There comes a time when we all have to accept defeat and take a loss when our travel plans change. But what Consumerist reader E. has a beef with is that American Airlines would take his money to cancel his flight, but refused to provide proof of that and the fact that the rest of his fare was being held hostage as a “voucher.”
E. realized he’d have to swallow a hefty fee to cancel his nonrefundable ticket, which is irksome, but standard. Going through subsequent hellish customer service calls and various runarounds to get proof that he had paid the fee and still had the balance of his fare being held by American? That should not be standard.
I recently had an experience with American Airlines that completely took me aback. Due to a business meeting change, I was regrettably required to change an international ticket over one month before the flight date. Upon calling American, I was told that my ticket was of the nonrefundable variety. Expecting this, I agreed to the standard (but still draconian) $250 cancellation fee. What surprised me however, was the fact that on top of the $250 fee, the remaining balance (of over $1000) would not be returned to me, but would rather be placed in escrow with American Airlines, in a non-transferable voucher redeemable for flights purchased from the airline only, and only within one year of the original ticket purchase price. Basically, my entire investment in the ticket was locked in with American for one year (and I still had to pay the $250 fee for the privilege).
To make matters worse, when I requested to speak with customer service, I was told that customer service at American no longer speaks to customers. They are only able to be contacted in writing, as this is “the most efficient way of assisting our valued customers”. I could expect a reply within 4-6 business days for this privilege. At the end of this entire conversation, realizing that there was no way that I could salvage any of my ticket cost, (as I was required to fly Delta as my point of origin would change), I regrettably resigned myself to this situation and requested electronic proof of my voucher with receipt.
Imagine my shock when I was told that there was no way for AA to issue any proof whatsoever of my voucher, cancellation, or $250 service fee. I was advised that the system was old, and never designed for such a thing. Instead, I was told to log into the website, and check my account, and see if it said “cancelled” there. If so, I was in good shape. From here, things became even stranger. When I asked how on earth I was supposed to prove that I had a voucher with American (over $1000 after the $250 taken from me due to my change), I was told that I should just hang onto my Orbitz email, and that if I referred to this number in the future, that a friendly AA reservation agent would be able to retrieve this information from my account. I am worried about this for several reasons.
During the several times that I called AA during the course of this episode, each reservations agent was completely and blissfully unaware of the previous conversation that had taken place, necessitating that I re-explain everything again. The fact that I am paying $250 to agree to have AA keep my ticket cost in escrow for one year, and that they can provide absolutely no proof of this fact to me either electronically, or via postal mail, is absolutely criminal in my opinion. I would welcome feedback from any Consumerist readers. Thank you so much.
Forcing a customer to use a voucher within one year is one thing, but not even providing proof that such a voucher exists is just plain crazy talk.