American Refunds Canceled Plane Ticket, Keeps $15 Checked Baggage Fee

American refunded Josh’s airfare after canceling his flight to New York, but not his $15 checked baggage fee. Though the fee is listed in their system, American won’t issue a refund unless Josh sends a formal request letter along with his baggage claim receipt to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Josh cc’d us on his Executive Email Carpet Bomb:

Dear American Airlines:

My name is Joshua, and my AAdvantage number is XXXX. I am writing in regard to ticket XXXXX, under record locator XXXX.

I would like a refund of the $15 fee I paid to check a bag on AA 4794 on June 27, 2008, as the flight was cancelled and I (and my checked bag) did not travel with American.

When the flight was cancelled, I called your customer service 800 number and requested that my itinerary be refunded. Your customer service representative processed this refund over the phone without difficulty. However, the refunded amount did not include the bag fee.

I am now advised by your telephone customer service that, in order to get my $15 refund, I must mail a letter with my original receipt for the bag fee to your refunds department in Tulsa. They have told me that they cannot issue a refund over the phone, and cannot waive their policy on the matter.

I do not find this to be an acceptable solution. You should not require me to mail a paper receipt when the information about the fee already exists in your computer systems. Indeed, I am not even sure what I did with that receipt after I left the airport. More broadly, while I understand your rationale for charging a fee for the first checked bag, you should not make it unreasonably difficult to collect a refund of the fee when the service is not provided.

I recognize that I am not currently an elite-level American customer. However, I qualified as AAdvantage Gold in 2006 and have over 100,000 lifetime travel miles under my belt on American. I have recently moved to Washington, DC and will be traveling frequently to New York and Chicago. Those are places to which both American and its competitors provide frequent service. I hope to continue doing that business with American, contingent on the refund of this fee.

I hope that you will be willing to refund this fee to me without further difficulty.

Sincerely,

Joshua

American’s contract of carriage is silent on baggage fee refunds.

While Josh’s EECB is detailed and concise, American’s recent cash-hemorrhaging makes them less receptive to reason. Give the request an added punch by asking the Department of Transportation for their interpretation of American’s greedy conduct.

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Comments

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  1. Smitherd says:

    See, I side with AA here. They’re clearly keeping the baggage fee as a courtesy for the next time he flies with them! That way, he doesn’t have to pay them again!

  2. Coles_Law says:

    At first I thought there was no proof he checked a bag. Heck, people could claim they checked 5 bags and get a nice bonus. But if there’s a record of it, I don’t see what the problem is. Best of luck with the EECB; I hoe it turns out in your favor.

  3. Am I the only one whose first thought was “You asked them to process a refund and they didn’t, ask for a chargeback and let them sort it out with MasterCard?”

  4. David M says:

    what about a credit card charge back?

    i could understand them adding hurdles to get a refund if he canceled his itinerary or changed flights but the flight was canceled. it should be an automatic refund of services not provided.

  5. Mr_Human says:

    @Derek Balling: It’s probably better to try and resolve the dispute peacefully first, especially if you want to fly American again. And before you say, “Well, then don’t fly American again,” sometimes you have no choice.

  6. scoobydoo says:

    That is a very well written complaint letter. Not overly full of emotional drivel, straight to the point and short.

    Well done.

  7. P41 says:

    I wonder if somewhere there’s a beancounter decisionmaker who thinks, well sheesh, the charge isn’t for flying the bag, it’s for checking the bag and that’s what they did, think of it like it’s part of a taxi fare to the airport.

    But seriously, probably something stupid that seems like billion-dollar CEOs should have thought through, like they don’t have a way to keep track of who they’ve refunded these to, they don’t want to just be sending money willynilly to people, they can’t dream up anything halfway reasonable in the meantime like tell people to get a refund from the counter when they cancel, so they’re going to just give people the runaround over silly things like receipts until it’s worth the trouble to change anything.

  8. ReidFleming says:

    These fees still end up hurting the least-able to absorb them. I fly enough that my bag fees are always waived. Then again, AA doesn’t want to annoy or anger its highest-paying customers. My overseas tickets with AA normally run between $6,000 and $9,000. They absolutely want to keep that cash flowing. The thing is that sticking another few hundred dollars on each full-fare business ticket should cover all of the non-corporate travelers.

  9. deweydecimated says:

    What? No $30 unchecked baggage fee? American Airlines, you should be ashamed.

  10. laserjobs says:

    He might of even come out ahead if he spoke with a AA customer service rep. I think they charge $20 so that would be a free $5 he already got.

