American flew me to Dallas and then canceled my onward flight. I want a refund

Samuel Lisenco needed to go to Texas for a wedding, so he booked a flight on American Airlines with a connection in Dallas. But crew scheduling issues caused American to cancel his onward flight, and he ended up back home.

He wanted a refund, but American wouldn’t give him one. He didn’t give up, though — he engaged in self-advocacy and achieved a satisfactory outcome.

Let’s let Lisenco set the scene:

I booked a flight from Newark, N.J., to Odessa, Texas, with a connecting flight in Dallas. I flew from Newark to Dallas and learned that the flight to Odessa was canceled because of a lack of crew. I was stranded in Dallas and had to turn around and go back home to New York.

I missed my best friend’s wedding, lost my prepaid hotel and wasted my airport parking fee. I asked American to reimburse me for the entire flight and my expenses, which totaled $831, and it refused. It insisted that because it flew me to Dallas and back, I would only be entitled to reimbursement for the missed connection. This was the cheapest part of the flight. American wants me to pay for a round trip flight to Dallas, that I didn’t book.

According to Lisenco, American referred him to its conditions of carriage, which are written to strongly favor the airline over its customers.

Lisenco’s bought a round-trip ticket to a specific destination for a special occasion, and he didn’t get there. And he had to pay for the ticket and all other non-refundable costs associated with the canceled flight.

As Lisenco puts it, “Basically, I paid for a ticket to fly to Dallas, eat lunch in the airport, and then fly home. American stranded me in Dallas and then billed me for it.”

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When an airline flies a passenger to their connecting city, cancels their onward flight and then returns the passenger back home, it is typically referred to as a trip in vain. We frequently have written about our readers’ experiences with this type of “trip” and their struggles to obtain a full refund.

Although there is not an official trip in vain policy written into American’s contract of carriage, we were prepared to advocate with the airline for Lisenco’s full refund. However, he wasn’t quite done trying to get a satisfactory resolution on his own.

When he first engaged in self-advocacy and contacted American, it would only refund the leg of the trip that he didn’t take. American’s agent referred him to its conditions of carriage, which provide that schedules are not guaranteed and that it is not responsible for any costs arising from the deviation.

However, Lisenco was persistent, and American offered to deposit 10,000 AAdvantage miles to his account. That didn’t satisfy him because the additional miles wouldn’t be sufficient to book a future domestic round-trip flight. So he continued to self-advocate, escalating his complaint by contacting the company executives listed on our website. He also could have posted his question to our help forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts. They may have had helpful suggestions about how to address this issue with the airline.

Around the same time as Lisenco contacted our advocates for help, American responded to his escalated complaint. He told us that American agreed to issue him a future travel voucher for the full value of his ticket. It also let him keep the partial refund and the 10,000 AAdvantage miles.

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Lisenco was persistent and courteous. This was self-advocacy at its best.

Diane Perera

Diane and her family love to travel, and they do so as much as they can. Having experienced the downside of travel, and having learned so much from Elliott.org, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight. Read more of Diane's articles here.

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