American Airlines Doesn't Care If You Were Rushed To The ER With Appendicitis. You Are A No Show, And Will Receive No Refund.

“What is ya’lls experience with dealing with AA when the passenger has a case of appendicitis? My sister is going under the knife in London right now, and was admitted to the ER 6hrs before her scheduled flight back to Seattle. We’ve called AA and they say no chance of getting any sort of re-booking, rebate, coupon, or whatever because she was listed as a “No Show” for the flight. We called the airline before the flight to inform them of the situation.”

We’re not sure yet of what the recovery time will be, so we don’t know when she’ll need to fly back. Could be a week, could be more. Luckily she has her bf’s family there with whom she can stay during the recovery. I live in Munich, and my mother lives in Portland, Or where my sister will finally be returning to. Alaska Airlines is who she was flying with from Seattle to Portland and they said no problem with a reschedule for no fee which really makes American look like the bad guy.

The booking agency she used, Students Travel or something like that said they could draft some letters to send to AA, but that we shouldn’t expect any sort of a response for 6-8 months, and ‘no’ would be the likely response.

I know I should probably write up a formal letter of request, with some paperwork, and perform an executive e-mail bomb but I’m not sure how quickly I can get paperwork from the ER in London to me, in Munich.

Do you have any advice/recommendations?


Why couldn’t she just board the flight and deal with her condition in the U.S.?

The most frequent complication of appendicitis is perforation. Perforation of the appendix can lead to a periappendiceal abscess (a collection of infected pus) or diffuse peritonitis (infection of the entire lining of the abdomen and the pelvis). The major reason for appendiceal perforation is delay in diagnosis and treatment. In general, the longer the delay between diagnosis and surgery, the more likely is perforation. The risk of perforation 36 hours after the onset of symptoms is at least 15%. Therefore, once appendicitis is diagnosed, surgery should be done without unnecessary delay.

Oh, right. If she followed American Airlines’ expert medical advice, her appendix would have ruptured and turned her abdomen into a messy pool of pus-filled pain.

Sheesh. We hope your sister gets better soon! Absolutely launch the mighty executive email carpet bomb. Check the bottom of this post for a list of target addresses. You can also try a chargeback with your sister’s credit card company.

What other ideas do you Consumerists have? Can anyone get Richard Branson to swoop in and offer a lift on Virgin Atlantic? Share your wisdom in the comments.

Appendicitis and Appendectomy [MedicineNet]
RELATED: Even If You Have Colon Cancer, Spirit Air Doesn’t Give Refunds
(Photo: Getty Images)


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Another instance of “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
    it seems I say that a lot about the airlines.

  2. jwissick says:

    Travel insurance and charge back are the two words you need.

  3. lalala1956 says:

    How is the airline at fault for her inability to fly? Someone is obviously going to lose money because she couldn’t fly and I see no reason why it should be the airline and not her.

  4. calvinneal says:

    Travel insurance, about 50 bucks for a $1000.00 ticket.This is simply malfeasance on the part of the ticket buyer. Why does crap like this make the Web. No one was screwed, snookered or tricked. The terms of purchase are quite clear. She could have bought a refundable ticket or travel insurance. This was her choice.

  5. cosby says:

    Travel insurance is what she needed. Unless her tickets came with the ability to switch them out a charge back should not be used and hell the chances of the credit card compnay siding with you if you bought some non-refundable tickets are low.

    I can’t really fault the airline here. She couldn’t make it to the flight. Would you think different if she slept in and missed it?

  6. Buckler says:

    You can certainly talk about the terms of the ticketing, and how it’s not the airlines’ fault, but in this case I think a show of human decency and compassion would go a long way towards not only retaining her as a customer, but gaining a few new customers as well. If this had been filed under “Above and Beyond” instead of “Complaints”, it would have been a nice feather in AA’s cap.

  7. balthisar says:

    I fly AA quite a bit. I always get the cheapest tickets with the most restrictions. Why does she need a refund? For $75 (sometimes $100), she can use the same ticket for the same flight on a different day.

  8. taney71 says:

    The airline is not at fault here. Its not there problem and certainly it is bad business to basically allow for a refund for any reason. Seriously where do you draw the line?

  9. SarcasticDwarf says:


    I’m not sure how much you fly, but if you fly on any kind of regular basis $50 on a $1000 ticket is a ripoff. You would simply never use the insurance enough to justify paying that much. Even if it was $25 you would be pushing it.

  10. @taney71: For some reason, I think it will be a bit difficult to get that kind of deal for a flight from London to Portland.

    I’m starting to feel sorry for anyone that associates with half of the commenters on this site. It seems if this woman were their friend, they’d just tell her, “Oh, you have appendicitis? Well screw you!”

  11. FF_Mac says:

    @balthisar: In TFA, they said AA would not re-book.

    That being said, this is why travel insurance exists. She should check with the credit card issuer she bought the tickets with. Some offer travel insurance just by your purchasing the tickets with their card.

  12. bugsbenny36 says:

    Don’t the airlines make an exception for medical emergencies/issues? Isn’t it on the air contract?

  13. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Make an exception for this and you have to make exceptions for everything, including death ;)

    Seriously though, HomerJay is right–just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Bottom line is that they can and technically, appendicitis (or any other reason) is not the airline’s problem. The airlines need every dime they can get and have no motivation to give leniency to anyone.

  14. AT203 says:

    Not taking sides, but I’d like to interject something. If this person doesn’t fly, there is an unexpectedly empty seat. If the airline refunds that ticket, they lose the money for that empty seat. Except… airlines overbook their flights because they know some people will cancel. So it seems the airline has three options. Refund the ticket, attempt to book someone last minute, potentially lose money. Refuse to refund the ticket, and pocket the money. Or, continue to overbook flights. It seems there isn’t an ideal solution here. The Consumerist has covered the problems with overbooking in past posts…

  15. jryan says:

    She could have gotten on the plane and then had an attack once in the air. American would have been forced to land in London, costing them who knows how much money, as well as delaying a whole lot of passengers.
    And she would have been within her rights.

    Or she could do the right thing and miseed the flight to deal with her condition.

  16. Amy Alkon says:

    You choose to gamble by not getting travel insurance, you pay the price. I rent apartments in Paris when I go there. If I don’t show, I lose my deposit. Just because the airline’s bigger, why should they (and, ultimately, other consumers) eat the price of your problems?

    I get a little tired of people here who want to toss corporate e-mail bombs for stuff like this.

  17. velvetjones says:

    First of all, they should call the credit card that the ticket was purchased with and ask if she has any coverage, second call AA again. If someone you know has status with AA have them call the Gold or Platinum desk on her behalf. If you get a shitty answer from someone over the phone, say thank you and call back in a few hours after you’ve calmed down. I’ve done this many times. Just say – Oh I called before about XYZ and didn’t quite understand the answer. I just want to make sure I didn’t get bad information. Then explain your problem again.

  18. saltmine says:

    @jwissick: On what grounds would she be able to do a chargeback? None.

    I don’t think a refund is in order here. It makes sense (and it doesn’t hurt) to take every route available to ask for one, but if they say no, that’s to be expected. It would be nice if they let her rebook without a change fee, though.

