American Airlines Group Inc. would consider barring passengers from changing nonrefundable tickets if Congress limits what carriers can charge for the adjustments, Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said Tuesday.
This is coming from some legislation making its way through Congress:
Doing away with changes to nonrefundable fares would make airline flights more like baseball games or concerts, where customers aren’t typically reimbursed if they buy tickets and can’t use them. Carriers currently consider the ability to change a nonrefundable ticket as a service that carries a cost. Such fees, which run up to $200, anger many passengers.
The language limiting what carriers can charge for ticket changes is being supported by consumer groups as a bipartisan provision. It is in a version of an aviation-policy bill sponsored by Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who is chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Parker called the proposal “really bad for consumers” last week.
I can’t say I blame American Airlines. Change fees have been around since the days of regulated aviation in the U.S. and the only reason I can think of to change the rules now is to appease some percentage of the voting public.
Is a limitation on the cost of change fees good for the consumer? On the surface, it’s easy to say yes, but when you dig into how airlines oversell flights and offer last minute seats or adapt to weather situations, I think the answer becomes a more complex “no”. Maybe Congress should simply focus on the transparency of the fares and underlying fare rules. If it becomes clear what consumers can and cannot do on a fare, rather than having to dig through pages and pages of fare rules, it becomes easier to make decisions.