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American Airlines Institutes Free Flight Cancellations

by on August 4, 2011 · 105 comments

in American

You can read it here on The Points Guy first: As of August 1, 2011, American Airlines now allows penalty-free cancellation of valid, ticketed flights. At least, when it’s them doing the canceling.

Yes, that’s right. Even if you make a valid, ticketed reservation on aa.com, they have now instituted a policy where they can cancel your ticket at at any time, free of charge, without letting you know.

The Backstory

Okay, you may be scratching your head and if you haven’t picked up by now, I’m being sarcastic. Last week I told you about a BIG issue I was having with an American Airlines reservation. In short, I paid over $3,700 to fly from Hong Kong to New York round-trip on Cathay Pacific in first class. I purchased the ticket on AA.com and got it confirmed and charged to my credit card. However, nine days later, American sent me an aggressive email saying I had actually purchased coach. Wait, huh?

They gave some incommensurate, unacceptable re-routing options and I rejected them on the phone and sent them an email saying I wasn’t okay with their less-than-customer-friendly options. Personally, American has held nearly $4,000 of my money hostage for almost a month and most importantly wasted my time – all because of an error on their part. I understand errors happen, but I told them on the phone and via email that a simple refund wasn’t enough – they should give me something for wasting my time and resources. Last time I checked, they charged their customers steep fees when they needed to cancel or change tickets – so why should it be any different for American when they decided they no longer wanted to honor a legitimate fare that they sold me via their website?

I never heard back from them and yesterday I logged into my account and I noticed my ticket was canceled. I never received a response to my email or another phone call from them confirming that they ignored my concerns and canceled my ticket, which, quite frankly, I think is garbage customer service.

My canceled trip - good thing I logged in to know it was actually canceled

We Won’t Pay Change Fees!

I personally don’t want to create a war over this and I don’t want to pull a, “Do you know who I am?” like many of you suggested, because, to be quite honest, I don’t think American Airlines cares. They admitted they made a mistake on the fare and they decided to do what was in their best interest.

Not that I’m going to give American Airlines any money anytime soon, but I say let’s all of us together start a new strategy with the airline that gives them a taste of their own medicine. If they try to charge you a change fee, just tell them you made an error and you don’t feel like honoring the contract anymore, since it’s obviously okay for them to that to customers when it behooves them. Extra points if you use the word “behooves.”

Oh and by the way, I still don’t see a refund from American Airlines on my American Express statement. I’m sure they are taking their sweet time to get that processed.

Rant over.

Am I overreacting here?

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Yupiopy

    sucks dude

  • MJLouise

    Bad, bad, bad. Almost 4K for a first class ticket is still a lotta dough. 99.9% of people wouldn’t know this was a “mistake” fare, just maybe a decent price. Argh.

  • Jeff

    That is absolutely outrageous! Do you have status in the Oneworld network? It probably wouldnt have mattered anyway!

  • Nathan Keirn

    Yeah you’re over reacting, the could have offered you jack shit and instead offered to send you first class on an AA flight from Shanghai. Quit complaining, you tried to cheat by using a mis-advertised, error fare and don’t like it when they are unwilling to put you on that flight.

  • Jon S

    Yeah… I’d personally have pulled a “do you know who I am” and gotten them to come back with tail between their legs and offer a free first fare on that route. Go to twitter, flyertalk, etc… I think you can actually do quite a bit of PR damage to them

  • Anonymous

    I tried to cheat by booking a flight on aa.com for $3,700? It’s not like this was a $2 clear mistake… I actually had to think about this and as I’ve written about before, you can buy the BA miles needed for this trip for cheaper, so it’s not a clear error in my opinion

  • Anonymous

    No Oneworld status

  • Jax

    It was their error and they should honor the fare. When I pulled it up in the Sabre GDS system, these fares were valid and available to sell, although I could not personally schedule for myself. If this was for one of my clients, I would be on the phone until they honored it, just so you know. You are not over reacting. The GDS Sabre system is huge and a mistake may be a mistake, but it is theirs to own up to. Sorry they cancelled you! I think you had BA mileage mixed in for this trip too…

  • JA

    American has run itself into the ground with crappy planes, crabby flight attendants and poor service. It is no longer anything close to the proud airline it was at one time.

  • Josereyng

    Sorry for the experience!

    Well, they did give you a few options and this one below is pretty good, too bad you can not accept it:(

    You may be re-routed between Hong Kong and the U.S. via Tokyo/Shanghai, with
    travel in Business Class on Cathay Pacific between Tokyo/Shanghai and Hong Kong
    and in First Class on American Airlines between Tokyo/Shanghai and the U.S. at
    no additional charge.

  • Vickc

    And with the inflated AAdvantage redemption fees, they are robbing their customers. Too bad that this is nothing new in the airline industry though.

  • Anonymous

    Have you ever flown American Airlines? To sell a Cathay Pacific First Class ticket and then provide American Airlines routing through another country (thus adding 8+ hours travel time), is not a comparable product in my opinion. It’s like buying a Bentley and actually getting a Dodge Neon, in my humble opinion.