  19. Bay State Darren says:

    @calvinneal: Why does crap like this make the Web.(?)
    “The Web”, as a whole, doesn’t really have editorial standards. My comments on this site make it on the web, and they’re absolute crap!

    @AT203: I’ve never come close to understanding the strategy of airline overbooking [selling seats that aren’t available because, well, they’ve already been sold], but shouldn’t that mean they can just put a standby on the plane and not make any difference? Everybody, including the passenger who rather inconveniently scheduled her appendicitis for the day of the flight, is eventually gonna fly with the airline on the same route the same number of times, so shouldn’t it all balance out? She’s still gotta get across the Atlantic and, IMHO, shouldn’t have to pay twice to fly once.

  20. pylon83 says:

    To all of those claiming the company should have “compassion” or “have a heart”:
    Your arguments would be moot if it weren’t for all of the over-entitled jerks out there who think that if they screw up (directly/indirectly, voluntarily or not) that they should be made whole again at the expense of the big bad corporation. The sense of entitlement amongst the commenters here, and really society as a whole, is ridiculous. People take the risks of buying non-refundable tickets without considering the risks, then when it comes back and bites them in the a$$ they scream, cry, and complain about how they are getting screwed. Of course, when they booked the ticket and picked the cheapest option, bypassing those that said “no restrictions”, etc. they were delighted that the company was offering such low fares. I’m not sure why the Consumerist keeps picking up these damn stories, is the flow of legitimate issues slow?

  21. TheDude06 says:

    hmmm well it does certainly suck for them, but the airline did all they could. they had the plane gassed up with a pilot onboard waiting for her. This is why emergency medical treatment sucks.

    If they had say… tickets to a concert, youd never ask for a refund right?

  22. thegingerman says:

    Do all these commentators work for American Airlines or something? How unreasonable is it for a person who can’t make the flight due to severe illness – and whose friend/sister/whoever called beforehand to tell the airline as much – to be able to reschedule a flight? What if the person had just called that day and wanted to stay longer? They likely could’ve rescheduled for whatever the charge for that is. $100, $200? American Airlines is being completely unreasonable. Just offer the woman to reschedule the flight for whatever it costs to do that. Maybe her health insurance would even cover it. End of story. No need for an executive e-mail bomb, and no problem for the sick girl.

  23. thegingerman says:

    by the way … I don’t think this girl is asking for a refund. A refund won’t get her back stateside. She just needs to reschedule. Why they can’t do that for the standard rescheduling fee is beyond me. Especially since they called beforehand.

  24. grouse says:

    I’ve flown AA a lot. In my experience ill passengers (especially hospitalization) are allowed to change their reservations without fee. Check your fare rules. They will probably say something like “TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE. WAIVED FOR SCHEDULE CHANGE/ILLNESS OR DEATH OF PASSENGER OR FAMILY MEMBER.”

    Now we are only left with a dispute over whether you informed AA before the flight or not. They say that it never went into their system. Try to stay on this point, not whether they will allow a refund in general–they will.

  25. Maverickewu says:

    Here’s the question I have.

    Since the person was a no-show, did someone fly in her seat? I.E. The airline industry has such a record for overbooking flights, or the possibility that someone was on standby that her seat could have been taken by someone else. Typically in cases if someone else flies in your seat (I.e. if they call for volunteers to take a later flight), the person is compensated.

    If this woman’s seat remained empty, then yes, she’d be SOL. However, if her seat was used by a passenger, then it should be counted as the airline selling her seat for her, since she had every right to that seat. The airline should compensate her whatever was paid for her seat– which ironically, if it was a last minute standby, would likely mean that they sold her seat to someone else for more than she paid for her seat originally.

    And ironically, my grandmother ended up in the hospital the morning she was supposed to fly. She was asked by the hospital staff if they’d like anything written up to send to the airline…

  26. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @grouse: Hey, that was a really informative comment. If it’s true that AA offers a refund exception for illness-related schedule changes, then that throws everybody else’s comments out the window. We’d have to see the actual fare rules for this particular ticket to be sure.

    I wonder if the airline might have deliberately “lost” the record of this man’s call about his sister, or whether it was a random mistake. (This assumes he’s not lying, but for the moment I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.)

  27. mikelotus says:

    I love thinking about how its not AA’s fault as i fly on their crappy, 35 year old plus MD-80’s between Washington and Dallas. The airline with the oldest fleet in the business. They suck. If my company did not require me to fly on their crap planes, I would not. As long as they keep doing things to drive customers away, perhaps this will help lead them to the well deserved extinction.

  28. Scuba Steve says:

    You should always be allowed a refund if you have a good reason for missing an event, be it a plane trip, a concert, or even a freaking subway ride.

    I don’t want to hear about the “opportunity cost” involved, or the risk people take when they do business with big corporations who would like nothing better than to screw over the average consumer for more profit. Why? Because it’s totally irrelevant.

    In a fair and civilized society, unforeseen medical issues should be a reasonable release from contract when the party did not receive any good or service due to said issue. A refund is only fair.

  29. saltmine says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: I doubt it. It’s one of the only reasons to buy traveler’s insurance – the other being if the flight is cancelled. Otherwise, if illness was grounds for a refund, a lot of people would be faking it, as it’s a pretty easy thing to do.

  30. saltmine says:

    @Scuba Steve: No you shouldn’t. You buy a ticket – you’ve fulfilled your end of the contract. They fulfill their end of the contract by offering the service. You don’t show up, not their problem.

  31. Scuba Steve says:

    @saltmine: Last time I checked they were selling flights, not tickets. And requiring a doctor’s notice and ER bill/report should be proof enough for anyone.

  32. jamesdenver says:

    Didn’t we just have a post like this? – the one where the guy drove to his destination and expected to fly back.

    I’d rather have the rules be clear and simple than CSRs making decisions about who gets refunds based on the severity of what.

    If my house burns down or I’m late because I’m feeding ducks at the park – I don’t care that the airline doesn’t care.

    It’s not being apologetic to the airlines, it’s just knowing the restrictions and workarounds (trip insurance or cc chargeback)

    I just DID have big overseas trip planned with two family members. We canceled due to some medical issues with one, and we DID buy trip insurance. Easy refund. Of course I wouldn’t buy it with a $200 ticket – but that’s the way it it.

    Again – to me a simple black and white policy is better than waivers based on personal decisions, which is unfair to many others.

    james []

  33. davere says:

    I had a similar situation in which I could not fly as scheduled due to a medical emergency. AA was of absolutely no help. I was just asking to be rebooked at a later time. They wouldn’t budge. I tried going to the airport and talking to a manager there in the hopes that he’d allow me to rebook. He wouldn’t do it.

    Finally I pulled my secret weapon. I called a friend of mine who worked for AA at the time. He pulled some strings and got a special note added to my reservation requesting they issue me a voucher equal to the price that I had paid for my flight. I was just asked to go to the airport and request it. I had the pleasure of dealing with the same manager who in a very bad mood issued me a voucher per the instructions in my reservation. He asked me how I had accomplished that, I just smiled and said “I finally talked to someone who was willing to do the right thing.”

