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Right now, every day is throwing up new challenges for the travel industry, and we’re seeing airlines and hoteliers around the world taking some pretty serious measures to limit the damage that the global health crisis is having on their business.
The latest big changes to hit the US airlines are the ban on travel between select European countries and the US (which comes into force tonight) and the ban on travel between the US and Argentina that the Argentinian authorities have announced. In response to this very fluid situation, American Airlines has moved to reduce the number of flights it plans to operate in the coming months very significantly.
Headline Changes (per American Airlines)
- International capacity for the summer season is being reduced by 34% (versus the previously published schedule) and this includes a 50% reduction in April transatlantic capacity.
- Flights on select routes to European countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement will continue to operate for up to seven days to ensure customers and employees can return home. These routes will then be suspended.
- Services to South America are being cut and flights to Argentina are being suspended.
- Select suspended routes are expected to resume from 7 May 2020.
American’s New Schedule Changes (Highlights)
- Flights from Dallas-Fort Worth, New York JFK and Miami to Barcelona, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Paris will continue for up to seven days before being suspended through 6 May 2020.
- Flights from Charlotte and Philadelphia to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, Munich, and Zurich are suspended from Friday 13 March through 6 May 2020 (Charlotte and Philadelphia are not government-approved gateways).
- Service between Raleigh/Durham and London Heathrow will continue for up to 7 days before being suspended through 6 May 2020.
- Services from New York JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago to London Heathrow are being reduced from 4 daily flights to 3 daily flights.
- The start of service on seasonal routes to Italy has been delayed to 7 May.
- Services from Miami, New York JFK, Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles to Buenos Aires will be suspended from 16 March (planned re-start dates vary from 7 May to 25 October).
- The service between Miami and Cordoba has been discontinued.
- Services from Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles to São Paulo will be suspended from 19 March (DFW service restarts 4 June and LAX service restarts 25 October).
- Service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Santiago will be suspended from 19 March through 3 June 2020.
Follow this link for a full list of changes to American’s Europe and South America flights.
Interestingly, American has said that these reductions “assume no slot waivers are in place” and that it has “requested temporary relief from this usage requirement” so, presumably, if the airline is granted slot waivers we can expect to see yet more cuts to its schedule.
New Change Fee Waiver
American Airlines has already got a number of change fee waivers in place (more info here) but it has also now introduced a new change fee waiver for travel to/from Europe (including the UK).
Customers who have travel booked to/from Europe through 31 May and who booked tickets prior to 11 March will have change fees waived (any fare differences arising as a result of changed flights will have to be paid by the flyer).
Passengers who are booked to fly on routes that have been suspended (during the period of suspension) may choose to be rebooked or receive a full refund. Flyers who booked through American Airlines can expect to be contacted by the airline and those who booked through 3rd parties should be contacted by the agencies.
As with all flight delays/cancellations, I suggest being proactive about your situation and not waiting around for the airline or travel agency to contact you – if you pick up the phone and get things moving as soon as possible you’re much more likely to get an outcome that works for you (expect long hold times on the phone lines).
I strongly suspect that what we’re seeing now is just the start of a series of route suspensions and cancellations. I’ll be surprised if all the travel restrictions that are currently in place are lifted by the end of April so expect to see a number of the already affected routes have their suspensions extended and, if airlines are given slot waivers, expect to see more route suspensions too.