Why won’t American Airlines refund my hotel?

Hurricane Matthew ruined Antonio Grau’s vacation to Portugal. Now American Airlines is ruining his hopes for a full refund.

Grau purchased a vacation package that included airfare and hotel through American Airlines Vacations. He was to supposed to leave Miami on Oct. 6.

Then came Hurricane Matthew.

On Oct. 5, Grau was informed by American Airlines that, because of the planned airport closures for the next day, his vacation dates needed to be slightly adjusted.

Of course, no one enjoys their travel plans being disrupted by weather related issues. But when weather-related issues end up costing a traveler more than $1,000, who is to blame? In this case it appears that, because of some misunderstandings of his travel terms, Grau will be bearing the financial brunt of Hurricane Matthew. And he isn’t happy about it.

Grau says that, during the call on Oct. 5, he was assured by the American Airlines representative that because he had purchased the Pre-Departure Protection (PDP) for his trip, he would be fully refunded should he decide to cancel.

“Based upon the agent’s indication and relying on them, I then canceled my trip,” he says.

Within several days, Grau received the refund for the airfare portion of his trip ($1,522). He called American Airlines to ask about the rest of his refund and was shocked when he was then informed that the hotel portion was nonrefundable ($1,297).

How could this be? Grau was certain that he was protected by the PDP, for which he had paid an additional $258. He was also sure that the American Airlines representative had confirmed this information, prior to his cancellation.

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So, he used our listed contacts for American Airlines and began his quest for his refund.

American Airlines reiterated to Grau that there are exceptions to what is covered under the PDP. They pointed out that he had “self-booked” a hotel that was nonrefundable. Grau insisted that he had no idea that his hotel was nonrefundable and asked American Airlines to provide him with the recordings of his Oct. 5 call. He believed that this recording would prove that the representative told him that he would receive a full refund for his vacation.

American Airlines declined his requests for the refund and for the access to the recordings.

So Grau turned to us for help.

We contacted American Airlines and asked them to clarify Grau’s situation. Our executive contact responded with the following information:

There has been a lot of research put into this booking by our call center including listening to call recordings regarding the customer’s claim that we told him it was refundable. We found no evidence that he was told this.

The customer made the booking online on his own, with the room showing as nonrefundable. We did reach out to the hotel to ask for a waiver of the nonrefundable status due to the conditions under which the cancellation happened but the hotel declined; you may want to reach out to them directly.

So that is what we did.

Certainly, a hotel would be understanding about a customer’s need to cancel or reschedule a stay due to a hurricane. No?

No. Not this hotel.

This hotel was not sympathetic to Grau’s plight at all. In fact, it completely ignored our attempts to negotiate a refund or a voucher for him.

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So, unfortunately, as much as we would like to help him with a refund, we can’t. The contract that Grau supplied to us is quite wordy, but it does explain that PDP does not apply to nonrefundable hotels. American Airlines refunded the airfare, but could not force the hotel to give Grau a refund.

Although this is unfortunate, it does appear that American Airlines fulfilled its obligation under Grau’s vacation contract. But there are lessons to be learned from this case.

If you choose to self-book a vacation, be sure you read and understand all the documents relating to your vacation package. Specifically, make sure that you know the refund and cancellation policy. Although Grau thought he was fully protected by the PDP insurance, the contract said differently. And that is ultimately why his story ends as a Case Dismissed file.

Did American Airlines adequately compensate Grau for his canceled vacation?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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