    I used my voucher and I haven’t bothered with AA ever since.

  34. JollyJumjuck says:

    @Maverickewu: Of course we’ll never know if the seat was filled last-minute or not. Even if it were, the airline couldn’t be bothered to send this woman a refund or even a travel voucher. I sincerely hope the airline apologists on here are some day in a situation where they need the compassion of their fellow man and it is heartlessly refused because “They are just following the rules” and “It isn’t their fault anyway.”

  35. pylon83 says:

    @Scuba Steve:
    Your assertion is ridiculous. You’re asking a corporation to make case-by-case decisions on refunds, which imposes far to great of a burden upon them. If you buy a concert ticket, and miss the concert for a “good reason”, why should you be entitled to a refund? The venue makes certain decisions based on how many tickets are sold, and if after the event they have 20% of the total tickets sold demanding refunds, they could (and most certainly would) end up royally screwed. Further, what constitutes a “good reason” to you may not constitute one to me, or anyone else for that matter. Black and White rules that everyone is made aware of (at least constructively) are the only way to fairly operate ticket-based systems.

  36. eelmonger says:

    @Scuba Steve:

    You know what, the airlines do. The thing this they also offer tickets at a discounted price that are more restrictive. Most people take the cheaper tickets because most of the time you don’t need a refund. If you want to be safe, don’t buy non-refundable tickets. If you do buy them, then you’re explicitly waiving the privilege of a refund.

  37. chili_dog says:

    Only Fly Southwest. They don;t go to where you want to go. then DON’t

  38. jamesdenver says:

    Scuba Steve better said than me. I don’t want CSRs and supervisors deciding refunds on a case by case basis. It’s unfair.

  39. Scuba Steve says:

    @eelmonger: I believe refunds should be more than a privilege, personally.

  40. swalve says:


    We can’t complain when a company follows the rules agreed upon when the ticket was purchased. You can’t criticize someone for NOT going above and beyond.

    @AT203: Good point.

    @Scuba Steve: You’re kidding, right? What do you do for a living? Would you be OK with not getting paid because your boss had the flu?

  41. saltmine says:

    @Scuba Steve: Gah. Really, you want to get in to technicalities? Yes. They’re selling flights, not tickets. But the way you purchase entry into that flight is by BUYING a TICKET. It states clearly in the rules…non refundable. That’s why you buy insurance. You don’t like the rules, don’t buy the ticket.

  42. maztec says:

    It is called basic human decency. Many corporations have a hard time understanding that they are made up of people, are treated as a human entity for most intents and purposes, and should share responsibility in the department of human decency. Unfortunately, the acts and concepts of common good, decency, good samaritanism, and understanding cannot [and probably should not] be forced upon others.

    Oops, wait, this is the Internet. Silly me, I shouldn’t have brought that stuff up, that’s just asking to get flamed.

  43. No, it’s not the airline’s fault (nor is it the passenger’s) that she couldn’t fly. BUT, denying her a refund/rebooking is just mean spirited. It’s decisions like that that keep our society so broken. Showing compassion isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. AA should rebook her because it’s the right thing to do, the nice thing to do. Do good and good will come to you.

  44. saltmine says:

    @Scuba Steve: As if it’s incredibly hard to fake a note from a doctor. Did you go to high school?

  45. saltmine says:

    BUT, I do think since they called before they should be entitled to rebook. I’m not that heartless.

  46. lalala1956 says:

    I wonder if all the people saying that AA should give her a refund would allow the passenger to back out of a $600 to $1600 contract with them at their cost.

  47. lalala1956 says:

    Also I would note that every airline I’ve dealt with allows you to rebook for at most a $200 rebooking fee. The problem for this lady is that she didn’t book her ticket through the airline and she is subject to the booking agency’s policy as well as AA’s.

    I know this because I had a similar experience with Orbitz

  48. lalala1956 says:

    always book directly from the airline. Almost always a better deal and much easier to rebook.

  49. swalve says:

    @lalala1956: That’s a very good point- businesses are always going to be nicer and more forgiving of people who are more profitable to them.

  50. SOhp101 says:

    Travel insurance or rebook your flight. Moving on…

  51. Buran says:

    @saltmine: Some would argue that “medical emergency, therefore the service paid for was not needed, yet merchant refused to satisfactorily resolve the situation” IS a valid reason for a chargeback.

    Good thing I already refuse to fly AA due to their lies and what they did to the St. Louis region. I’m waiting for them to wither and die. Crap like this doesn’t make people willing to keep giving them money.

  52. nursetim says:

    She is eventually going to fly back home, so it’s not like she is not going to be using their services, it’s just that something unexpected came up. You would think that someone with a brain (which is harder to come by these days in corporate America) would be able to figure it out, and upon receipt of proof from the hospital, would re-book. I noticed Alaska Airlines figured it out, which she was going to fly on for the last leg of her trip home. I would like someone explain to me how AA will lose money in this situation.

  53. Buran says:

    @maztec: Of course, arguing that keeping your word is part of human decency too does come up in these threads.

  54. diamondmaster1 says:


    I assume that you therefore have no auto insurance, since the same logic would apply.

  55. grouse says:

    Saltmine: Most tickets bought from AA do allow refunds in case of illness, whether you think that makes business sense or not. I copied the above fare rules (“TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE. WAIVED FOR SCHEDULE CHANGE/ILLNESS OR DEATH OF PASSENGER OR FAMILY MEMBER.”) from the cheapest LON-SEA “non-refundable” roundtrip I could find on AA.

    By calling John’s sister a no-show, AA is saying they did not hear from her in advance, not that they refuse to give refunds to hospitalized passengers.

  56. Squeezer99 says:

    credit card chargeback?

  57. swalve says:

    @Squeezer99: No. She bought a ticket, and got it. A ticket gives you admittance to the show, plane or boat.

  58. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I think we have all learned by now that if something happens to you and you miss your flight for whatever reason, it’s your problem. And although I think it sucks ass, I tend to agree. It’s not the airlines fault that you got appendicitis or decided to drive instead of fly, or this or that. When you bought the ticket, you knew you couldn’t get a refund. Yes, appendicitis sucks, but it isn’t AA’s fault or problem.

  59. Buran says:

    @grouse: There’s the answer why a chargeback is the right answer in this case: the policy specifically states that the ticket IS refundable in event of illness, emergency surgery certainly applies to that category, and AA, in violation of the agreement you entered into when you bought the ticket, refused to refund the money. For that reason, you can file a chargeback with the reason of “merchant refused valid refund in violation of sales agreement”. Especially since AA WERE notified in advance and decided to breach the contract.

    I did not see similar copies of the policies at hand in other threads on these kinds of issues so in those threads I argued against a chargeback since it seemed that no such exemption existed. IN THIS CASE, there is one, and so my opinion is different, in this specific thread.

  60. Buran says:

    @swalve: See grouse’s post for why it’s a little different in this thread vs. the two other ones where I agreed with your sentiment. (did anyone ever dig up the actual policy in those?)

  61. Buran says:

    @nursetim: Except for the fact that she can and should give her business to someone else, after calling her credit card issuer and having the charge removed since AA refuses to abide by their own policies.

