DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I have a problem with an American Airlines ticket. I recently flew from San Angelo, Texas, to Washington, D.C. On a stopover in Dallas, American Airlines canceled my connecting flight. The airline rebooked me on a flight later that day, but it also ended up canceling that one.
I received a notice on the American Airlines app saying I could book another flight at no charge. So, I booked another flight. As soon as I did, I noticed the airline had charged me $1,147.
I called immediately, and a representative assured me she would fix the charges. But when I went to pay my bill for the original ticket, the $1,147 charge was still on my card. I called American Airlines and my credit card company, and they both said I had to submit a written request for the ticket I had purchased. I submitted that request, but my credit card company denied it because I had a nonrefundable ticket. Can you help?
— Sandy Burchett, Appomattox, Virginia
ANSWER: American Airlines should have rebooked you on the next available flight without charging you.
But the rules are a little different. If an airline cancels your flight, federal regulations require it to offer a full refund or a flight of its choosing — not yours (more information regarding this can be found at www.elliott.org/ultimate-consumer-guides-smart-travelers/what-should-i-do-if-my-flight-has-been-canceled-or-delayed/).
American Airlines appears to have gone off-script by offering you a flight of your choosing through its app. Fortunately, you had that promise in writing. You kept a screenshot of the offer.
I can’t overstate how important a reliable paper trail is to resolving a complaint like this. If you don’t have it in writing, it’s American Airlines’ word against yours. And I think we all know how that will end.
You tried to appeal this through the regular customer service channels. And I should add that your flight experience on American Airlines was less than ideal. It involved numerous delays, a missed day of work and a night spent on an airport floor. To your credit, you didn’t ask the airline for any compensation other than the refund it said it would give you.
You might have tried appealing this to one of the American Airlines executive contacts I publish on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/. A brief, polite note to one of them including all of your documentation might have fixed this.
I contacted American Airlines on your behalf. A representative called you and apologized for a “system glitch.” The credit for your ticket showed up the next day.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.
(c) 2022 Christopher Elliott
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