“Flabbergasted” airline passenger asked to pay $15 receipt fee

By | September 28th, 2009

receiptWhen it comes to airline fees, nothing is off-limits. Just ask Jason Fogelson.

He needed a receipt for his latest American Airlines flight, but when he asked for one, the airline said it would cost him. “I was flabbergasted,” he says.

So was I.

Here’s what happened to Fogelson:

I recently booked business travel through American’s Web site. When it came time to fill out my expense report, I realized that I had inadvertently deleted the email receipt that had my purchase dollar amount. I went back to the site and couldn’t find a link that seemed appropriate. So, I called the customer service line directly.

Customer service politely informed me that I had to contact them via email — there is no way to get a duplicate receipt via phone. Fine.

So, I emailed customer service, and received a “no-reply” email back with a form that had to be filled out and faxed, not emailed, back to them in order to get a receipt. Fine.

I filled out the form, and faxed it in. The next day, I received an email response.

What did American say in response to Fogelson’s request?

Thank you for sending us the requested information to obtain ticket purchase information. While our accounting office can provide an actual copy of your ticket receipt, I hope the following information will suffice for your purposes.

Our records indicate that American Airlines ticket 001 2308370738 was issued on August 3 for travel commencing from Los Angeles to Knoxville on August 30, in the name of Jason Fogelson. The total price, including fare, taxes, and fees, was $420.40, and was paid by credit card.

Should you still need a copy of your receipt, please write directly to personnel in our Refund Customer Service department. The address is:

American Airlines Inc.
Passenger Refund Services
P.O. Box 200025
El Paso, TX 88520-9905

Please include a $15 check or money order as well as the ticket number or flight and date information and the signature of the customer or purchaser. Additionally, they require information as to the date and place of purchase and the form of payment.

We thank you for your business and look forward to serving you again on American.

Fogelson is outraged.

$15 for a receipt? Are they kidding?

I have written a letter of complaint, but I thought I would let you know about this situation too, since you have railed against unreasonable fees in the past.

I’ve been an American Airlines AAdvantage member for 15 or 20 years. I travel by air two to four times a month on business, and I will do everything I can to avoid traveling on American Airlines until this situation is resolved to my satisfaction.

American isn’t the only airline to charge for receipts. Continental’s cost $20.

Is this yet another unreasonable airline surcharge?

The information American supplied Fogelson should be enough to fill out his expense form. If the airline’s fee covers the cost of generating a receipt and mailing it to him, then it borders on being legitimate. Continental’s $20 fee buys you a receipt generated by “web, e-mail, fax and postal mail.”

Had American refused to reveal any information about his flight when he inquired about it by email, I might have been a little more outraged.

Should airlines send duplicate receipts to their customers at no charge? If they don’t incur any additional expenses — for example, if it’s an e-mail receipt — then I think so. What’s more, the passengers likeliest to ask for a receipt are their best customers: business travelers.

Airlines probably should think twice before doing that to their platinum elites, don’t you think?

(Photo: scribbletaylor/Flickr Creative Commons)

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.