The Voucher Offer: When to Hold 'em, When to Fold 'em

Tracy Stewart, March 19, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. I recently was traveling on American Eagle from San Juan, P.R. to St. Thomas. I had a confirmed seat and when I checked in was told I would have to wait until boarding to get my seat assignment. They also asked if I was willing to give up my seat for a $100 travel voucher since they were in a oversold situation. I declined the offer. Needless to say, I was involuntarily bumped, sans voucher. What recourse do I have?

    A. Normally, if you're bumped on a domestic US flight you get between $200 and $400 in cash compensation, according to government regulations, which is a woefully small amount and has never been adjusted for inflation. However, this piddling amount does not apply to smaller aircraft (60 seats or less), or if the airline has to replace a larger aircraft with a smaller one. However, American Eagle flies jets to/from San Juan with 66 seats, so they couldn't have used that excuse.

    So you should be entitled to compensation, unless they got you to your destination within 1 hour of schedule.

    Here's a link to the DOT rules

    If you still have your boarding pass and ticket info, I'd write to AA and copy the US DOT and insist on the compensation.

    Their address is:
    Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings
    U.S. Department of Transportation
    1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
    Washington, DC 20590

    AA's customer service is at:

        American Airlines Customer Relations
        Mail Drop 2400
        P.O. Box 619612
        Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, TX 75261-9612
        Fax 817-967-4162