  • Zach

    Have you tried their Twitter? I will be more efficient there

  • http://twitter.com/gster78 gster78

    Take the Nader approach — small claims court. Pls read that NYT article. With action by people like him and you, change can happen.

  • MichaelP

    Keep treating customers like crap and they will continue to lose money. On a recent flight, I witnessed an AA flight attendant blurted out “why don’t you check it for yourself!” when asked by kids if the lavatory is occupied.

  • MichaelP

    Keep treating customers like crap and they will continue to lose money. On a recent flight, I witnessed an AA flight attendant blurted out “why don’t you check it for yourself!” when asked by kids if the lavatory is occupied.

  • RakSiam

    take them to court for a change/cancellation fee. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you can get a rally of EXEC-PLAT readers to call and complain on your, and all of our, behalf. Of course, I did recently book an economy RT to Hong Kong with a stopover in Beijing in economy class with confirmed upgrade to Business using SWUs for under $1700, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut.

  • Lantean

    This holds true for our whole country…

  • Cindy

    Thank you for sharing this. Who you are DOES make a difference, at least to me. If they are doing this to a professional travel blogger, then they clearly won’t have any regard for regular flyers. How a company treats all of the people in their culture/system (employees and customers) does matter. And if you are being treated this poorly, then it is a sure sign to the rest of us that they truly do NOT care.

  • Anonymous

    AA should have to honor it. Contract law says that a contract can be voided if there is an obvious mistake. These types of things are usually held to some sort of “average person” or “normal man” type of standard. Because a reasonable person can’t conclude one way or the other whether or not AA offered you a mistake fare or a deeply discounted F fare, they’re on the hook.

    It’s the same with BA’s $0 fare (or near $0-fare) flights from the US to India awhile back. Sure, they can point to a $0 fare and say “obviously a mistake, sorry!” but then everybody else can point back and say, “$0 fare + $500 in taxes, charges, and surcharges looks like a possible marketing gimmick to me!” (I would have loved to have seen them get sued and have their surcharge thing bite them in the butt.)

  • JP2

    I don’t think you are overreacting. I think you have many vehicles to express your displeasure and should avail yourself of them.

  • FriendlierSkies

    They offered you a valid re-routing, which is probably in accordance with their Contract of Carriage. It’s not great customer service, but it’s not terrible.

    You knew it was a mistake or abnormal fare when you booked.

    You were warned in the previous email that it would be cancelled.

    Fight other fights.

  • Aleks

    They should at least have to pay you a $300 change/cancellation fee (or whatever it costs if you were to cancel a non-refundable international itinerary in the comparable class of service). This is a no less of a breech of contract (as the airlines like to view it when one purchases a ticket) than if you were to cancel.

  • Sam

    Not an overreaction at all. These huge companies think they can get away with anything… and in the end its businesses like southwest that win for their customer service.

  • Adam

    Completely on par. You paid a reasonable amount for an F ticket to Asia. Not like you paid $370 which would be an obvious error.

  • Michael S.

    Frustrating, but not surprising. You’ll get the compensation once you speak to the right person. Truth is, most people don’t have the time or wherewithal to pursue the comp, which is why AA just cancels it and hopes people will assume it’s “business as usual.”

  • bbl

    You only paid enough for the Neon and not the Bentley. Isn’t a first class fare $20k (or more) for that route? If they had cancelled it without giving you any options, I would be irate as well. And I agree, it would have been nice if AA gave you better options, but to expect and demand more after only paying for a Neon is entitlement.

  • Dan Ramsen

    Lets all ask every AA representative we see or speak to where Brian’s money is. If all The Points Guy readers will comply, I’m sure you’d see that ticket back pretty soon.

  • hobo13

    Don’t let the AA shills get you down, Brian. I’d be mad too — actually, I wouldn’t be in this situation cause I would never justify $3700 for a paid ticket in any class of service (well, maybe if it was too the moon in SQ F!) But that’s beside the point…

    A couple $100 worth of AA funny money would go along way in this situation. It would cost them almost nothing and might actually get you to blog about flying AA once in awhile!

  • Sss

    Your analogy fails. If I go to a Bentley dealership and buy a Bentley because they offer to sell it to me at a Neon price, I don’t have to give it back to them if they come back a week later and say we sold it to you for too low, and if they unlawfully repossessed it, they could be charged with theft.

  • Bajaback

    They DO have crappy planes and crabby flight attendants (at least the vets working business and first who don’t want to be there), but I do think this whole thing would have been averted if you had status. As an Explat, I have received tremendous service to any problem I’ve encountered through the Advantage Desk. It’s one of two areas where American excels (the other being almost always automatic upgrades for Explats flying domestic).

    On the other hand, this was a shoddy thing for AA to do and I wonder if you would have received the same treatment if you had called Customer Service?

