If you think the state of flying is abysmal, consider the cost of not flying. Paul has, and has determined it’s $317. That’s how much American Airlines wanted to charge him for not getting onboard.
Paul writes: “I’m a relatively well travelled person and recently I’ve switched to American Airlines because living in Austin your options are to go with Continental through Houston or American through DFW. I’ve accumulated about 120K miles on AA in the past 3 years, and much more on a mixed bag of other airlines, so I’m no stranger to flying. I share this information only to explain while not a super-frequent flyer, this isn’t my first day on an airplane and the problem I ran into is not something the average traveller will be aware of.
A few weeks ago I booked a round trip ticket from Austin to Los Angeles for work. A few days later I had to add a flight to a remote location that American didn’t fly to so I booked a flight to this remote location with a return to Los Angeles figuring I (or I should really say the company I work for) would have to eat the outbound Austin->Los Angeles flight, but not a big deal. I was to depart on Wednesday so on Tuesday I go to check in and request and upgrade, something I do for every flight because I have about a dozen of them with AA, none of which I’ve ever been able to use. My flight says “reservation cancelled” which is shocking because no one from AA has contacted me to let me know this despite having my email and cell on my profile and the fact I never cancelled my flight home. I called AA to let them know they made a mistake and I still wanted to go home, but they informed me they automatically cancel the return on a round trip flight if you don’t get on the outbound. Fortunately for me, I checked into my flight the day before or I may not have made it home in time for some very important personal business in Austin. No call, no SMS, no email. Just cancelled my important flight home.
Now this is where it gets worse. I explain to the service rep I did not ask for my flight to be cancelled and I need to get home. I’m expecting an apology, but what I got was a $167 increase in fare to book the same flight home using my existing flights plus a $150 change fee. I asked her, for clarification, that she wanted AA to charge me an extra $317 for the same flight I already paid for to not have taken half of it. I should note the original flight was about the same price as the total change fees. I asked the question 2 more times just so I was clear and hung up. Then I went online and booked the SAME FLIGHT again for $220. Not only did they try to charge me $317 dollars to use half of what I paid for, they try to gouge me in the process.”
So watch out folks, if you don’t make the outbound flight, don’t automatically assume you’ll be able to hop on the return flight. Most airlines will cancel you and this stipulation is listed in the contract terms for your ticket. The reason is that single-legs can be more expensive than a roundtrip ticket so they want to discourage people from trying to “game the system.”