Q: I bought a ticket on American Airlines to attend my nephew's wedding and wedding reception. After purchase (the fare was $135 round-trip with tax), I learned that I would miss the reception because I had scheduled my return for 4:30 PM and the reception was to start at 3 PM. So I paid a $60 change fee to leave on the 6.30 PM flight. But then, just before I was to leave for Baltimore, American canceled the 6.30 PM flight. Not only did American not notify me of this change (I found out about it quite by accident, and yes they did have my full contact information), but it gets worse. Naturally, I needed to cancel my ticket on AA and find an alternate flight on another airline that would allow me to attend the reception. Because American notified me less than 7 days before departure, I ended up paying for an expensive last minute flight on Delta. The American representative I spoke to said I would get a full refund of my original fare, including the change fee I paid to fly on the now non-existent later flight. This never happened. I have faxed and emailed American on several occasions, and have been given nothing but the royal runaround. Any idea how to proceed in getting their attention?
A: Yes, take them to small claims court and sue them. It will send them a message. American's contract of carriage, which is continually being weakened to favor the airline over its passengers, clearly states that if they can't get you to where you're going due to a flight cancellation, and you haven't embarked on your outward segment, then they are required to refund even a non-refundable ticket in full. And I quote:
"Involuntary Refunds: In the event the refund is required because of American's failure to operate on schedule … the following refund will be made directly to you -
1. If the ticket is totally unused, the full amount paid (with no service charge or refund penalty), or
2. If the ticket is partially used, the applicable fare for the unused segment(s)."
American, like other airlines, has reduced staff, which has resulted in worse service, and more complaints, which now are being handled by fewer staff. It's a vicious circle. You're not the first American passenger that has had trouble getting refunds, even on full fare refundable tickets.
You might give it one more try, writing a certified or registered letter to:
American Airlines Customer Relations
Mail Drop 2400
P.O. Box 619612
Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, TX 75261-9612
But if that doesn't work, seriously, sue 'em. They're hoping you won't so they can keep your fare, and the icing on the cake change fee too. What the heck, they have to make money somehow.