    My solution: they either honor the original fare and you fly Cathay or they send you at least 300 in AA vouchers as compensation plus at least 10,000 miles.

  • Sss

    This idea would only be plausible if AA never offered “sale fares.” How is someone supposed to know that this was (your words) a “mis-advertised, error fare” and not just another one of their “sale fares?”

  • Anonymous

    You should just hijack the plane…

  • Ozaer N.

    Not an overreaction at all…my suggestion is to put it more on the spotlight by contacting a ON YOUR SIDE consumer advocate from one of your local news stations. This is a story they would LOVE to put on the air with all the hoop-lah re: the FAA shutdown and all….could be a precursor for more issues to come. Yes, in this case, TV IS YOUR FRIEND. AMR would not like to see this kind of publicity when its sour news to its customers.

  • HikerT

    Had a similar experience with AA moving a departing flight ahead 1 hour and delaying the connecting departure 1 hour resulting in a 4 hour layover for my partner’s 70+ year old mother. We called AA to cancel and re-book her on another airline. The AA phone rep said the time change wasn’t significant enough to let us cancel without penalty, and that they would only issue issue a voucher less penalty if we wanted to cancel. I took it up with a supervisor who made things right but I was livid. I have always felt change penalties should be reciprocal. Doubt it will ever happen but I’d love to see the powers that be make it a reality. Not only that, but when they change a ticket they should have to pay the difference in fare if greater.

  • Flyer

    The mistake without compensation is outrageous. Then sending their shrills, most likely paid tell you to “walk away” is doubly irritating. Some of their comments sound like threats which is offensive.

    Finally, $3,700 for a First Class ticket is a really good deal, but not obviously a mistake.

    If AA cannot honor the ticket, they should at least be offering compensation in the form of points of AA funny money.

    If it was me, I would be screwed. Fight on, for all of us.

  • Guest

    Disagree with your point on “valid re-routing”. “Valid re-routing” implies arriving at your location within an acceptable window of time. More than 8 hours later is not acceptable to me.

  • Mark K

    If it were me, I’d be pretty upset and keep calling until I get to someone that would offer something in return for their error. If that didn’t work, I’d consider small claims court. Reading about this makes me want to avoid ever flying American Airlines again.

  • Austin

    You are not overreacting at all! I don’t ever want to deal with AA because of your experience.

    On a side note, this is GREAT customer service story. I purchased the HND Delta airfare sale back in June for $588 r/t (DCA to HND). On the flight back apparently the DTW – DCA route was oversold. They offered my friend and I Business Elite (Lie Flat Seats) for the HND-LAX portion and we even arrived earlier than the original flight. I ended up getting upgraded to first class for the domestic legs as well. Not to mention how nice Delta was about this! Plus, I got 46k miles out of this one trip. Way to go Delta.

  • Teachmelove

    inappropriate..

  • Anonymous

    I took AA to court years ago, the judge settled with me.

  • An Onymous

    it’s funny you considered pulling a “Do you know who I am?” when you are a nobody.. anyway, you can fight it it you feel they are in the wrong by going to small claim court but i doubt you will do it..

  • Betty

    You should get American Express involved, assuming that’s what you used to purchase the ticket. If you explain the situation, they might be able to help you out and liason for you with American. Boy, am I glad I don’t fly American all the time.

  • Anonymous

    Zing! If I am a nobody, then why are you commenting on my blog?

  • Mattolo

    Yes AA is getting ridiculous lately. I just got status with them and now most of their fares for the routes I fly are twice the price of other airlines. They seem very arrogant lately. Threaten them with small claims court like Ralph Nader did: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/A-Mr-Nader-Is-Calling-and-He-nytimes-3446500735.html

    He got results quick after he did that!

  • Chananya

    +100

    Keep it up!

    Airlines must get the point that like all other things, people not only depend on the smile for: “coffee or tea?!”, they also want fantastic customer service overall, and whoever will provide this would see their profit .

  • Iamfamous

    my bad, you’re an internet superstar.. too bad you’ve got no juice.

  • http://www.bustachange.com Jerad Kaliher

    Sue them, plain and simple. If you slap their hands legally they will be less likely to break contracts in the future.

  • sb

    The three parts of a binding contract are offer, acceptance and compensation. Unless you are leaving something out you have a binding agreement with AA regulated by the terms of their COC and case law governing contracts.

    Why wouldn’t you just file suit in small claims court for the the difference between what they offered to sell the transportation for and what you can buy it for now?

    Seems pretty straight forward. AA doesn’t have the right to abrogate a binding contract just because they want to. Your entitled to performance and short of that compensation (which I suggest is the difference in fare).

    I’m sure they will have some reason they can cancel (or will by the time the attorney from AA calls you). It would be interesting to see what it is. The cost to find out is just the filing fee for small claims. All you need to state under cause of action is “breach of contract.”

  • Todd

    I like who you don’t have the courage to put your name up, but yet you check out Brian’s blog and post rude, unwanted comments. To bad for you that school starts back up in a couple of weeks. Brian- you provide and invaulable service for the rest of us and we thank you! Just delete this person’s comments Brian.

