American Airlines: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Latest Updates — Cancellation Policies, Status Changes, Routes, and More

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Domestic and international service on American Airlines has been seriously impacted by COVID-19. If you have a trip booked with American Airlines in the foreseeable future, you might have some questions.

What do you do if you want to cancel an upcoming trip due to the uncertainty of the situation, or for medical reasons? Will you still be able to maintain your AAdvantage elite status? If you have to fly, are there any lounges open? What precautions is American Airlines taking to keep you safe during your flight?

This article will answer all of your COVID-19 questions related to American Airlines.

Cancellation Policies

American Airlines has offered a more flexible change policy and waived cancellation fees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These policies apply to both paid and award tickets — including non-refundable tickets.

We’ve broken down American Airlines’ change and cancellation policies due to COVID-19 in great detail. Click the link for full details, along with the other airlines’ policies.

Loyalty Extensions/Status Upgrades

American Airlines is offering some concessions for its customers. For example, award tickets can be canceled without any redeposit fees, elite status has been extended through 2022, and elite status requirements have been lowered for 2021.

Explore our specific elite status extension details for American Airlines, along with what other airlines’ are granted for their elite status travelers.

Mileage Buy Incentives

You must log in to your AAdvantage account to buy miles, meaning that certain offers may be targeted at certain individuals (so you might potentially see different offers).

A sample what might be offered could include the following bonuses on purchased miles:

AA Mileage Buy Incentives June 2020
American Airlines’ current mileage buy incentive. Note that it has increased the maximum miles that can be purchased to 200,000. Image Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines Vacation Credit

On July 1, 2020, AAdvantage elite members received a special 1-time credit to use toward an American Airlines Vacations package. The amount received depended on your elite status as of June 30, 2020.

AAdvantage Program Changes

As of October 1, 2020, American now allows systemwide upgrades from Basic Economy tickets and AAdvantage members will receive their full benefits when flying on a Basic Economy ticket.

Unfortunately on January 1, 2021, elites will no longer be able to earn elite-qualifying miles, segments, or dollars on Basic Economy tickets.

Also in 2021, Platinum Pro members can expect to earn systemwide upgrades, and these members, as well as Executive Platinum members, can expect even more rewards to chose from like Admirals Club day passes, bonus miles, and merchandise.

Flight Reductions and Cancellations

American Airlines specifically notes that significant schedule changes were made “due to significantly decreased customer demand as well as government travel restrictions — both related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Hot Tip: To see more effects that the coronavirus has had on American Airlines, be sure to check out our article detailing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on U.S. airlines.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Airlines has announced that it suspended 70% of its domestic capacity in Summer 2020 (as compared to the year prior). On a positive note, it is growing its July domestic schedule to more than slightly more than half of what it was last year (55%).

Also, as there is a 14-day quarantine in place for people arriving in Hawaii, it makes sense that the most significant cuts will be flights there. Currently, only 1 daily flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) is operating. Flights have been suspended to Kona (KOA), Lihue (LIH), and Maui (OGG).


International will remain at nearly 20% in Summer 2020, but flights are being slowly reinstated.

Many inaugural flights and seasonal flights have been delayed or canceled. For a complete listing of impacted international schedules, see the full news briefing.

Important American Airlines News

American Airlines is receiving governmental aid as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Under the terms of this $50 billion aid, all airlines — including American Airlines — are barred from cutting jobs through September 30, 2020.

Of the $50 billion, American Airlines will receive $5.8 billion in the form of a direct grant of $4.1 billion and a low-interest rate loan of $1.7 billion. It also notes that it will “separately apply for a loan from the U.S. Treasury of approximately $4.75 billion.”

Admiral Club and Flagship Lounge Closures

Beginning on June 22, 2020, the following Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge locations will be open:

Open Admirals Lounges
  • Charlotte (CLT) — Concourse C
  • Chicago (ORD) — Concourse H/K
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — Terminals A, C, and D
  • London (LHR) — Terminal 3
  • Los Angeles (LAX) — Terminal 4
  • Miami (MIA) — Gate D30
  • New York (JFK) — Gate 12 (Flagship Lounge with temporary Admirals Club service)
  • New York (LGA) — Concourse D
  • Philadelphia (PHL) — Terminal B and C
  • Phoenix (PHX) — Gates A7 and A19
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA) — Terminal C

These open lounges will have a modified food and drink service:

  • Complimentary hot food, signature dishes for sale, and packaged snacks
  • Disposable, single-use glassware
  • Full-service bar
  • Touchless menus with signage and QR codes. Physical menus will be available upon request.
  • Self-serve areas will remain closed.

