Paula Miller gets a downgrade to coach class after a pilots’ strike forces her airline to rebook her. But is she entitled to a refund between the cost of business class and economy?

Q: I recently purchased a business-class ticket on Aerolineas Argentinas to fly from New York to Buenos Aires. Due to a pilots’ strike on the day of my trip, I was rebooked on a United flight.

I was seated in a middle seat in economy class. Apparently, no higher cabin seats were available. I discussed my seating concern with the AA reps and the United agents to no avail. I purchased an extended legroom seat for an additional $147.

Because this flight arrived much later than my original flight, I paid an additional $100 for my previously arranged car service that transported me to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires.  

Once there, Aerolineas Argentinas needed to rebook my domestic connection and did so on the last flight of the day, when earlier flights with seats were available. I spent an extra $35 for lounge access, as I needed to spend several hours in the airport.

I have tried to resolve this with American Express. I had used my Amex card to make the purchase. I’ve taken the matter up with Aerolineas Argentinas and have also filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation.


I would like to receive reimbursement for the difference between the business-class ticket I paid for and did not receive and the coach fare seat I was assigned, as well as my out-of-pocket expenses for the extra legroom seat, car-service expenses and lounge fees. Can you help? Paula Miller, Lockport, New York

A: Aerolineas Argentinas should have quickly refunded you the difference between your business-class and economy-class ticket. So why didn’t it?

One possibility: After the pilots’ strike, the airline rebooked you on a different airline. When Aerolineas Argentinas “endorsed” your ticket to United Airlines, you accepted the new terms of transportation, which were in economy class. Maybe Aerolineas Argentinas believed that it was doing a favor by flying you to Buenos Aires in a middle seat in the back of the plane.

But I don’t. Under federal regulations, you’re entitled to a refund for the difference in price. That sounds like a great deal, except that airlines like to recalculate the refund based on the price of the ticket at that moment. As you know, an economy-class ticket booked at the last minute can be more expensive than a business class ticket booked six months before. So again, Aerolineas Argentinas comes out on top.

Not in your case, though. You contacted Aerolineas Argentinas and you practiced the Three “Ps” of a resolution — be patient, persistent and polite. After reviewing your case, my research team also found and published executive contacts for Aerolineas Argentinas, which will help future passengers.

The airline didn’t budge, so you initiated a chargeback through American Express. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. It should have; American Express, with its famous “don’t leave home without it” slogan, should have seen that you didn’t get what you paid for. The Department of Transportation didn’t do anything for you, either.

I contacted Aerolineas Argentinas on your behalf. You also kept fighting for your refund. It’s unclear what finally made the airline make a U-turn, but it refunded you $845.