  62. Buran says:

    @aaron8301: Except when there’s a clause in the contract addressing illness. Violation of contract is a “problem” for whoever violated the contract in the first place; in this case, that’d be AA. You are saying that it’s tough shit for whoever breaches, and I agree. However, the wrong party is receiving the blame by nearly all the posters.

  63. saltmine says:

    @grouse: Really? Because here’s what I found on the cheapest LON-SEA non-refundable, in the refunds/reissues section:


    Don’t see anything in there about illness/death of passenger or family member.

  64. tmed says:

    So, many of the commenters here feel that it is acceptable to pay $50 because it is unreasonable to expect AA to have basic human consideration.

    Where do you draw the line? You draw the line somewhere after a verifiable medical emergency.

    We are talking about straight up free money for the airline. The airline is allowed to sell that seat more than once, it likely doesn’t cost them money.

    There is no excuse for allowing a company to treat customers without consideration and “You should have paid extra” is particularly ludicrous. Wake up, sheep! Buying something, or selling something is no excuse for treating others ludicrously insensitively.

  65. JustRunTheDamnBallBillick. says:

    I can understand them saying “No refund” for this, but any sense of decency would let her at least rebook. Worst case they could give her standby priority on a future date for the same flight, which would add minimal cost (her weight’s fuel cost, couple bucks at most).

  66. glass says:


    do you *like* being an asshole?

  67. pylon83 says:

    How is lalala1956 being an asshole? Further, I don’t think name calling is appropriate either. lalala1956 makes a couple of good points, and the simple fact that you might not agree with them does not necessitate calling him/her an asshole.

  68. s35flyer says:

    Rules are rules. Ok with me.

  69. Scuba Steve says:

    @saltmine: It’s also incredibly easy to call the hospital and speak with someone that can verify the visit. It may take time, but that’s never stopped the airlines from delaying refunds before.

  70. pylon83 says:

    @Scuba Steve:
    Are you familiar with patient privacy laws? Some hospitals may interpret them to not even allow them to verbally verify a visit. Try again.

  71. scoosdad says:

    “If she followed American Airlines’ expert medical advice, her appendix would have ruptured and turned her abdomen into a messy pool of pus-filled pain.”

    Geez Carey, where did it say in the paragraphs immediately following that statement of yours that American Airlines told her to fly home with them anyway, or gave them any kind of medical advice whatsoever? A little sensationalist, wouldn’t you say?

  72. scoosdad says:

    @scoosdad: I meant to say, “in the paragraphs immediately prior to that statement of yours”.

  73. Bryan Price says:

    I decided to send in a GOOD story about airlines after reading this.

  74. Maverickewu says:

    @swalve: Actually no, it doesn’t. With airlines, a ticket gives you a right to a boarding pass. If it gave you a right to a seat, and the plane was overbooked, technically the airlines would be screwed for breach of contract. With most airlines, once you get that boarding pass, you’re screwed. I.E. If something happens after getting checked in and you don’t make your flight, then it truly is your loss. But with most airlines, if you don’t get your boarding pass, the ticket is still valid for travel on that route only. (I know someone who lives in Washington State who has a ticket valid for travel from Orlando to Seattle only).

    Think about it this way. What if there were 1000 tickets to a concert, and they sold 1100. Wouldn’t 100 people who paid for something be pissed off?

    As for others who talk about the cost of flying. I hate to say it, but this is a BS excuse. That plane would have flown even if nobody bought that seat.

    The reasonable thing for the airline to do would to be to offer her a ticket for that route on standby, as it’s both reasonable, and doesn’t cost the airline anything in the end.

  75. Michael Belisle says:

    I missed a flight on American Airlines once from Phoenix to London. The no-show is not an absolute thing, because somehow I got AA to send me a voucher less the $100 change fee. One rep tried to block me, but proceeded when I said “I was told by another rep that I could obtain a voucher.” So keep trying, since Appendicitis is a far better story than “I thought my flight left tomorrow”. (Or maybe they have more sympathy for brain farts than unavoidable circumstances.)

    I also had a similar experience where I missed a flight on US AIrways and convinced the rep to remove the no-show flag. In theory, I have a credit for future travel with US Airways within a year, but haven’t had opportunity to test yet.

  76. homerjay says:

    @swalve: Well, I didn’t criticize. I simply pointed out that just because your policies allow you to do something doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of the misfortune of others for the sake of profit.

    I COULD criticize and say its slimy of them to do this, but I didn’t and I won’t– but I could.

  77. KogeLiz says:

    here we go again

  78. grouse says:

    Saltmine: It’s in the penalty section, not the refund/reissue section. Look again. Or just try using the find feature of your browser to search for ILLNESS.

  79. grouse says:

    Saltmine: Try looking in the penalty section of the fare rules. Or just search for ILLNESS with your browser’s find function.

  80. grouse says:

    Sorry, didn’t post the first time.

  81. coren says:

    @pylon83: And some might not. Which they won’t know unless they actually make the effort and try. It doesn’t seem like they have.

  82. coren says:

    @Maverickewu: So if they overbook, then they have to give out too many boarding passes, right? Which are good for seats, or do they have some other technicality to weasel out of that one?

  83. coren says:

    @lalala1956: Well it’s not the airline, they overbook as a rule, so they probably had 8 people standing there waiting to take the seat.

  84. pylon83 says:

    But if ALL of the hospitals won’t do it, what do they say to the customer who was treated at a hospital that won’t confirm? It would create an unfair system that is terribly flawed.

  85. algorhythmic says:

    I just went through this with American Airlines myself. I had a non-refundable international reservation for March and was able to obtain a full refund because of a medical issue that was diagnosed after I bought the ticket. I contacted American Airlines reservations to figure out my options, and the CSR informed me that refunds are indeed issued for medical related cancellations of international flights. I was required to cancel the reservation and then provide documentation from my doctor. My refund was processed within one week. As far as I can tell, this policy is not published on their website because I could not find it anywhere.

  86. ClayS says:

    The passenger was rushed to the ER and then into surgery for a life threatening condition. Her life was saved and will likely fully recover.

    She is out a few hundred dollars for an airline ticket. Is that her biggest problem? If so, she should thank her lucky stars.

    If you buy a non-refundable ticket you save money but there is a small risk that something may ruin your plans. You know that up-front. You can purchase travel insurance for a few dollars more, but you elect not to. The odds are against it, but sometimes you lose.

    I have no sympathy for her little financial loss.

  87. B Tex says:

    I WORKED for AA for 7 years and I have to tell you…..They are as much cold hearted assholes to work for as they are to fly with. It was so bad there even management in the maintenance and engineering goup (the group that fixes your airplanes) tried to unionize. Think about it, management, tried to unionize because they could not trust their own leaders.

    What a great place to work nad fly with…not.

  88. SadSam says:

    The same thing sorta but sorta didn’t happen to me. I showed up to fly on a super early cheap SouthWest tix and had forgotten my ID. Of course I couldn’t check my bag or fly without my ID so I explained the situation to the rep and was ready to turn myself around and go home. The rep asked whether I still wanted or needed to fly and I said sure…. and she said go home get your ID and come back at 10:00 a.m. for the next flight. What’s the charge, I ask. The rep, nothing, you were the first customer I ever had who didn’t get angry of blame the airline for something like this.

