My husband doesn’t want to fly any airline ever again. How about a refund?

Corey Morgan is looking for a little sympathy from American Airlines, and she gets it. But now, she wants more.

She purchased a round trip flight from Sacramento to Roswell, N.M., to attend a family wedding. Unfortunately, due to what she referred to as “extenuating circumstances and a family illness,” she is forced to cancel the trip. Now she wants a refund of her $447 ticket.

Unfortunately, the tickets were nonrefundable. That means they have to be used on the actual flight that was reserved, and when her plans changed, the only way she could change them was by paying a change fee, which sometimes exceeds the value of the original ticket.

A glance at American Airlines’ Conditions of Carriage reads:

If the ticketed reservations are canceled prior to the ticketed departure time, the ticket will be valid as follows:

Wholly unused tickets: Travel must commence within one year from the original ticket issue date. For example; if a ticket is issued on June 1, 2016, the new ticket travel must commence no later than June 1, 2017.

Partially used tickets: Unless otherwise specified in the fare rule, travel must be completed within one year from the outbound travel date.

Any fare difference and applicable change fees must be paid and tickets must be reissued when the itinerary is rebooked.

The change fee in this case would have been $200, and that was not acceptable to Morgan, whose husband contacted customer service at American and explained the situation. Surprisingly, a customer service representative was sympathetic to his plea and agreed to waive the change fee so he could reuse the ticket for a future flight.
Again, according to the FAQs section of American’s website:

We do not refund nonrefundable American Airlines tickets except when the ticket is cancelled within 24 hours of purchase, when we make a schedule change that results in a change of 61 minutes or more, upon the death of a passenger or passenger’s travelling companion or because of military orders. Supporting documentation is required.

24 hour refund policy – refund to original form of payment
Death of the passenger/traveling companion – refund to original form of payment
Schedule change 61 minutes or more – refund to original form of payment
Military orders/change in duty – refund to original form of payment

Nevertheless, Morgan was offered a waiver of the airline’s change fee, but that was not good enough for her and her husband. She wanted nothing short of a full refund.
Morgan also stated in her correspondence with American, “I do not have any plans to travel with companies who don’t understand unexpected life circumstances come up from time to time, that are out of our control and to not penalize their customers.”

This was a bad idea.

Insulting the airline’s customer service policies, as well as stating that she never wanted to fly them again, was not a good way to get them “in her corner.” A simple, polite letter would have been the most effective way to explain the circumstances.

Having struck out with direct contact with American, Morgan contacted our advocates, who reminded her how lucky she was to get a sympathetic agent at American to waive the change fee. We also suggested that Morgan post about her situation on our forums, which she did. The forums are often read by industry executives, who might be able to help further than the American representatives with whom they already had communicated.

One of the respondents in Morgan’s forum thread made a great point:

You are actually ahead of the game. AA is waiving the $200 rebooking fee. Look at this from an outsider perspective… You state the loss would be devastating, yet you had no hesitation about booking the flight to begin with. That raises my eyebrows. Sounds like you knew what you were doing. You want to transfer the ticket. Was the receiver going to pay you or were you going to give it to them ? If the latter, how devastating is it? Why not take the offer, save your money and the two of you take a trip later? To anywhere.. If you bought an appliance, would you expect them to take it back? If the loss is so devastating, why plan the trip at all?

I don’t know your circumstances. But neither does AA. You’ve not made a convincing argument why you should get more than you have received. As stated above, these are non-refundable. It means, non refundable. Write your letter, politely beg, and get back to us. Wishing you the best.

We agree wholeheartedly with the respondent. We’re thrilled that Morgan was able to get American to waive the change fee, which is hard to do. We suggest that she quit while she’s ahead, and hopefully they will be able to use their tickets within the next year.

This all could have been avoided if the Morgans had purchased trip insurance, which enables the purchaser to recoup their money in this kind of situation.

Unfortunately, without the availability of trip insurance, there’s no way we can see the Morgans getting a full refund, so we’re going to have to call this a Case Dismissed.

