New York (CNN Business) – In another sign of the effects on travel demand, American Airlines suspended the fees charged for changing or canceling a flight.
Although American did not mention the coronavirus In its announcement of a rate change Sunday night, fears about the outbreak have probably affected reservations for the upcoming spring break in the northern hemisphere and the Easter travel season, as well as mid-year trips. Those are some of the key periods in the year for American airlines.
“[Renunciar a la tarifa de cambio] It’s probably the only way I can make people book, ”said Michael Boyd, an airline consultant. “There is too much uncertainty right now among the passengers. I think all airlines will have to resort to that at some point. ”
American charges variable exchange rates, but can be as high as $ 200 for a domestic flight or $ 750 for an international flight changed before the day of travel. The same day exchange rates vary from 75 to 150 dollars.
For now, the fee waiver covers only tickets purchased between Sunday night and March 16. To qualify, passengers must change or cancel travel plans at least 14 days before the scheduled flight. Flights may be moved to any future date for which American is accepting reservations.
Those charges add up. American raised $ 206.7 million in exchange rates in just the third quarter of last year, the most recent period for which data is available, and $ 821.5 million in the 12 months ending in September, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics UU.
Last week, JetBlue announced a similar suspension of exchange and cancellation fees for travel until June 20. Unlike American, JetBlue explicitly cited the uncertainty of passengers due to the coronavirus.
“While the authorities have not issued any travel restrictions to the places where we fly, we want to give our customers the peace of mind that we are ready to support them in case the situation changes,” said JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty , in the statement.
Delta Air Lines said it is exempting exchange rates only on flights to cities where there has been an outbreak of the virus, including Beijing and Shanghai, China, Seoul, South Korea and numerous cities in northern Italy. The airline also announced on Monday that it would suspend service between John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Milan, beginning in late April.
But Delta has not suspended exchange rates. Nor United Airlines. southwest Airlines, the other major US airline. UU., Generally does not charge exchange rates.
Several US airline directors will meet with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday, the Pence office confirmed on Monday. Pence, who leads the government’s response to the coronavirus, will also meet with cruise line directors on Saturday.
The actions of the airlines have been particularly affected in the recent liquidation of the market. The NYSE Arca Airline stock index has lost almost 25% of its value since closing on Friday, February 21.