    So the bottom line is the airlines can totally bend the rules and rebook for no charge, some charge, etc. It helps to be super nice and to not expect anything.

  89. taka2k7 says:

    Ironically, she probably saved money by having the surgery in the UK. They typically don’t charge foreigners for surgery like this. I’m sure she’d at least have a co-pay for surgery in the US IF she had insurance.

    Regardless, AA should have at least let her re-book, minus ticket change fee.

    A more compassionate company would have waived the fee with medical documentation. Companies should have clear policies regarding stuff like this.

    Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the airlines are in cahoots with the travel insurance companies. It’s like charging for a ticket change fee even if there is no change.

  90. SarahInSeattle says:

    I sense that AA is inconsistent with their application of their rules related to passengers who are unable to fly due to an emergency illness.

    I recently flew AA as part of an Alaska Air flight package between DC and Seattle. I can, at times, get edema when I fly. And we’re not talking about a little toe-swelling folks, this is scary-your-ankle-is-the-size-of-your-thigh-and-breathing-is-difficult
    type edema. I did everything I could to prevent getting it on my return flight (I’d managed, through these tactics, to avoid it on my flight to DC). However, due to turbulence on my connecting flight through Chicago, I couldn’t get up and walk around, or do the many other things to prevent edema.

    On my Chicago layover, I noticed swelling building in my lower limbs and realized that if I got on my flight, I’d probably end up in Seattle’s ER again (edema like mine can be dangerous–you could “throw a clot” and die). I notified the gate agents, told them I was afraid flying would cause my health to worsen.

    AA put me up in the Chicago Airport Hilton for the night and re-booked me at no charge for my flight the next day. All AA needs is permission from the their terminal manager to rebook you for a health-related no-show. Have the boyfriend’s family go in person to talk to the gate agents, bring some documentation, and see if you can get this straightened out.

  91. pepe the king prawn says:

    @jwissick: Travel insurance and charge back are the two words you need.

    hey, i think that’s four words.

  92. DrGirlfriend says:

    I love hearing from the “I have no sympathy” contingent. I picture them crossing their arms and shaking their heads somberly.

    If there is no policy regarding illness (which there should be), then shouldn’t there be one? Just how expensive is it for an airline to, after having received proof of a medical emergency, simply rebook her onto another flight?

    So currently it’s not an airline’s problem if you have a medical emergency and you miss your flight. Fine, business is business and all that jazz. But wouldn’t it be better if they *did* make accomodations for this kind of thing? And isn’t that actually *feasible* for them to do so? In our urge to be all “rules are rules”, we forget that sometimes the rules could actually be improved.

  93. swalve says:

    @drgirlfriend: Because if they did that, they’d have to draw up a list of acceptable emergencies and unacceptable emergencies. And how long before or after the emergency does it count?

    Sadly, it has to be all or nothing. Ticket is refundable or not.

  94. Trojan69 says:

    The ticket holder has an affirmative duty to notify the airline ASAP if they have a condition that won’t allow travel. Even a couple of hours advance notice can allow the airline to recoup potential lost revenue. It is entirely unclear if this person did that. If it didn’t happen? No refund, no nothing, imo.

    If this was done, then I would give them stand-by status, but no promises. Or, they could get a refund. The beauty part for me, as an airline, is that if they take the refund, they’ll be stuck paying the walk-up fare wherever they go. Unless there is a super cheap alternative airline, this will cost the pax more than the fare I refunded.

  95. Boberto says:

    What no one here has said yet, is that ALL Airlines (American included) put us through last minute changes, cancellations, late arrivals/departures AD NAUSEAM.

    And we sit and take it. Congress starts talking about introducing passenger rights legislation and never does. Thats because the industry always puts some “guidelines” in place, last minute. Then they ignore them because they can.

    One of the worst things that happened after 911 was the new attitude of all Airline personnel, including ticketing agents. Its unconscionable.

    My rule for Air travel? I won’t fly if I can drive it in eight hours or less. It’s just not worth dealing with a police state enforced by Air Stewards and Ticketing Agents.

    I’m glad to remember the days before deregulation. Airlines were only able to compete with service.

  96. swalve says:

    And what happens when there are charges of discrimination? We all saw that show about SWA where people would make all sorts of demands, and blame racism when they didn’t get whatever they wanted. You leave it up to the discretion of any single person, and you open yourself up to all kinds of trouble. Real and imagined.

  97. JerseyJarhead says:

    There IS a policy called reasonableness and decency, and the airlines almost never follow it. Just as in this case.

    As for all you airline sycophants, quislings and apologists, please go work for your favorite carrier and you can abuse passengers all you want. This is the f***ing CONSUMERIST website.

  98. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Two words: Caveat Emptor.

  99. ClayS says:


    I agree with everything you said. I avoid air travel whenever possible. And I used to fly about 30 round trips annually. The flying experience has gotten steadily worse. Deregulation has failed miserably in the airline industry. I live in the NY metro area and normally fly out of Newark. The demand for air travel is so great that the area airports are way overscheduled. There currently is no relief in sight. The little problems people have with expecting refunds on non-refundable bargain airfares is insignificant.

  100. DrGirlfriend says:

    @swalve: Any medical condition that requires hospitalization should fall under the “let’s rebook you” category.

  101. Neurotic1 says:

    This reminds me of an article that I’ve read about a year ago about a traffic cop that gave an elderly lady a j-walking ticket because she couldn’t cross the street fast enough. Apparently the green light going her direction was programmed to be a certain length that made it almost impossible for kids, let alone senior citizens. But the cop gave her the ticket anyway because “rules are the rules.” And like many of you said earlier, judgements cannot be made on a case by case basis because that would be too unfair. Oh come on, you guys know that’s BS!

  102. seth1066 says:

    From the AA website FAQ:

    Q: I have a nonrefundable American Airlines ticket that I am not going to use. Can I still get a refund?

    A: Nonrefundable tickets generally cannot be refunded. However, exceptions may be available under the following circumstances:

    * Death of the passenger, immediate family member, or traveling companion.
    * Schedule changes implemented by American Airlines.
    * In addition, certain illnesses may be considered if your ticket included international travel (along with travel to or from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

    Upon request taxes and fees not imposed by the airline may be refunded if the airline’s obligation to remit the tax or fee depends upon use of the ticket for travel. Taxes and fees will not be refunded if the airline’s obligation to remit the tax or fee arises from the collection of the tax or fee. All taxes and fees imposed by the United States government fall within this category and are not refundable.

  103. pylon83 says:

    Ah, another commenter who can’t stand to have opinions that don’t align with his/her own voiced in a public forum. I’ll ask again, how informative and legitimate would this site be if everyone always agreed and no one brought up the other side of the issue?

  104. consumersruule says:

    I always buy insurance before traveling internationally. On my last trip I got sick and got to cash in on it. While it’s a bummer to be told “sorry,” it’s a live and learn thing like not having the right car or home insurance.

  105. Buran says:

    @drgirlfriend: They, um, do have an exemption for these emergencies. Don’t all the people who are totally ignoring this fact READ the preceding posts!?