  • Dave

    You’re not over-reacting. If anything, you’re calm. Take it to them…and see if they’ll through in a few hundred points for all of your readers. ;)

  • Lauren

    Did you try tweeting @aadvantage?
    I had a bad customer service experience with them once and they responded much better to my tweet than to my original e-mail.

  • Lauren

    Did you try tweeting @aadvantage?
    I had a bad customer service experience with them once and they responded much better to my tweet than to my original e-mail.

  • Ryan

    Wow, that’s pretty ballsy of them. We’ve seen discussion on FT of mistake fares resicinded right after purchase. But first off, I don’t see a $3K F ticket being an obvious mistake at all, to a reasonable person. And 9 days to realize their error? Sometimes airlines have pre-emptively given folks vouchers or miles when they’ve had to rescind a mistake. If AA mis-advertises, then accepts your payment and issues a ticket, that’s their problem.

    I’d definitely put this on Twitter – have heard others having better luck via that route. AA deserves the negative publicity for something like this. Imagine if Best Buy calls up a week later – sorry, we rang up that flatscreen at the wrong price, need you to give it back right away.

  • Mrcandoit

    American Airlines? More like Communist Airlines!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I had tweeted @americanair with no response, so I just tried @aadvantage. Can’t hurt- thanks for the tip!

  • AS

    Mistake fares happen. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you don’t. Getting so spun up about something so small – hardly seems worth it.

    You might get a few $ out of small claims court but not likely to get the ticket reinstated – they did give you an option to fly in F which you declined. A court isn’t going to differentiate between F on two airlines. Also you’d have to convince them you are not a sophisticated traveler who didn’t recognize this was almost certainly a mistake fare.

    A settlement will anyway likely come with a non-publicity clause, and will hardly be worth your time. You’ll just help AA’s lawyer earn his/her living.

  • Junodee

    No, I don’t think you’re over-reacting. This is bad business on AA’s part, especially given the amount of money that you put down and the resulting inconvenience of their move. On a different level, I think AA reps need to treat people the way they would want to be treated. I used to fly AA all the time, but have run into several incidents where the gate or flight attendants were overtly rude, if not belligerent. When I sent a polite email to AA notifying them of the incidents, they send back “form responses” which are so generally framed, I ended up wondering if they even read my email in the first place. Now…big surprise, I have elite status with UAL.

    Thanks for raising these issues where people can learn about them and choose to act based on that information.

  • Strollergirl

    On our return trip from Costa Rica, they claimed we came to the airport on the wrong day…and that our flight leaves tomorrow. Seemed odd as I printed everything out, but oh well. They did pay for a hotel and a crappy meal at Denny’s (yes, they have one in San Jose), we got to talking to some people who were also told the same thing by American. In reality, American Airlines messed up, not us.

  • Rachel

    No, you are not overreacting. I am impressed that you did not use the vocabulary words that were running through my head. I haven’t liked them and this affirms it.

  • Killinger

    Hello AA shill.

  • Alohastephen

    You are not over reacting. I am still waiting on an AA refund for a mistake that they made in March. The amount is only a fraction of what they are holding from you but it is still 5 months and counting!

  • Xpex99-1

    Why are you wasting your reader’s time with rants like this? AA made a fare-table error, and sure it would be really really nice if they let everyone who exploited it fly anyway.

    But they didn’t, so suck it up. You can be sure they weighed the hundreds of thousands of dollars revenue loss versus pissing off a few dozen people who knew it was too good to be true anyway.

    Mistakes like this are a gamble, and we all know it. Sure, you always try them (I certainly do). Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, that’s the game.

    But it’s for you as a blogger to report these items so the rest of us can learn, not just to publicly whine.

  • Anonymous

    My point is that even if they made an error, they have terrible customer service.

    Sorry if you view this all as a whine, but since it’s mile/points/travel related, I thought I’d fill my readers in on my journey in case they ever find themselves in the same shoes. I also like getting reader feedback, especially on grey areas like this.

    And, honestly I do appreciate yours even if I don’t agree with it :-)

  • Bluto

    You could go to the mat over this, and it seems like popular opinion would be on your side. But I really don’t think it’s worth your time. There are people who go through life working themselves up over every perceived slight or injustice. They might win some of those battles and get a first class deal now and them, but what I’ve noticed about those types is that they are usually unhappy, mainly because they get into the habit of looking at how mistreated they’ve been instead of realizing how fortunate they actually are.

    The airline business is a notoriously unprofitable one. American loses money constantly. I’m sure they’d love to pay their employees more so that they could attract friendlier talent, and go out of their way to make their customers whole, but it’s difficult to do five star things when there’s no cash in the corporate piggy bank and mountains of debt. I’m not excusing them but I am pointing out why we, as travelers, should lower our expectations a bit.

  • sb

    This post contains a number of misconceptions regarding how courts view contract disputes.