Should American have given the Morgans a full refund?

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Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined.

  • Annie M

    One word: greed.

    What makes her think she is so special she deserves more than having the change fee refunded?

    She doesn’t want to rebook with a company that doesn’t value customer service? Is she kidding? They broke their own policy and she thinks they didn’t do enough?

    And then to go back and claim “hardship”? You booked the tickets, you can’t claim hardship now. If it was such hardship- you shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

    A $40 insurance policy could have saved you. Take it as a lesson learned.

  • I wouldn’t say greed. I think Americans, in general, are just totally pissed off at being manhandled and abused by the airline industry.

    She had no right to expect the waiver, but was graciously offered one. HOWEVER, like a cornered animal, people are looking for any excuse to fight back against all airlines and any airline.

    To me, it has the feel of an upcoming crescendo of litigation/regulation because people have had their fill. In fact, so much so, that they would rather drive than fly.

    Who could blame them? If it’s under 8 hours, I’ll drive. Between security, waiting in a terminal, waiting on the runway, waiting for luggage, waiting for a rental car, commuting to/from the airport – then doing the whole thing in reverse – time wise it almost equals out.

    I don’t think it’s greed it’s stress from this event, and that, in turn, caused something to snap in her about prior airline experiences.

  • finance_tony

    The hardship point is well taken and one that belies many cases posted to the forum. So many cases – yes, including ones pertaining to very expensive trips – have a “we can not afford to lose this money.” That, of course, is absurd. “Sucks” =/= “Can’t afford”

  • sirwired

    I’ll take “Circular Logic” for $1,000, Alex.

    “I want a refund instead of a no-fee credit on my non-refundable ticket!”

    “Why is a credit no good?”

    “Because I won’t fly American ever again!”

    “Why not?”

    “Because they won’t give me a refund!”

    Sheesh… Gift horse. Mouth. … Inch. Mile. … etc.

  • Annie M

    In reality, no one can afford to lose what they paid for a trip. And that’s why if you can’t, you should buy travel insurance.

  • jsn55

    I hope that all the special snowflakes flourishing today are ready for a big meltdown … things have gotten so out of hand with entitlement that it’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back and airlines start to to enforce their own rules every single time.

    Please don’t mistake this post for my support of all the onerous, greedy rules that airlines now have. The way they are running their business is outrageous. But it is what it is right now. Passengers need to stop hiding behind the ignorance tree and understand what they are buying.

  • James Moninger

    Everyone seems to think that their reason for deserving a refund of non-refundable tickets is special.

  • Lindabator

    Excusing the poor behavior of these passengers is inexcusable – if you do not like the terms and conditions of a nonrefundable airline ticket, no one is FORCING you to buy it. But to buy it and then think the rules should not apply to YOU is the problem here – this escalating sense of entitlement makes it very difficult for a company to WANT to bend/break its rules, because it is still seen as not enough.

  • Lindabator

    and to be so ungrateful when they broke all their rules to accommodate her – terrible. Can guess the agent will not be so likely to help the next folks down the line, thinking of how it was thrown back in their face

  • Noah Kimmel

    We sometimes see stories where people think that a transaction doesn’t involve two sides. Sure, things come up, but the airline in this case also loses money if they refund you and cant resell your seat. Worse when we see small providers like homeowners on airbnb.

    Non-refundable means that. That is why there are refundable seats and why there is insurance. But in rare cases, exemptions are reasonable, and she was offered such an exemption by waiving the change fee. Any more is not reasonable

  • The Original Joe S

    “If it’s under 8 hours, I’ll drive.” I take it further: “If it’s on the North American continent and accessible by highway, I’ll drive.” My friend relocated to Lost Wages, NV, and invited me out there from the Yeast Coast. I’ll drive. No hurry. AND, get to see lotsa nice stuff along the way.
    I FLEW for a funeral. That’s one of the rare exceptions to my rule. They weren’t gonna wait until I drove there.

