number. In English, this effectively means that you must have an active account in one of the three schemes on the day of booking and when you want to change the ticket. Furthermore, on the day of booking, you needed to have associated the applicable company account with the booking – meaning no retrospective additions. Ultimately this limits the number of people who stand to benefit from this waiver.
How is this different?
Under normal circumstances, American Airlines has a defined policy for name corrections and name changes. While a genuine typo could usually be changed with no additional cost, the latter would usually not be permitted as you would be effectively touting a ticket at a lower price than what it would potentially go for at a later date. American Airlines management has held the longstanding view that such inflexibility made sound commercial sense. If you couldn’t fly, you can’t just gift the ticket to someone else, American would lose out on potential revenue. If you bought a non-refundable ticket, well, tough luck you lost that too.
On one hand, the gesture makes sense, Covid-19 uncertainty means that executives may need to be swapped out at short, but on the other hand, you would only need to be in a financially well off position as an organisation to utilise this as many companies bunker down and ride out the Covid storm with Zoom meetings and the like.
Are Name Changes on Corporate Tickets Ground Breaking?
Is American Airlines initiative to allow name changes on corporate tickets reality breaking news – not really.
Once the shock and awe fade it’s not surprising that American has taken such an approach. Its widely known that airlines haemorrhaging money and they are trying to stop cash leaving through refunds and vouchers. Furthermore, the really profitable routes, are usually dominated by corporate travellers who normally make up the majority of the premium cabin space. Additionally, knowing that corporate accounts can represent multiple employees who themselves have the possibility of aligning with American Airlines on an individual level, you can see how the outcome was somewhat expected.
But what can be said is that while American may not have wanted to roll this out, keeping the corporate market happy is incredibly important in these critical times.