Bottom Line: All Flagship Lounges are either closed or have been converted to Admiral Lounge service for the time being.

There will be additional lounges open, but only as service centers to offer travel assistance. American Airlines notes “services like food and drinks, restrooms, and shower facilities are temporarily discontinued. Seating in these clubs is also not available at this time.” For the full list of these “service centers”, check out the AA website.

Safety Changes

Additional safety precautions have been made in the cabin as a result of the pandemic.

Touchless Check-In

When you check-in online for your trip, you can now check in your bags without interacting with an American Airlines employee. Simply select Checked Bags and get your mobile or printed boarding pass. At the airport, you’ll scan your boarding pass at a kiosk to automatically print your bag tag, then attach it for drop-off at bag drop.

Note that this is only available for customers who:

  • Are the only person in the reservation
  • Flying within the U.S.
  • Booked in the main cabin

Food and Beverage Service

Food and beverage service has been altered based on the duration of your flight:

CabinFlights Under 2,200 Miles (or 4.5 Hours)Flights Over 2,200 Miles (or 4.5 Hours)
Main Cabin
  • No snacks, alcohol, or food for purchase
  • Water, canned drinks, and juice by request only
  • No alcohol or meals except on long-haul international flights
  • No snacks or food for purchase
  • Water, canned drinks, and juice will be available
First and Business
  • Drinks, including alcohol, by request only
  • No snacks or meals, and no drinks served before departure
  • Alcohol will be available
  • Meals served on 1 tray, not in courses
  • No drinks served before departure

American Airlines states that “you’re welcome to bring snacks and soft drinks on board to enjoy during your flight.”

Seating Arrangements

American Airlines Coronavirus Seating Arrangements
Where possible, seating arrangements will be arranged to provide distance on flights. Image Credit: American Airlines

More standard (non-paid) seats are available on the seat map. Where possible, seats may be restricted to give you more space. Gate agents or flight attendants may also move your seat.

As of July 1, 2020, American Airlines will no longer be capping capacity at 75 percent and will sell to capacity. However, it notes that it will “notify customers and allow them to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.”

This is not guaranteed and is subject to flight capacity and other weight and balance restrictions.

Disinfection Changes

american airlines disinfection seats covid 19
AA planes regularly undergo deep cleaning. Image Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines notes that its cleaning practices “have always met or exceeded all CDC guidelines” and are cleaned daily with an EPA-approved disinfectant. All planes also undergo a deep cleaning procedure “on a regularly scheduled basis.”

It also states that “most of our planes have High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that provide a complete air change approximately 15-30 times per hour.”

In response to COVID-19 specifically, it has begun “enhancing cleaning procedures on international flights and planes that stay overnight at an airport” and providing hand sanitizer and wipes to crews on international flights.

Starting in early May, American Airlines will be expanding the cleaning procedure to include thorough cleaning in customer areas, tray tables, seatbelt buckles, armrests, window shades, and seatback screens; it also includes wiping door and overhead bin handles. The procedure also calls for cleaning to in team member areas, enhanced galley cleaning, jumpseats, and crew rest seats; the new enhancements add cockpit surfaces as well.

In December 2020, American Airlines achieved the GBAC STAR™ Accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council for all of its aircraft and lounges — the first of any major airline to have this.

Flight Attendants Will Be Required to Wear Masks

As of May 1, 2020, American Airlines will require masks for all flight attendants during every mainline and regional flight. A drawer will be added in galleys on every flight containing personal protective equipment, including masks for flight attendants and pilots, and other sanitizing items. Furthermore, it will also distribute face masks and either sanitizing wipes or gels to passengers who need them.

Passengers Will Be Required to Wear Masks

As of May 11, 2020, all passengers are required to wear a face-covering (or mask) while onboard the aircraft. Very young passengers and those with conditions that prevent them from wearing a face-covering will be exempt from the requirement.

Starting June 16, 2020, stricter requirements regarding face masks went into effect. To start, you must wear a mask or be denied boarding — even if you have a valid medical condition that precludes you from wearing one. Masks are required for everyone above the age of two. See the updated mask policy here.