  106. Buran says:

    @Neurotic1: At least the fact that you can fight tickets is codified into law, so if the ticket really was a BS ticket, she could have fought it and won an order from a judge to fix the light.

  107. pylon83 says:

    I’m not sure that it has been proven. Really, the only thing that will prove that an exemption exists is to see the fare rules that applied to the particular flight in question. Further, it is still questionable whether or not they informed them before the flight. I’m not sure I’m willing to take their word for it. We don’t know if when they called, they were told to call another number, etc. The lack of details regarding the pre-flight call are lacking to the point that I question the validity of the claim.

  108. pylon83 says:

    I’ll sort of agree with you here. While I think that it most certainly would have been thrown out, I don’t see the judge ordering the light “fixed”, as I don’t think it would be considered broken. The judiciary is likely to defer to the traffic department when making decisions regarding the flow of traffic at particular intersections, and the timing of the lights.

  109. Buran says:

    @pylon83: Maybe, but I really, really, really doubt they randomly apply this policy to just some flights or others. Until someone with direct knowledge of the situation says something, I’m firmly convinced this was a breach of contract on their part.

  110. Buran says:

    @pylon83: Except when it’s apparent that the timing is set such that the police can use that light as a license to lift money from peoples’ wallets. THAT a judge can order fixed.

  111. pylon83 says:

    Bah. That’s a huge stretch and is based on a conspiracy theory.

  112. joellevand says:

    I was in AZ once on holiday and got a bad ear infection. Called America West the day before the flight, said “hey, I have a bad ear infection and am on doctor’s orders not to return to the East Coast for another week until the infection is over — could lead to hearing loss due to cabin pressure” and they changed my ticket without incident.

    Of course, that was ten years ago, before most airlines got into serious financial $hit.

    Moreover, that was their CSRs going above and beyond. My ticket said no refunds, no transfers — but they took the doctor’s word and mine and I even ended up in a cheaper seat and with a $6 voucher.

    I wouldn’t expect that service from every airline — as I said, they went ABOVE AND BEYOND what was required — but it did leave me recommending America West to every person I knew up until they were bought out by US Airways. I’ve heard they’ve gone to hell since then, but most of my flights are transatlantic now, so I can’t speak from experience.

  113. bravo369 says:

    I just don’t understand why airlines are held to a higher regard than anything else. You can get a refund on anything you purchase at any store so why is it that something that is a MAJOR expense has to get written off by the purchaser. There really needs to be a law passed because these airline companies (and cruises and anything else) are really hurting the customers.

  114. cosby says:


    You can buy tickets that are refundable or you can buy the cheaper tickets that are sold with no refund or exchange. You have a choice. Hell if you buy a ticket to a show and you don’t make it they will generaly not refund you. This is the same with a lot of services that are based on a time schedule.

    The fact that the airline apears to be following the rules that the person agreed to is not news.

    If they did make bend the rules for her then she that is news as they are going above and beyond.

  115. pylon83 says:

    Yes, more government regulation and government meddling in private business transactions is definitely the way to go. The Government should certainly protect people from entering into contracts and purchasing things that are non-refundable. Perhaps you’d be happier in a Socialist or Communist country.

  116. Xerloq says:

    @Amy Alkon: Either you don’t understand insurance, or it’s very risky going on vacation with you.

    You’re not gambling by not buying it – you’re gambling if you do buy it. You’re betting $25 or $50 or whatever the fee is that something will happen. Life insurance is betting you’ll die before the term is up, car insurance is betting you or some other bozo will damage your car, health insurance is betting you’ll get sick. If the odds are in your favor, the premium is higher.

    If you buy insurance and don’t use it, you’ve lost the bet. Remember, the primary rule of gambling – the house always wins.

  117. Trojan69 says:

    The “old lady gets walking ticket” story is not what it seems.

    That particular intersection has extreme distances between curbs. It also had a notorious pedestrian history in that people would try to beat the light, even though they would get the flashing red DON’T WALK. On most streets, a healthy adult can make it across in time. Not here.

    So, the city created an ordinance that demanded increased enforcement. This lady was physically incapable of crossing in the allotted time. She was repeatedly warned to not attempt to cross as it was too dangerous for her (the traffic lights would go green against her). She did it anyway.

    If we’re serious about fighting gridlock and reducing unnecessary running/idling of engines, we can’t bend to the needs of a tiny, tiny, minority.

    The crossing time is no less than in other intersections and 99% of pedestrians who cross immediately upon having the right of way do so with no problem.

    I’ll be darned if I’m going to tailor every congested area for the 1% of the world who can’t handle it.

  118. boston515 says:

    I missed a flight once because of an illness. The only reason I couldn’t receive a full refund was that I used online check-in the night before, meaning that they couldn’t give my seat to anyone. I was charged a 20% rebooking fee, and a credit for my rescheduled flight minus that fee. Did she already check in?

  119. Xerloq says:

    @ClayS: Every time I fly without buying insurance I win. That has happened EVERY time I have flown. Your logic is like saying that by staying in a hotel in Vegas I’m taking a risk by not playing in the casinos.

  120. pylon83 says:

    Well put.

  121. coren says:

    @pylon83: In which case, they require other proof. Of course, we won’t know, since the airline made no effort.

  122. pylon83 says:

    I don’t think the airline had any obligation to make an effort. Rules are rules. They chose to enforce them firmly.

  123. jamesdenver says:


    If I can continue this off topic spur – I find you to be a contemptuous asshole for your comments.

    I am happy to stop, and would hope others would sit on a green light for an elderly person, disabled person, a bum with a shopping cart, or anyone that needs a tad more time crossing the street.

    Cars idling? Gimme a break. There’s more cars idling waiting for close-up parking spots at your local big-box store than there is giving people a courteous few seconds to finish crossing an eight lane arterial. That comment is laughable.

    Streets are for transportation, not just cars. Even if in your area pedestrians are a tiny tiny minority, that minority has rights. Christ you sound like dick.

  124. sam_sheezy says:

    Hey, John.

    My name is Samantha and I work for “Students Travel or something like that” (STA Travel) and I’d be happy to look into your sister’s ticket for you.

    From reading your email, it looks like your sister probably bought her ticket at the STA Travel in Portland. I am good friends will all of the people in the Portland office, and I work in the Seattle office…

    The issue that you’re encountering is that most plane tickets CAN be rebooked, with a booking fee of between $50.00 and $200.00 plus any difference in fare, BUT the airlines have been cracking down on no-shows and so most have instituted a policy of making tickets completely non-refundable/non-changeable in the case of a no-show.

    Which means that since your sister didn’t contact AA before missing her flight, they’re now claiming that the ticket is null and void. Worthless. Technically… They’re correct. And within their rights to deny rebooking of the ticket.

    But… You probably talked to an AA rep who was cranky or having a bad day or just didn’t feel like working with you, because you can usually get a little compassion from ’em.

    If you’d like to email me your sister’s booking information, I’d be happy to advocate on your sister’s behalf. No promises, but since I’ve been in the industry for years (and worked for the airlines before I was a travel agent), I tend to be able to get things taken care of.