    First, you wouldn’t ask for reinstatement. Courts hate specific performance. You would ask for monetary compensation.

    Second a court would differentiate between various airlines, if you could present a clear evidence of the difference, which I think one certainly could in this case.

    There is no need to convince a court you aren’t a sophisticated traveler. While the law does allow for exceptions from fulfilling a contract the bar is quite high. The reason for this is obvious. It isn’t in the public good for parties to easily be able to get out from a contract. I think AA has a weak case. AA had significant time to respond it was in error and failed to do so for example.

    I’d wager the case it quite strong. The court is going to start with the fact that AA offered the fare and the customer accepted and paid for his ticket. The fare was substantial. The judge will look to AA and say, give me a reason your customer doesn’t have an enforceable contract? Its going to take a lot.

    As for the reroute, those are not absolute rights the airline has regardless of they say. For example if they advertised a new nonstop route, way overbooked it then shifted those overbooked to a connecting flight claiming the right under the COCs they would surely have a problem not only with breach of contract but fraud.

    In this case I think the customer can show there is no legitimate reason for AA to insist he take a routing other than the one he originally purchased. The flights aren’t full, there isn’t a weather or mechanical issue. The only reason is that AA want to avoid honoring its obligation (and paying CX). This isn’t going to fly very well before a judge.

    Just making a mistake doesn’t automatically get one out of a contract. Quite the reverse.

    The claim here is simple. AA offered a service. It isn’t even clear they didn’t mean to, but even if they did the presumption is they need to honor their obligation or be liable for the consequences of failing to do so.

    I’d sent a demand letter to AA general counsel asking them to either 1) reinstate the reservation as purchased or 2) pay the difference so he could buy a new one. If they don’t get back to you, sue them.

    BTW keep in mind that the airlines COCs are very clear. You only need a ticket to travel. Just canceling the reservation does not negate AA’s obligations under the COCs to carry the passenger. He can show up at the airport and demand to be carried. If they refuse he can claim an involuntary bump in addition to everything else.

    AA knows better. Once this gets up to in house legal counsel they’ll probably do the right thing because they know they will lose in court.

  • Ilimas

    Totally agree with sb. Go for it (file in small claims court) and make us proud! :)

  • Mav

    there is a huge thread on this already on flyertalk

  • Mav

    I’m a bit divided on this. I’m ok with compensation but doubt it will happen. My guess is those who keep fighting get some small cert, $500 or so. First though let me say it is pretty lame when people can’t accept a different opinion and call anyone who disagrees an AA shill. Call me that if you want, I fly only CO though and have no dog in this fight. Either way though, we’re all in agreement it’s bad PR for AA.

    Second it should be noted as I read it was a fully refundable ticket, and the compensation offers as I understand were this:
    a) full refund + refund of incidental charges such as connecting flights, hotels with any receipts
    Or
    b)fly same flight as booked but in coach
    Or
    c)fly via NRT or PVG, with the segment to/from HKG in biz and the segment to/from US in AA first

    I read the whole 45 page thread on flyertalk already out of curiosity, and as mentioned I’m ok with people fighting it and if they get something good for them. But I doubt the courts will offer compensation. It seems the crux is if people think a reroute via NRT is a big deal or if it is comparable. I think when CX pulls out on their end (allegedly), and AA offers the best they can do with the reroute and AA F w/ JL or KA Biz, it is comparable even with the extra hours. I think the courts would find the same, and my reading of COC is that a comparable and reasonable change is allowed. But then again I’ve flown BIS over 100K in coach this year on CO so anything in BF is good for me. :)

    FWIW it also seems to me that it is obvious a mistake fare when the real fare from what I have seen was around $20,000 or so.

  • Guest

    I had something vaguely similar happen to me a while back, except it was with a hotel.

    I

  • Pb

    Currently AA has decided either a refund or flying coach as the only options.

    Full refund might be too strong an expression, as several people have incurred in travel insurance and foreign exchange credit card costs that AA has not addressed properly so far.

  • Charles

    Sad to read this, but after my recent episode with them, I am not a bit surprised. Case in point, I had bought a RT ticket from MEM to SKB. My trip to SKB was horrible. In 1st leg MEM to MIA, there were no refreshments served, and when I ask about BUYING a Coke, the attendant just ignored me. And on my 2nd and final leg, MIA to SKB, they ran out of food, and 90% of the drinks leaving me with the option of water or coffee.

    While in SKB, they cancelled my (and my wife’s) return flight from MIA to MEM by sending me an email which included an overnight layover in MIA. I made several phone calls, and the answer was always “Your wrong” and “AA is not responsible for your hotel accommodations”, and if I did not like, that they would refund me half of my airfare. I finally spoke with the highest person I could, also was the most obnoxious person I have ever dealt with in customer service. Even though my email plainly stated “flight canceled”, he informed me that it was not a “Flight cancellation”, but a schedule change, and hung the phone up on me.

