No compensation after an awful trip on American Airlines

Helen Weinheimer books tickets on American Airlines, for her and her four grandchildren. They are rerouted, then bumped. What should have been a short flight turns into a 30-hour odyssey, with overnight expenses. Can our advocates help them get compensated?

Question: I traveled with my four grandchildren from Reagan National Airport to Greater Rochester International, N.Y. We had confirmed seat assignments and boarding passes. We were rerouted four times, including a departure airport change. What should have been a two- to three-hour trip lasted over 30 hours, requiring an overnight stay.

I travel to Rochester annually with my grandchildren to volunteer at a camp for children with visual impairments. Our previous four trips had been uneventful, just the way we want a flight to be. This time, it was not just one issue, it was a series of missteps by American Airlines agents that caused so much frustration.

After the second flight disruption, we were forced to stay overnight at a hotel. The next morning we arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport for our third flight assignment. We had confirmed seats and boarding passes in hand, only to be told that there were no seats.

I incurred hotel and shuttle expenses. During the 30 hours of travel, the children spent all of their discretionary money on meals. They had to depend on others for incidentals during their time volunteering at camp. The numerous arrival date and time changes created a disruption for the camp staff responsible for meeting our flight. Other camp volunteers had to work twice as hard to perform our assigned tasks along with their own, because we arrived late.

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I contacted American Airlines and it offered to issue each of us a voucher worth $200 per person. I appreciated the gesture, but asked American Airlines to increase it to $400 per person.

That would allow the youngsters to return to camp as volunteers next summer and restore our faith in American Airlines.

American Airlines made the $200 offer, and then stopped communicating. At this point, I would be willing to accept the offer of $200 vouchers toward a future American Airlines trip for each of the children and for me. The experience with American Airlines has left us with a sour taste. If you can encourage them to send the five vouchers, I would be satisfied. Can you help? — Helen Weinheimer, Middletown, Del.

Answer: Sometimes, flight delays and cancellations can be unavoidable. Under some circumstances, airlines normally do not provide compensation for flight delays or cancellations. The airline is only obligated to accommodate you on the next available flight, or provide a refund of the unused portions of your ticket. In some cases, the airline may offer some goodwill compensation. In your case, American Airlines was offering you and each of your four grandkids, $200 vouchers as a goodwill gesture.

The American Airlines conditions of carriage set forth the agreed-upon terms between you and the carrier. Basically, these terms provide that American Airlines is not responsible for delays and cancellations caused by events or circumstances beyond its control. This could include weather, strikes or work stoppages, and any “fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by American.”

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You contacted American Airlines through email. When it stopped communicating, you could have tried to escalate your complaint to company executives. We list executive contact information for American Airlines on our website. And you could have posted your question to our help forums. Our help forums are staffed by travel industry experts, who may have had helpful suggestions about how to address this issue with American.

Our advocates contacted American Airlines on your behalf. You told us that you received a phone call from American Airlines, and the five vouchers. We’re happy that we could help.

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, led Diane to become an advocate and to help fight the good fight.

  • Bill___A

    You know, one really has to have some extra money around for unexpected expenses. It is regrettable that the kids used up their money for the camp on meals. That said, it is admirable that they are volunteering each year and I’m glad there was some kind of resolution.

  • AJPeabody

    It would have been informative to know the reasons, stated and/or actual, for the delays and bumping.

  • Alan Gore

    DC to Rochester? This is one of the few domestic itineraries where the European option is available: had LW known about the mess his trip was about to turn into, he could have just accepted a refund instead of a reroute, taken trains, and still gotten there on time.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    I really think AA was justified in stoping any communications with this ppl. after they kind heartedly offered $ 200/person and that was not enough? Com on…..really are this pp!. serious? Just because someone dedicates their free time to volunteer, doesn’t means someone else has to pay for it

  • Annie M

    I agree. And Grandma couldn’t help? If the canceled flights were due to something the airline could control, then their is more compensation due, such as food and hotel. What was the reason for the cancellations and delays?

  • AMA

    There is too much of this story missing. What caused the delays? Did they have to get themselves to Baltimore from DC? If they had to stay at a hotel and buy food, why didn’t AA reimburse them in cash? I don’t understand why the vouchers were “acceptable” instead of cash. If a passenger is stranded in an airport overnight, the airline needs to pay for the hotel and at least a little bit of food.

  • Robin

    He made the children pay for meals that they weren’t expecting due to the layover? That’s just not right, IMO.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “…it was a series of missteps by American Airlines agents that caused so much frustration.”

    What was the missteps? Without the complete facts, it is hard to determine if the compensation is fair or not.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree…we are not getting the whole story.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I totally agree…too much of the details are missing from the story making it hard to determine if the compensation was fair or not.

  • joycexyz

    The catch is “had LW known.” Who could anticipate such a worst case scenario? Maybe next time they’ll take the train.

