I thought I was paying for checked luggage, not priority boarding

When Mary Lou Hartline buys an American Airlines ticket, she inadvertently pays extra for priority boarding instead of checked bags. Can she undo the mistake?

Question: I recently flew from Tucson, Ariz., to Philadelphia on American Airlines. When I booked the trip, I inadvertently paid $56 for priority boarding instead of two checked bags.

When I got to the airport a check-in person told me that I should contact the company and they would refund the $56. I sent American a letter, but have not heard anything. I did not need priority boarding because I am handicapped and always am allowed to board during pre-boarding. Could you help me get the refund that I feel I am due? — Mary Lou Hartline, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: I’m sorry you were confused when you were making your flight arrangements. Buying these extras should be easy and intuitive, so even if you didn’t have a case, I needed to be sure to share your frustrations with American Airlines. If you pushed the wrong button, chances are, there are others who have done the same thing.

American is clear about the refundability of these fees. You can only get your money back if you can’t use the service. Unfortunately, even though you didn’t need the service, you were able to use it. Therefore, no refund is due.

Or is there?

You spoke with a representative who said you could get a refund, and based on that promise, you sent American Airlines a letter. It should have responded, even if to say “no.” (Next time this happens — and I hope there isn’t a next time for you — try sending an email through American’s web site.

Related story:   I just wanted to fly home from Paris. Why was my ticket invalid?

A promise made by an employee should be sufficient. Always ask for the person’s name. You should have received the money without question — or delay.

Of course, American shouldn’t be charging for “priority” boarding or checked bags. The ability to board the plane in a timely manner, select a seat and check a bag ought to be included in the ticket price. Taking them out is just a deceptive way of raising the ticket price, and there ought to be a law against it. But I digress.

I contacted American Airlines and, as a gesture of goodwill, it refunded your $56. I don’t think this is a question of goodwill as much as the company doing what it said it would do. You may want to consider using a travel agent for your next airline booking. A competent travel advisor will ensure you don’t buy a service you don’t need.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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