    In one of the earlier phone conversations, I was told if I wanted to leave on a different day, a different airport, or Lay over in San Juan, I could. So I checked prices for Hotels, and found that If I left 1 day earlier, and left from NEV to have overnight layover in San Juan it would save me a $100. So, I called them back explaining what I decided, and I was handed off to a supervisor. The supervisor, 2nd most obnoxious person, told me, I could not change days, could not change airport, and could not change layover cities. I replied, AA cancelled my flight, and re-booked me without even asking what would work with my schedule, and AA had me leaving 1 day later than planned, which was costing me 2 extra hotel nights (1 in SKB and 1 in MIA). Her reply? You guessed it, “All I can do is refund 1/2 your money, sir”.

    Well, as it turned out, the flight they were going to put me on was full, and they had to put me on a flight 1 day earlier leaving SKB with a layover in San Juan. Sad thing is, they destroyed a brand new Travel Pro Crew 8 double garment bag ($500). This happened in April, and after weeks of calling, they said, my new bag was in San Juan for me to pick up. What? I live in Memphis. So, I called San Juan, and they said they had my new bag, but it was not a Travel Pro, it was a Ricardo brand garment bag about 1/2 the size ($60 bag). After another month of arguing with them, I finally got a new Travel Pro bag last week. Not the same bag, but it is probably as good as I will ever get from AA.

    Unless I am stranded in a Hostile take-over and mortally wounded, I will NEVER fly with AA again. I fly back and forth 3-4 times a year to SKB, but now, I pay $250 more, and fly with US Airways. This is not the old US Airways, but a much nicer and friendlier US Airways.

    Best of Luck to you,

    Charles

  • abcx

    Brian,

    You can’t complain about this and not fight it. They get away with it because people like you don’t fight it. I fought it on the QF AA F fare as did many others and they quickly backed down. Threaten to sue. I’ve said it before. Ranting here is pointless.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad you posted this on your blog, I think it’s important to spread the word when a company treats it’s customers this poorly. I followed the FlyerTalk thread out of interest and the way they flip-flopped from offering reroutes in AA F to apparently canceling the reroutes out from under some of the people who accepted them was terrifying. Honestly they would just laugh if I told them I accidentally made the wrong booking and would be canceling fee-free because it makes no sense, contracts are binding on both parties right? I’m a Star Alliance guy for paid travel, so it’s not like my pledge means much, but I won’t be giving AA a penny until I feel they’ve learned their lesson ;)

    Off topic: Next time try Air Canada! They’re my favorite airline =) And I’ve yet to see an AC J review! I’m curious how you think it compares to other airlines’ premium offerings.

  • RakSiam

    wow. That’s really terrible. I flew AA for the first time in a long time last week. For sure the planes were dirty and the crew was not pleasant at all. The FA from FSD to ORD was downright rude to several passengers. It seemed quite bizarre to me. But they got me where I needed to go more or less on time. Unfortunately the pilot lied to us on the way into DC and told us some non-existent FAA rule required us to all stay seated for the last 30 minutes. That rule was eliminated years ago. They apparently just wanted to make us all stay in our seats.

    Perhaps the reason why AA is losing money (if they are), is because they are so incredibly belligerent to their customers.

  • Jojo

    I actually agree with you Brian. You’re not whining. In fact in their terms and conditions does AA stipulate that they can cancel your reservation if the airline makes a mistake? I really think this is a violation of your rights as a consumer and I would even consider a lawsuit against them. Or at least writing a letter to congress. It’s ridiculous that they do charge us when we need to change our flights $150, but because of a mistake they made they do not honor their agreement. What they did is unacceptable and if I were in your shoes I would consider suing them. Everyday airlines get worst and worst, and customer service everywhere is just at the lowest point it’s ever been sadly. And they call this capitalism…

  • sb

    How much you pay isn’t relevant. If I cash in frequent flyer miles for travel in F the cost could be negligible as the implied value of point is very low but that doesn’t mean the airline doesn’t have exactly the same obligations as someone buying the seat next to me for $14,000.

    In fact the airlines own COCs make no differentiation between the two nor between any two tickets of any kind based on fare.

    While there are plenty of example of airlines behaving differently that is only because they can snow people.

    Whether you paid $1500 or $15000 for that seat it doesn’t matter. If the class of service is the same then the rules that pertain to the obligation to carry, re-routing etc are identical.

    If you don’t believe me ready an airline’s COCs and see if you can find a single reference to their being different based on the fare paid. So far I’ve yet to find one. Might be one out there but haven’t seen it yet.

  • sb

    Nathan I fail to see how purchasing the right for transport at a price freely offered by a common carrier is trying to cheat anyone. Is your position that it is the customers responsibility to determine whether every price they see is potentially a mistake? How would that be possible? And isn’t it the vendors responsibility, particularly given they are the ones in possession of the relevant information to be dealing with that?

    Airlines frequently offer extremely low fares. I’ve seen fares that were legitimate of 99 cents. By your reasoning I should ever buy those because they might be mistakes for fear of being labeled a “cheat.”.