    In the future, you, your sister, and everyone else out there should never, ever, not in a million billion years travel without travel insurance. It’s cheap! And so, so worth it. Complete coverage on a 9 day trip up to $20,000 is only $45! And had she paid that $45… Well, none of this would be an issue… (Including any medical bills that she might be incurring.)

    Email me at S U D _ A G E N T S (at) S T A T R A V E L (dot) C O M

  125. Maverickewu says:

    @coren: Nope. They guarantee you a boarding pass with a ticket. Doesn’t mean it has to be on the exact flight (date/time) that you paid for. Unless you get online or call and get a seat assigned to you when you make the ticket reservation, chances of you having a guaranteed seat with a ticket are not 100% like it should be.

    Think about it this way: What do they do when a flight is overbooked and every paying customer shows up? They “bump” people to a later flight. If your ticket really guaranteed you a seat on the flight that you paid for, they’d never be able to delay/cancel flights or overbook.

  126. waitaminute says:

    @Scuba Steve: “In a fair and civilized society, unforeseen medical issues should be a reasonable release from contract when the party did not receive any good or service due to said issue. A refund is only fair.”

    Riiight. For example, when a caterer is hired for a wedding reception, said caterer is charging for X number of meals, and will provide that number (as well as arrive prepared for unexpected additional guests). So, say 20 guests miss the reception, for whatever reason. Is it “only fair” that the caterer not get paid for the work s/he has done? The host should expect that because they didn’t actually -serve- the food they ordered, they don’t have to pay for it?

    In other words, you’re an idiot.

  127. CurbRunner says:

    This lady is lucky she didn’t have her appendicitis attack while stranded on an airport tarmac somewhere in an American Airlines plane.

    In that circumstance they are under no requirement to have her pulled the plane back to the terminal to removed from the plane for treatment.

    Given their negative track record of mistreating their customers, it’s unlikely they would have shown any mercy that would have interfered with their bottom line.

  128. EtherealStrife says:

    Boo hoo.

    Be happy you’re alive. I’d ask for a rebook, but AA doesn’t *have* to do it (unless it’s within the passenger agreement). And they CERTAINLY don’t have to refund your money.

    @Neurotic1: Really? Because that has absolutely nothing to do with the article. Besides, how is that BS? You break the law you pay the price. Senior citizens should not be permitted to endanger others by receiving a free pass. If the laws are faulty then it’s the responsibility of voters to change them.

  129. Maverickewu says:

    @waitaminute: Your catering example is a poor one. As I said before, the plane would have flown whether that seat was filled with a paid ticket, or if no one bought a ticket to fill that seat. They typically work on thresholds, if enough people buy a ticket, the plane flies. Any more than that and it’s basically profit.

    And again, count in airline overbooking.

    In your example, not all the meals got served that the owner paid for. However, if the caterer turned around and sold those unused meals somewhere else, should the host have to pay for those meals already paid for by someone else?

    The way it should work is if the airlines take your money, and say that you’re a no-show and your ticket is invalid, then whatever seat you were assigned on that plane should be left empty– period. You have an absolute right to something you pay for. If you don’t exercise that right, it’s your own damn fault, but nobody should ever take away your ability to exercise that right.

    You can’t do this with planes, but think if you showed up late at a concert or sporting event. If you didn’t get there by starting time, you wouldn’t expect to see someone else sitting in your seat that has a ticket that says they are assigned to your seat, would you?

  130. ClayS says:


    Excuse me, are you responding to the correct poster? I’ve never bought travel insurance. I can easily absorb the financial loss of airline tickets.

  131. MoCo says:

    AA’s treatment of this passenger would be perfectly fair if every time one of their flights was delayed due to mechanical problems or personnel problems, they gave a full refund to every passenger.

  132. ClayS says:


    Years ago, prior to deregulations, airline had backup planes and crews so they could better maintain their schedules. Today, there are no backups, so there is no room for error. That’s why air travel is so unreliable and often frustrating.

    Even weather related delays could be lessened if many of the airports weren’t so overburdened with flights. A half-hour thunderstorm can cause a delay that cascades throughout the entire day.

    Passengers need to demand better service, either through their legislators or with their pocketbooks. Avoid air travel whenever possible.

  133. @seth1066: End of argument.

    Since that’s been settled I will just say that it is y’all not ya’ll.

  134. jamesdenver says:


    Yup – A few years ago I was departing Denver – Orange County. We taxied out, had a problem, and returned to the gate. Mechanic boarded and it wasn’t a quick fix.

    A couple minutes later we were told to walk a few gates down, where a flight to OKC or some midwest town was almost pre-boarding.

    Our packed OC took that plane, leaving the less profitable passengers (a smaller load it appeared) in the dust.

    If I was on that flight I would have been pissed as hell when I realized what was happening. (Another plane “stealing” my aircraft.)

  135. This is what happened to me. I didn’t notice the first time my appendix ruptured, because I have Chron’s disease and thought this was just a worse version of that. A month later, the abcessed appendix ruptured, and now I have a huge open incision across my belly, and will have to keep returning to the hospital for adhesion surgery and to have my abdomen’s abcesses washed out. As it is, I can’t return to work at my school for another few weeks (I had the surgery three weeks ago). Frankly, after the kind of pain I was in with the second rupture, I would have cried if anyone had told me I had to get on a plane for 10 hours before anyone had done anything about it.

  136. Buran says:

    @pylon83: Oh really now? If it’s physically impossible to cross within the amount of allotted time, that means it’s an automatic ticket to actually try to cross there despite the marked crosswalk and light. And towns have been caught changing light timing so they can write more photo tickets.

    “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

  137. Trauma_Hound says:

    @Amy Alkon: Fine then Airlines shouldn’t overbook then.

  138. Jasmo says:

    If I had a life-threatening emergency and missed my flight, I’d really be more concerned about my health, screw the fucking cost of the airline ticket.

    “My what? Oh, my plane ticket? Fuck if I know … at least I’m alive.”

  139. FatLynn says:

    I am wondering if she had already checked in (which you can do on-line up to 24 hours before some flights) prior to her ER admittance. That makes the situation very different, because it limits the airline’s ability to fill the seat with someone else.

    When you do an on-line check-in, I believe it gives you a warning that, if you aren’t going to be on this flight, you must undo your check-in. I am not sure what that entails, nor why her brother’s phone call would be insufficient, but I just want to distinguish between “no-show” and “checked-in no-show”.

    Also, get trip insurance. This is the reason it exists. Why would anybody buy it if you could always just get a refund anyway?

  140. @Jasmo: I would like to believe that’s true, but honestly, my entire family (myself included) focused on costs and bills first. I was moving houses and immediately after surgery (drugged up and all), I had my mom calling around making sure my bills and deposits were being taken care of. The hospital and prescription bills are going to be horrible enough. I don’t need a hit to my credit to compound it.

  141. hanoverfiste says:

    Is there any chance that this ticket was purchased from a consolidator aka “bucket shop”.

    These tickets have special restrictions and usually aren’t refundable, transferable, or exchangeable.

    Sometimes changes can be made with the consolidator 24 hours prior.

