I rejected my flight’s schedule change. Now American Airlines rejected my refund request!

When Amanda Nelson booked a nonrefundable nonstop flight to Denver, she rejected the schedule change that included connecting flights. Then American Airlines rejected her request for a refund.

Nelson booked a nonstop flight on American from Denver to Philadelphia. But then the airline advised her of a flight schedule change. The new flight included a stop and did not get her to Philadelphia in time for a scheduled appointment. So she called to see what her other options were. As it turned out, American didn’t have another flight that met her needs, but she was told by the reservation agent that under the circumstances she was eligible for a refund, so she canceled her flight.

She then requested a refund online as instructed. And, surprisingly, it was denied. She was offered a credit instead, which came with a number of restrictions: It had to be used within a year, and only she could use it. She was not happy.

Among the questions listed on the Customer Service FAQs page on American’s website is “I have a nonrefundable ticket; can I still get a refund?” The response to that question notes that among a small number of circumstances under which American will issue refund on a nonrefundable ticket, is when the airline makes a schedule change of 61 minutes or more. Nelson’s flight change met this requirement.

So what went wrong? One possibility is that in her efforts to be an effective self-advocate, she went a bit too far. Her request for a refund may have actually been too long and detailed. Here’s an excerpt:

To Whom It May Concern,
I am requesting your re-review of the denial to refund the above referenced flights of which the outgoing flight has been rescheduled by American Airlines and does not meet my initial requirements for selecting the flight.
When initially booking these flights on July 22, 2016, specific factors were taken into consideration that dictated my choice of airline for this trip:

  • A nonstop flight: as this flight occurs in early January, a nonstop flight was the only choice to optimally minimize additional flight delays due to weather conditions in a stopover city
  • Departure time: to accommodate personal schedules to allow transport to the airport
  • Arrival time: necessary to meet an appointment time upon arrival
  • Price: to maintain a budget

On October 25, 2016, when advised of a flight schedule change of the outgoing flight, the following day (October 26, 2016), two separate phone calls were made to American Airlines customer service requesting if another flight which met the above criteria was available. The answer in each conversation was “no.” Several flights were available with stopovers that departed earlier and/or arrived later, but none of these options fit the original requirements of which I based my selection of booking American Airlines 0462 and none could accommodate our personal schedule.

It was asked if this booking was now eligible for a refund, and the answer from American Airlines customer service in each of the two phone calls was “yes”. As stated, two separate calls were placed on October 26. Please check for a recording of the conversations.

She wraps up, sounding a bit like she’s arguing her case before a jury:

I argue that:
American Airlines issued a schedule change that does not fit with my criteria for initially booking these flights. I made this booking in good faith. You did not uphold your end of the flight arrangement, which now does not fit my requirements. Therefore I feel a refund is fully justified.

Okay, so all this may have been a little confusing to whomever processed her request at American, resulting in the initial denial of her refund.

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So the lesson here is that, when you’re advocating for yourself, start simple. If providing the basic details supporting your case in a polite and straightforward way doesn’t get results, try sending a concise and politely worded request for assistance to the executive contacts listed on our advocacy site.

And if that doesn’t work, let us know and we’ll give it a try for you. We agreed that justice was indeed on Nelson’s side, and reached out to the airline on her behalf, using the polite, succinct communications formula described above. We’re pleased to report that she has now received her refund.

Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

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