    Imagine if commerce in general worked as you suggest. Those special at grocery stores, oops don’t bit, it might be mistake. One cent gallon of milk, beware. Where is the public interest served when you can’t offer up a loss leader because no one will touch it?

    There is a better way. It protects both parties and is therefore not surprisingly the way the law actually works. If a seller offers up something for sale and a buyer accepts then when there is compensation the deal is binding. Just making the offer isn’t enough. The buyer has to accept and pay something. This gives the seller an opportunity to say, oops, not made mistake I won’t take your money. Then there is no deal! The buyer cannot force performance

    Things can get a lot more complex than this of course but the fact is AA took the purchasers money. They didn’t have to. They decided to because its good business for them to not check each transaction very carefully in order to process a high volume of transaction. That’s their decision. They do it because they are willing to accept a few mistakes as the price of running their business.

    That is their call but they can’t have it both ways, not check but then not honor.

  • sb

    One further thought.

    AA cancelled the reservation but they haven’t done anything with the ticket have they?

    If the ticket is still untouched then things get really interesting. A ticket is completely distinct from a reservation. You can have a ticket without a reservation and reservation without a ticket.

    Assuming the ticket is untouched then the obligation of CX to carry you remains intact, even if you presented yourself without a reservation (read CXs COCs and I’m sure it will say that). If there aren’t any seats they could deny you boarding on that basis but if seats are available and you are holding a ticket do deny you transport would be a bump. Unless AA unilaterally refunds your money and cancels your ticket I don’t think they can escape that obligation.

    I guess CX could claim the ticket was fraudulent but such an allegation without basis would itself be actionable.

    If you decide to press the matter fax the general counsel of AA with a copy of the ticket, a copy of the reservation and tell him you need his assistance. Give him a deadline of two weeks to respond. If you don’t hear send it again. If still no answer tell them you will sue for breach of contract and damages in the amount of $xxx (difference between what you paid and the best F fare you can find for the same dates and routing).

    This gives AA the chance to make it right. If they don’t you can demonstrate to a court you gave them every opportunity. It only seems fair that a problem like this the guys on the front lines might not understand the issues, but the head lawyer will.

    You do the right thing. Tell them you just want what you paid for or to be paid so you can purchase the same thing somewhere else.

  • brazilflyer

    You’ve taken this on as your fulltime profession, so I’d encourage you to pursue this 100% as the consumer advocate that you strive to be. Go full-tilt at American, call their media relations staff and identify yourself as a top industry blogger (a step down from journalist, but I think they’ll still take you serious), explain the situation and escalate it to small claims court lawsuit status.
    This community needs consumer advocates like you to help break down barriers when the arise.

  • Nathan Keirn

    You knew it was not the price for a first class fare. You knew that, knew you were taking a chance. AA could have told you to shove it, but instead they’ll still send you first class, just on an AA flight. I think that is a totally reasonable compromise and it’s still not a bad deal. I live in Japan and cannot fly first from Tokyo for that price, even though you’ll be flying through Tokyo.

    I just paid $3200 to to fly to Mongolia and that was only Business class. You get what you get.

  • Nathan Keirn

    You are not purchasing a right. You cannot purchase a right. A right is something that cannot be taken away. You are making a contractual agreement for the privilege of air travel.

    I am not saying don’t try to get a low fare, just don’t be surprised when the airline won’t honor it. In this case the airline is trying to come to a happy medium.

  • Anonymous

    I keep saying this again and again “friends don’t let friends fly AA”.

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    I say keep up the fight. The fare is not an obvious mistake fare!
    The fact that they blew you off is what really does me in. The fight is not just for you, but for the little people who don’t know how to fight back.

  • Miami_studd

    delta had a bunch of cases like this recently b/c they also treated pass very bad. then once they pissed off a very aggressive lawyer who is still spending his own time away from his $825.00 hr fee to punish them. they seem to have gotten the msg lately

  • Chada

    told me 1 -2 billing cycles Duh 30 to 60 days plus they ve had my funds since july 13th hard ball visa cc no help just wait n see

  • Mav

    good points on fx and insurance. did those who took the offer of connection + biz get changed back to refund or were they allowed to keep the change?

  • Dov

    Why “threaten to sue?”, why not actually “sue”, the airlines are already used to the threatening kind of way, I tried multiple times with issues I had with airlines, they totally ignored me.
    So, i think there must be an original lawsuit here

  • sb

    I guess I don’t know what you mean when you say “right” but it really doesn’t matter. AA entered into a contractual agreement and is now attempting to unilaterally break it without being liable for the consequences.

    We have developed a very deep body of rules governing contracts in order to encourage transactions which is deemed in the public good. By protecting each party against abuses by the other it reduces everyone’s risk (just imagine how different life would be if everything you went to buy something you were likely to get cheated and had little or no recourse).

    First of all we have a venue for a neutral party to decide when there is a disagreement, the courts. The apply the rules. All you need to do is look at the rules to get a pretty good idea of the logic this neutral party is going to use. That is how I come to the conclusions I do. I look at the governing law.