  142. dcartist says:

    American Airlines… they’re the one that’s testing the new anti-missile defense laser on their planes right now.

    I’m disappointed they would do this.

    Still, nobody is as bad as United Airlines. Talk about scumbags, UAL is the WORST for everything, am I right?

  143. sam_sheezy says:

    The reason that a no-show has stiffer penalties than a regular rebooking is because individual reservations are not dropped until 30 minutes prior to departure, regardless of whether they are checked in or not. THIRTY MINUTES.

    That is to benefit the consumer. Running late? Close connection? You’re all good– up until 30 minutes prior.

    (After 30 minutes, there’s no way that you can get checked in, get your bags checked, get through security, and get on board the plane without causing the flight to be late, which is why the 30 minute number was chosen.)

    Flights start boarding 30 minutes prior to departure. If they don’t drop your no-showed, non-checked in flight until 30 minutes prior, please, tell me: WHO ARE THEY SELLING YOUR SEAT TO?

    No one. It’s a complete and total impossibility that someone buy a “stand-by” ticket. They do not exist. No paid passenger is waiting around inside the terminal, trying to get on a flight last minute flight that had a no-show.

    People can walk up and buy day of departure tickets, yes, but that is for confirmed seats only. And they can’t buy a confirmed seat thirty minutes prior to departure, because there isn’t enough time to get to the flight.

    For chrissakes, people, use your noggins here: You can’t get behind security without a boarding pass. You can’t get a boarding pass without a ticket. How are all of the people who are “buying” the seat out from under the no-show doing it? Answer: They’re not.

    At the thirty minute mark, any non-checked in passengers are bumped from the flight and their seats made available to stand-by passengers. Who are those stand-by passengers? NON-REVS. Airline employees who are not paying a single penny to fly.

    When you hear the airlines calling up stand-by passengers to receive seat assignments, it’s airline employees that are getting seats, not mystery customers hoping for a chance to buy a ticket on any given flight.

    If you check in online and no-show your flight, well, that’s an even bigger problem. Because those seats don’t get bumped at all, generally not even for non-revs, until after the flight has closed. Plus, you make the boarding agents wait and wait and wait until the last possible minute, hoping that you’re running up to the gate. If you check in online and no-show, know that the flight was waiting for you and that they were paging you over the airline’s intercom.

    The fact that you no-showed DID cost the airline money. Time and money. If passengers want the right to change the date on their ticket, then they have to be responsible enough to cancel their flight ahead of time. It’s only fair, and it’s in the rules. READ THEM.

    Giving the airline 30 minutes to resell your ticket is not a fair deal– they held THAT seat on THAT plane for you and now they’re losing money. If you also get the privilege of rebooking, that means you essentially got TWO seats for the price of one. How is that fair?

    It’s a business they’re running, not a charity. If you make a hotel reservation, you have to guarantee it with a credit card. If you no-show the reservation, or if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice, they charge you for the first night’s stay– regardless of whether they resell the room or not. That’s fair, too. No one is up in arms about that.

    (Oh, and the hotel will cancel the rest of your reservation… Show up the next day wondering where your room is when the whole place is booked up, especially when they charged you for the night before, and want to know why your reservation is gone? Too bad, them’s the rules. Reminds me of another airline post we had a few weeks back…)

    The airlines have a lot of policies that are crappy, but cancellation fees and rebooking costs are not part of them. And there’s an easy way to protect yourself: TRAVEL INSURANCE. A small investment for something that could get really expensive.

    (Another easy way to protect yourself: READ THE FREAKING RULES! Don’t buy the cheapest ticket if you don’t want to get stuck with hefty cancellation and change penalties!)

    I’m not an airline apologist here, I’m totally an advocate for myself and for my clients, and wrongdoings piss me off to no end (no one goes to battle like I go to battle, it’s why my clients love me and why I’m addicted to Consumerist), but it seems like there’s a pretty big grey area when it comes to accepting personal accountability.

    Suck it up. Accept it when it’s your fault. Shit happens. Just because you’re a Special Princess doesn’t mean you don’t still have to play by the rules, or that you’re entitled to exceptions.

  144. sam_sheezy says:


    It looks like his sister bought her ticket from STA Travel. (Where I work.) If she bought a published fare (like, a regular fare that the airline offers) through us, she’s only subject to the airline’s rules. And if STA makes the change, an additional $25.00 fee on STA’s part.

    If she bought one of STA’s private student/teacher/youth rates (a “blue” ticket), then the fare is actually REFUNDABLE and only carries a $25.00 CHANGE FEE! (In-freakin’-credible, right?…) Plus, you can travel on them for up to a year and have free stop-overs so long as it’s natural routing. Sweetassdealyo.

    So, ya, the reason her ticket is now invalid, and the reason the STA can’t do anything about it (regardless of what type of fare she is on) is because she no-showed her flight and when she did that, the airline made her tickets void. Sucks, but them’s the rules.

  145. thesabre says:

    Many people are saying about how AA lacks compassion and courtesy to make this exception. The problem is that these companies, at one time, DID make these exceptions until people just took advantage of them and lied.

    I remember when I was 5 or 6, my parents took me out to dinner and my father forgot his wallet. They didn’t know him, but he asked if he could go home and get it and come back to pay. They obliged and he did. Unfortunately, now people will just take off and screw the company. So one person ruins it for everyone.

    If we, as a country, except our businesses to treat us with courtesy, then perhaps we need to stop thinking it’s “cool” to skip out on a check or it’s “cool” to shoplift.

  146. PermanentStar says:

    Okay, I didn’t check through all of the comments here, but this is straight off of American Airlines website in regards to a non-refundable ticket:

    Q: I have a nonrefundable American Airlines ticket that I am not going to use. Can I still get a refund?
    A: Nonrefundable tickets generally cannot be refunded. However, exceptions may be available under the following circumstances:

    Death of the passenger, immediate family member, or traveling companion.
    Schedule changes implemented by American Airlines.
    **In addition, certain illnesses may be considered if your ticket included international travel (along with travel to or from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). **

  147. gmark2000 says:

    I have sympathy for her illness but no sympathy for her missing her flight. Her brother John has yet to indicate whether she did online check-in and/or called the airline after the flight had already taken off.

  148. Buran says:

    @Trojan69: Then lengthen the walk time. Problem solved. Instead, the town decided to leave it as is, and use it as a money machine.

  149. Buran says:

    @thesabre: I was in a group that did that once. Solution: leave someone behind so that they know you’ll be back. Worked for us.

  150. Buran says:

    @EtherealStrife: It IS in the passenger agreement. Someone posted it higher up the thread.

  151. Buran says:

    @SadSam: That’s one reason why Southwest is great. They allow you to change your flight for no charge except for any fare difference.

  152. Buran says:

    @pylon83: Government’s job is to protect the people. There are certainly cases when it’s warranted and the increasing abuse on the part of airline big business is making many people wonder if going back to more regulation isn’t a good idea, since allowing people to be exploited isn’t a good thing. That, however, is a debate for elsewhere.

  153. EtherealStrife says:

    @Buran: Link please. I’m not seeing any binding agreement between passenger and airline that states ER attendance as a valid reason for a post-flight refund or rebook.