  • joycexyz

    Ho, hum. These “special cases” are getting boring already. They’re all the same–buy nonrefundable tickets, no insurance (“we’re healthy!), the unexpected happens (that’s why it’s called “unexpected”), and then they think they’re entitled to a refund. Apparently they’re of the opinion that nonrefundable applies only to “changed my mind.” No, folks, it means exactly what it says in plain English. But if you decide to appeal, be as humble and polite as possible; getting huffy lands your correspondence in the circular file.

  • ChelseaGirl

    Another tiresome person who thinks rules don’t apply to her. I work in a customer service capacity, and I assure you everybody I speak to thinks an exception should be made for them. Also, if you already have told a company you plan to never use them again, why on earth would they refund you? There is no reason for them to do so, unless they know you will be returning. Of course, being polite doesn’t always work, and there are some companies who don’t care if you remain a customer or not…but that’s another story.

  • pauletteb

    Could not disagree more. “Cornered animal”? Really?

  • El Dorado Hills

    I agree with almost of the comments already made. This same problem never seems to go away.
    Suggestion to the airlines: Put a statement as the last thing on buying the tickets (assuming direct/online) that reads something like: I acknowledge that the tickets I am purchasing are non-refundable 24 hours after payment is made. Then have an “I agree” or “I acknowledge” button they have to click before they can complete the purchase. Then a purchaser has nothing to complain about if they try and cancel their tickets – whatever option the airline might give them (reschedule) is a gift.

  • El Dorado Hills

    Considering the high volume of requests for help for obtaining a refund of “non-refundable” flight tickets why don’t the airlines do the following: On the on-line reservation screen, just before you click to purchase the flight tickets put the following statement on a screen: “I acknowledge the tickets I am purchasing are non-refundable after 24 hours”. The have an “I Acknowledge This Provision” (or something like that – require that the purchaser click an I accept button before it goes to the final purchase screen. Then there is no argument for a mired of excuses, the purchaser definitely knew of the restriction.

  • greg watson

    If she was aware of before booking non refundable tickets, then shame on her for feeling ‘entitled’ Those tickets have a big fat NO attached to them. However, I am sure that the aliens in Roswell are very thankful

  • Lindabator,

    You obviously skipped over my statement “She had no right to expect the waiver, but was graciously offered one.”

    Your inability to properly read what I said is inexcusable. I said, “I think Americans, in general, are just totally pissed off at being manhandled and abused by the airline industry… HOWEVER, like a cornered animal, people are looking for any excuse to fight back against all airlines and any airline.”

    Those are absolutely valid statements.

    I wasn’t excusing anything, I was explaining.

    This phenomenon is like a married couple who are finally emotionally done with one another: Even saintly acts become points of contention, and unsaintly ones reinforce the perception. Americans’ relationship with the airline industry is quickly becoming like a married couple just prior to the divorce, or deep within the bowels of it.

    Americans are just “plane” sick of being treated to an excursion in a flying cattle truck. Period.

  • Yeah. Cornered animals strike out when they feel trapped, even if the reason for the cornering is benevolent or not. And, of course, I am not talking about being trapped in an airplane, the metaphor was relating to being equally helpless with largely few options.

    Dr. David Dao was literally a trapped animal. Additionally, the lady whose child’s seat was taken from her and then forced to lap seat a >2 y.o. (illegally) by United. She felt helpless (trapped) as she stated, “Yamauchi said she did not try to alert another flight attendant due to recent problems on United aircrafts, such as the April incident where
    a doctor was forcibly removed from his seat. … If I were traveling by myself without my child, I would have spoken up a little louder or more forcefully,”

    So, yes, the trapped animal analogy/metaphor holds up.

  • Lindabator

    And I get that — but making excuses for everyone (not saying you did) has become a way of no one needing to take responsibility for their bad behavior – and it happens MORE and MORE

  • Tricia K

    Delta has waived change fees for me on a couple of occasions due to medical emergencies. I have been very grateful to them when they have agreed to waive the fee and have said so.

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