    You come to a different conclusions but haven’t presented any legal argument to support it. So unless you have one or think that the legal system we have developed and used for in the country is more than 200 years doesn’t have jurisdiction in this case I don’t see how that conclusion matters.

    When we enter into agreements in the country we agree to be bound the laws that governing such things. Unless AA can come up with an argument for why they should be allowed to do what they are doing that holds water in front of a court they should honor their agreement. If they refuse to do so I think its appropriate that the other party gets the fair and impartial hearing the law entitles to them to.

    The airline is not the judge. There is no obligation for the customer to compromise for less than they bargained for just because the airline want them to. And I think it is surprising that AA would offer a fare and then not honor it.

    Just as I’d be surprised if any seller offered any goods or services for sale, took my money and then refused to make good on their end of the bargain.

  • Chada

    $$ posted to my Visa cc after 4days AA told me up to 2 billing cycles (60days) called Visa to complain about AA biz sic practices and today refunded LOST 0.16c on deal! paid $3737.47 july 13th rtnd $3737.31 Aug 5th = -0.16c Was planning to use this F flight on CX as in middle of *A mini RTW in F on TG,LX,+LH. However AA behavior and Troll bloggers have made me glad im with Star A and not stuck on AA live n learn

  • Richard

    Much like the rants on FlyerTalk, deceptive title and all. The rants and the posters of the rants are best ignored.

  • Richard

    Much like the rants on FlyerTalk, deceptive title and all. The rants and the posters of the rants are best ignored.

  • AS

    When you describe it like ‘First, you wouldn’t ask for reinstatement. Courts hate specific performance. You would ask for monetary compensation.’, I call foul.

    In my opinion, people who pursue this option are in this to shake AA down for money rather than for the actual bargain trip. The ticket was bought with the knowledge it was most likely a mistake fare. It was purchased with the knowledge that it was fully refundable. There was an expectation that it might get cancelled as a mistake fare. And then an expectation that AA would provide some alternate compensation for cancelling. And when they didn’t, a lot of noise would be made about it and some threats or lawsuits filed.

    Sounds an awful lot like ambulance chasing to me.

  • Ctysella

    A similar thing happened to me when AA changed my itinerary on a trip to China. I chose the flights I purchased because I was traveling with my 15 month son and needed to time the flights with his sleeping schedule. AA never notified me of the change. Luckily, the Fairmont Beijing reviewed our itinerary and notified me that the arrival time I gave them was different from the information they had in their system. I complained to AA and they only credited my account with 5,000 miles.

  • Ctysella

    A similar thing happened to me when AA changed my itinerary on a trip to China. I chose the flights I purchased because I was traveling with my 15 month son and needed to time the flights with his sleeping schedule. AA never notified me of the change. Luckily, the Fairmont Beijing reviewed our itinerary and notified me that the arrival time I gave them was different from the information they had in their system. I complained to AA and they only credited my account with 5,000 miles.

  • Shassam

    Actually cant believe they did that.

  • David

    I hate to be cynical, but I DO think the corporate trolls flood the zone when stories like this emerge. I hope you keep fighting this one! This sounds like a contract to me: Offer, acceptance, consideration, not an obvious mistake.

  • David

    Per industry practice, change fees ARE practically reciprocal. The problem is, changes from the consumer result in an automatic fee; changes from the airline, require hours of hostility with customer service reps to receive a fee. That’s not being sarcastic, it is just actually how I view dealing with the airlines. I usually have VERY specific reasons for my length of stopover, openjaw, etc. If they foul up my schedule b/c a flight is over or undersold or some other reason that is not an “act of god” — I tend to show no mercy. Tit for tat. :)

    That’s why in cases like this, we need people to fight back for the little guy.

  • David

    Per industry practice, change fees ARE practically reciprocal. The problem is, changes from the consumer result in an automatic fee; changes from the airline, require hours of hostility with customer service reps to receive a fee. That’s not being sarcastic, it is just actually how I view dealing with the airlines. I usually have VERY specific reasons for my length of stopover, openjaw, etc. If they foul up my schedule b/c a flight is over or undersold or some other reason that is not an “act of god” — I tend to show no mercy. Tit for tat. :)

    That’s why in cases like this, we need people to fight back for the little guy.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jkeithdotnet J. Keith Van Straaten

    Since the amount is less than 5,000 I encourage you to pursue this in small claims court. The process should make for some great blog posts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jkeithdotnet J. Keith Van Straaten

    Also, I just had some interactions with Aadvantage through DMs on twitter, so that also is a route you could pursue. But really, the small claims court could be very instructive (and effective)!

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  • bb

    this is same as my experience. but this was against a travel agency. i had complained against them with TradingStandards, which proved useful as they honoured it on the dot.

    if you had a confirmed ticket, u can always fight as the airlines cannot cancel it without your consent.
    the airlines is obliged to honour the reservation.

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