Pamela Doherty’s American Airlines flight is delayed. A representative tells her to book a new ticket, but then the company refuses to reimburse her. What now?
Q: I have tried in vain to get a refund from American Airlines. On a recent flight back to Bermuda, my 7-year-old daughter and I experienced hours of delays caused by weather. Finally, our flight was canceled, and chaos ensued.
The line to see an agent was about two to three hours long, and I was carrying a sleeping child. Agents were yelling, “Call American Airlines!” I had an international cellphone, but called and was told there was a wait time of two hours. Then the agents were yelling at the crowd to use AA.com to rebook their flights.
I turned on the data on my phone, clicked on AA.com, and it said my booking reference did not exist. There were seats on the next day’s flight, so we paid $2,157. I waited an hour for a taxi in the rain. I was carrying a child. I checked into a hotel, which took 90 minutes, as so many passengers were stranded.
The following day, I still couldn’t get near an agent. The lines were hours long. I also still couldn’t get through to American by phone. Hold times were more than two hours. I checked in, and once through the gates, finally found an agent. I explained it all to her. She said that American had booked me on a flight later that day. I explained that I had had zero communication about the rebooking. She said to take it up with customer service.
Most Read Life Stories
- Sunday Best: Emily Blunt, Iman are among the fashion winners from 2021 Met Gala
- These Buffalo wings are an extra-crispy way to celebrate the American classic
- Rant & Rave: Reader gives a lesson on the etiquette of waiting in line at Dick’s
- Ramona Quimby's Portland: A self-guided walking tour through sites in Beverly Cleary's books
- This delectable corn and blistered-tomato pasta offers creamy richness with no actual cream added
I have been trying to deal with customer service since January. I eventually discovered that the airline refunded me $74 for each ticket! I am seriously out of pocket. I understand the bad-weather thing; however, I was told to rebook my tickets on AA.com. I did that. The agent whom I spoke to that day canceled the flights American had put me on, as they were much later in the day. I would like American to refund me the money I am out for the rebooking.
— Pamela Doherty, Pembroke, Bermuda
A: What a nightmare! Your initial flight delay was caused by weather, and unfortunately, your airline’s contract of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the airline — says that the airline owes you nothing for the inconvenience.
Is that right? No, but when you buy a ticket, you agree to those terms, and they can’t really be renegotiated after a flight delay.
Here’s where your problem happened: A representative told you to rebook your flight, and you took that to mean you should buy new tickets on American. That’s not how it works. The airline will rebook you on the next available flight at no charge. Instead, you made a brand-new reservation and then asked to be reimbursed.
If this ever happens to you again, your best option is to wait and let the airline rebook you. Otherwise, you could spend a lot more money, and you might not get a refund.
You could have appealed this to an executive at American Airlines. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer-advocacy site: elliott.org/company-contacts/American.
Your first round of appeals yielded a more generous offer: $600 in travel vouchers. But American refused to refund the money you had to spend on the new tickets. American should bear some of the responsibility for giving you information that led you to believe you could make a new reservation. Our team of advocates contacted the airline on your behalf, and it agreed to refund the $2,157.