  • Bob Davis

    For that distance I would just drive.

  • Lindabator

    or take the train

  • cscasi

    Actually, she – grandmother.

  • JMorgana

    Agreed, but when a trip that has previously taken 2-3 hours takes 30+, that’s not reasonable either. I see this less as “Why should AA have to pay for them to volunteer?” and more as “Why shouldn’t AA pay for the extended delays?”. It gets harder to justify the travel delays the longer they go on.

  • LeeAnneClark

    So…the fact that this woman had to pay out-of-pocket expenses due to the airline’s delays escaped your notice? It didn’t occur to you that the compensation she was asking for was at least partially to reimburse her for her expenses caused by AA’s inability to manage their flights? You consider this to be her asking AA to “pay” for her volunteering, rather than reimburse her for what she spent due to AA’s bumbling?

    Wow. Okay then.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Agree that not all the facts are here. But…the very fact that they issued her and her grandchildren boarding passes for a flight that didn’t have seats on it is one clear misstep. In fact, sending her to an entirely different airport for a flight that they couldn’t even put them on seems like a pretty big misstep to me.

    I too would like to know what caused all of these delays. But none of these delays were the passenger’s fault. They were all AA’s, regardless of what the underlying cause was. So an argument could be made that everything that happened here was AA’s missteps. :)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well…from what I can tell, taking a train from Arlington VA to Rochester NY takes about 17 hours. Faster from Baltimore, but even that train trip is 10 hours. So it doesn’t seem train travel is a good option here.

    Perhaps she can’t drive? She did mention that they were volunteering at a camp for the visually impaired. Just speculating, but maybe she’s visually impaired? It’s a nearly 7 hour drive from Arlington to Rochester, but only a 1 hour flight. Driving 7 hours with four children can be challenging, especially for a grandmother. I can’t fault her for choosing to fly.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Train from Arlington to Rochester is 17 hours. From Baltimore is 10 hours. Drive time is 7 hours. Flight is 1 hour.

    Yes, even with those long train rides she would have gotten there early, but how could she have anticipated the disaster this was going to become? Precognition?

  • Carchar

    There is so little important information given in this story, that it’s not even worth reading the comments where everyone would be guessing. I’d also love to know how old Ms. Weinheimer’s grandchildren are. I suspect they are adults because she let them pay their own expenses. But again, I only suspect because there is no information supplied.

  • Robin

    Thank You.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    We are on a diff. Page on this one. So you have you opinion U have mine. The number of votes are in my favor anyway. Have a great day. —
    Sent from myMail app for Android Monday, 09 October 2017, 02:40PM -03:00 from “Disqus” :

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL so the number of votes on your comments matter to you? Didn’t realize we were in a contest.

    Like I said before…okay then!

    By the way, we are all entitled to our own opinions. But we’re not entitled to our own facts. You are certainly entitled to believe this woman is entitled to nothing even though she had to pay out-of-pocket expenses due to AA’s mis-management of her flight. And I’m entitled to think that’s utterly heartless and lacking in basic human compassion.

    Have a great day! ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Agree that details are missing.

    But the story did state that she was happy with vouchers because they plan on taking the same trip next year (they volunteer at this camp every year), and she can use the vouchers for that.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Isn’t those coupons have a dollar value, or did they got 200 matchstiks as coupons? Please?

  • The Original Joe S

    Vouchers: As good as Continental currency of the 1770s……

    Isn’t it about time we had laws as does the EU?

  • The Original Joe S

    no reason, or beyond their control, or the dog ate the homework……

  • The Original Joe S

    Hope the airline does it to YOU sometime. THEN let’s see how you view it…….

  • The Original Joe S

    Mis-management. Yup! Heartless? Lacking compassion? Maybe just being a toad?

  • The Original Joe S


  • The Original Joe S

    Worthless coupons.

  • The Original Joe S

    But if she dies in the interim, then SHE will have to fill out form AA-666 in triplicate, with her original signature, before they will send another coupon……

  • The Original Joe S

    I agree with you. Delays are ALWAYS the airlines’ fault, unless the Hand of God is plainly visible grabbing the ac by the tail!

  • The Original Joe S

    Or let the train take ME. Or the Kamakazi Bus Lines for cheap and fast! Ha ha.

  • The Original Joe S

    But, I bet you read ’em all, dincha? Ha ha ha ha!

  • Carchar

    No, I didn’t. Not even tempted this time.

  • Travelnut

    I know, right? I get the idea that money may be tight in the family all the way around, but in my opinion if you are going to be responsible for taking four grandchildren on a plane and to a camp for a week, you should have put aside some funds for an emergency, and at least enough to feed four kids for a few meals (30 hours – four meals at the most * 4 kids). I would have bought us an extra large pizza for dinner.

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