I used vouchers to book my flight, and now I need to cancel. Can I get a refund?

American Airlines bumps Hadassah Bennett from a flight and compensates her with vouchers, which she redeems for another flight. But a chronic illness flares up and she is forced to cancel her flight. Can she persuade American to return her vouchers for her to use on a future flight?

Question: We received a $1,500 voucher from American Airlines after we were bumped from a flight in April 2016.

In December, we booked tickets to London using the credit (I believe we had to pay $100 extra or something small like that). I went to the airport and gave them the vouchers and booked the flight. The flight is in September.

I have Crohn’s disease. It has just begun to flare up again. When this happens I cannot travel. Sadly, I am very sick. My doctor said I cannot go on this trip. I need help with how to go about canceling and getting the vouchers back. Do you think that’s possible? — Hadassah Bennett, Baltimore, Md.

Answer: So sorry you’re not well enough to travel. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for you to not only feel sick, but also have to go through the hassle of trying to get back your travel vouchers.

This is an unusual case because flights on American that are paid for with vouchers like yours are not refundable or transferable. The airline might have allowed you to rebook the flight by paying a change fee.

You also would have had a smoother experience if you had purchased travel insurance. We strongly urge fliers with chronic health conditions to purchase insurance for just this type of situation. To see if this coverage is right for you, we suggest you consult the list of frequently asked questions about travel insurance on our website.

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But we’ve had positive outcomes in the past in cases of serious illness, even without insurance involved. Usually this involves submitting a doctor’s note stating that the traveler is not fit to fly.

You reached out to one of our advocates, who was confident we could get you a waiver of the change fees. We suggested that you try to negotiate with American by writing a simple, polite letter to one of their customer service executives. We list their contact information on our website.

Shortly thereafter, an American Airlines representative contacted you and agreed to waive the change fees so you could reuse the vouchers on a future flight. No doctor’s note necessary, and you did it on your own.

We’re very happy for your outcome and wish you better health and safe travels.

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. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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