  11. TechnoDestructo says:

    @deweydecimated:

    Next it’ll be a fee for bags you decided to leave at home.

  12. tedyc03 says:

    Wow. Chargeback sounds good! Not only does he get his $15 back but the credit card processor hits the airline with a nice chargeback fee, so they actually lose more money by being dicks.

    I see this as a perfect reason to pay these kinds of things with credit.

  13. Techno Viking says:

    @Smitherd:
    Not true. If he flies with them again, then next time he will have to pay the 15 bucks again. Poor Joshua. They way he wrote this letter, is like he was begging them to give him his money back. believe it or not, but the companies are making it very difficult to give us their customers our money back for the service not provided. All of you here, are just to afraid to say it out loud well I just did it for you. Airliner companies are trying to squeeze everything out of us if we fly or not. The high oil price increase is just a small scapegoat to let us know that they are still in control and will screw us a million times over and we will crawl back to them for more and all because it’s only them who have the planes. What’s even more upsetting is that the government is not doing anything for us.

  14. Forkboy3 says:

    I wonder if the fees are still so new that they just don’t have their computer systems set up yet to include the fee with the ticket refund. Seems like a large percentage of people would just refuse the charge through their credit card rather than deal with writing a letter. Either way, it’s probably costing AA more than $15 to refund the $15 fee. Although, I’m sure there is a small % of people that would just choose not to deal with it.

    Is there a reason not to go with the charge back through the credit card? Can AA use that against the person in the future by refusing service or refusing to honor that credit card?

  15. Concerned_Citizen says:

    I am surprised the airline just doesn’t issue checked bag coupons. Of course they never want to refund pure cash and they can claim the bag was checked even if the flight was canceled. But they better hope credit card companies are going to side with them. People are going to feel cheated if they have to pay a 15 dollar checked baggage fee on a canceled flight. And if this non-refund continues, it’s almost guaranteed this matter will end up in court as a class action.

  16. Kajj says:

    @Derek Balling:

    I really don’t think chargebacks will continue to be as effective if people do them every single day. We’ve already seen stories here on Consumerist of customers getting blacklisted from stores for doing a chargeback, and I would think that numerous chargeback requests would tempt your bank to drop your account.

    The letter was good, and I would advise the OP to hang on to all related paperwork for the inevitable class action. Also maybe look into becoming a multi-millionaire so you can just fly in your private jet.

  17. bvita says:

    Personally, I would file a small claims action against American Airlines for larceny in the form of charging for services not rendered. File for the amount plus court costs.

    Once American gets the summons it’ll cost them a whole lot more than $15 to answer and resolve it. – Once the case has been filed, don’t accept anything less than the $15 + the filing fee.

    I realize that this may sound like a silly answer but I’ll bet that they amend the policy real quick after having to deal with a nuisance case such as this.

  18. Smitherd says:

    @Techno Viking: Of course not.

    I left off my sarcasm tag, though.

  19. nsv says:

    @Forkboy3: How many people won’t notice that they didn’t get the fee back, or forget to fight it? How many figure that $15 isn’t worth several hours of their time?

  20. Forkboy3 says:

    @nsv…..Chargeback can be done with a few clicks of the mouse these days. I’m not one that would normally fight a few dollars and probably wouldn’t go through trouble of writing a letter, but I would take 5 seconds to request a charge back from my credit card company and see how that played out.

    I think the only people that would not fight this would be the business traveler who doesn’t care because their company is picking up the tab. But then you could get corporate accounting involved and it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to fight this, especially if it becomes common.

    I guess time will tell.

  21. JollyJumjuck says:

    Not only should AA keep the money, but Joshua should send them $20 for wasting AA employees’ valuable time in this trivial matter, a long apology letter for having the gall to ask for what rightfully belongs to AA (the checked baggage free), and an oath to fly AA till the end of time because they were graceful enough to deign him permission to fly their splendid airline in the first place.

  22. SkokieGuy says:

    My favorite part of the letter is the close. Instead of hyperventilating that “You’ve lost a customer…I’ll never use you again…etc.”, the OP intelligently indicates that his future business is contingent on how they handle this issue.

    THAT is an incentive for a business to take action!

  23. Poshua says:

    I am the OP. I sent this email at 3:45 PM on July 3, right before the long weekend. Someone got back to me from AA customer relations on Monday around noontime, apologizing and saying they will refund the fee to the credit card I paid it with. So, I am satisfied with the resolution. Thanks, AA customer relations.