American Airlines: A year is actually nine months

What is it with airlines redefining a year? Seems that after I wrote about this bizarre reshuffling of the calendar, more air carriers have joined the fun.

Larry Thompson redeemed his hard-earned frequent flier miles for two American Airlines tickets from Dallas to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, earlier this year. But two weeks before traveling, he developed a blood clot and his doctor advised him to stay home. An American Airlines agent said he wouldn’t have to pay any additional fees if he used the tickets within a year.

Thompson asked for something in writing, but was again assured that there wouldn’t be a fee, and that he didn’t need anything in writing.

He should have insisted.

When Thompson phoned the airline to rebook, he was given the bad news: In addition to adding new fees and surcharges, the airline has apparently changed its calendar.

I was advised that the year was a year that started on the date my canceled tickets were issued, which was January 6, 2008, and I would need to travel before that date or pay the $150 to have my miles reinstated.

At no time during my conversation with American Airlines in March was there any discussion about a ticket issue date or that I had nine months to make a new plan.

Thompson tried to appeal this decision, but American refused. It basically insisted that a year is actually nine months.

Lesson learned? Always ask for details when you’re rebooking a flight. When an agent tells you that you have a year, ask, “A year from what date?” And don’t let them tell you that you don’t need anything in writing. If Thompson had communicated with American by e-mail, this might not have happened.

Related story:   A canceled flight, a missing refund

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, American — a year is 12 months.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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