American Airlines released a statement that it “may also deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering. American made this change after working in conjunction with Airlines for America on an industrywide response.”

Boarding Process Changes

The standard boarding policy stated that you needed to be at the gate 15 minutes before departure for domestic flights, and 30 minutes for international ones. As of April 27, 2020, American has added an additional 15 minutes to those requirements, moving to 30 minutes for domestic flights and 45 minutes for international flights. Furthermore, boarding used to end 10 minutes before departure; now, that’ll be 15.

Health Assessment

Beginning June 30, 2020, there will be a health assessment added during the check-in process to certify that individuals have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the past 14 days. This checklist, developed with assistance by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, must be completed for each customer using self-service machines in airports or during online check-in at home.

VeriFly App

The digital health passport app VeriFLY is in place to assist with the rapidly changing environments. When traveling internationally, the app will checks whether the information and documents provided by the passengers are correct and in compliance with local authorities’ regulations.

If you travel internationally on American Airlines, be sure to download the VeriFLY app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Within the app, you are able to select a destination and upload/show evidence of negative test results at the airport — all within one streamlined process. This will make it faster than showing paper results at the airport check in counter.

Staffing Changes

The Dallas News reports that nearly 13,500 pilots and flight attendants (more than 33%) have agreed to take either voluntary unpaid leave or early retirement as a result of the pandemic. This leave is not available to reservations agents, support staff, or management.

Due to the terms to receive government assistance through the CARES Act, which we noted above, airlines must continue to pay flight attendants and pilots the contractually minimum amounts through September 30, 2020. Due to the reduced schedules, this means that some workers will get paid regardless of whether they are flying or not.

As of October 1, 2020, American Airlines warned employees that it would cut up to 19,000 workers (including flight attendants, pilots, technicians, gate agents, and other staff). Including buyouts, retirements, and leaves of absence, the company expects to have about 40,000 fewer employees, which equals a 30 percent decline in its workforce.

Fleet Changes

So far, American Airlines has temporarily parked 135 out of 150 wide-body aircraft and more than 300 single-aisle jets. As of May 19, it was announced that 15 A330-200s will also be parked until at least 2022. It may continue to park more of its smaller aircraft as the crisis continues.

Reuters reports that American Airlines plans on retiring a large number of aircraft that are currently parked in storage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are currently the fleet on the chopping block:

  • 17 Boeing 767s — retired May 2020
  • 34 Boeing Co 757s — all will be out of service by the end of summer 2021
  • 15 Airbus A330-200s — retired October 2020
  • 9 Airbus A330-300s — retired October 2020
  • 76 Boeing 737s
  • 20 Embraer E190s
  • 19 Bombardier CRJ200s
  • 22 Embraer ERJ-140s

American is also considering retiring some of its 50-seat regional jets.

All in all, American Airlines’ fleet will retire over 200 aircraft and remove 8 different models (757-200, 767-300, A330-300, A330-200, and E190) from service.

Final Thoughts

With reduced capacity due to various domestic and international restrictions, it will be harder than ever to meet the minimum requirements for AAdvantage elite status. While this situation is constantly changing, it’s nice to see that American Airlines is trying to take care of its frequent flyers by extending status and reducing qualifications.

If you must travel, there are increased measures to keep you safe at the airport and on your flight. Lounges have been consolidated or limited, and additional steps to disinfect surfaces have been put in place. From limited food and beverage services to more room between passengers, your next flight might look a bit different.

Frequently asked questions

Is American Airlines offering refunds for coronavirus?

You are currently able to change your flight free of charge. If your flight is canceled by American Airlines or rescheduled by more than 4 hours, you are entitled to a full refund. If you voluntarily canceled the flight, you will receive a voucher.

Is American Airlines extending elite status?

Yes, American Airlines is extending elite status for AAdvantage members until January 31, 2022. In addition, qualifying minimums have been reduced to achieve elite status for 2021.

Christy Rodriguez

About Christy Rodriguez

Christy was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but lived in Texas the majority of her life. Now, work has her living in the Bay Area with her husband and yellow lab. Her first international travel experience was for a summer study abroad program in Italy. After that, she knew that she was destined to travel as much as possible. Luckily, her husband worked at Southwest Airlines, so they were introduced to the exciting world of “non-rev” travel.

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