Stranded in Mexico City! Who is responsible?

By | April 1st, 2017

Laurie Mankin and her husband have tickets on American Airlines to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A travel delay and a resulting transfer to a different arline leaves them stranded in Mexico City. Mankin incurs costs to stay overnight, and has to buy new tickets to get to Puerto Vallarta. Neither airline will reimburse her. Can we help Mankin obtain a refund?

Question: My husband and I bought tickets on American Airlines to fly from Washington, D.C., to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, via Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. A three-hour mechanical delay caused us to miss the connecting flight from Dallas. American Airlines rerouted us on Aeroméxico from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta, via Mexico City.

We were told that once in Mexico, we would be leaving from the same terminal, and that a gate agent would be available to get us boarding passes. But, upon arrival at Benito Juárez Mexico City International Airport, we had to transfer from the international to the domestic flight terminal. We were too late to get boarding passes and missed the Aeroméxico flight to Puerto Vallarta.

Because we missed the connecting flight to Puerto Vallarta that American Airlines had booked us on, Aeroméxico would not honor our tickets. The Aeroméxico agent said our tickets were only valid for the flight we were booked on, and we had to buy new tickets for a flight departing the next morning. The agent said it was American Airlines’ problem, but we couldn’t get any help from American Airlines, so it was our problem.

We had no choice but to buy two Aeroméxico tickets to Puerto Vallarta for the next day. We had to pay for a one-night hotel stay in Mexico City. After our vacation, I contacted American Airlines and requested a refund of $600 for the airline tickets, the hotel and meals. I submitted all my receipts. But, American Airlines refused to issue a refund because it had endorsed our tickets to Aeroméxico — meaning that our money went to Aeroméxico.

Related story:   Back again

American Airlines told us that it had no control over Aeroméxico policies and doesn’t reimburse costs when another airline doesn’t operate a flight as planned. Can you help me get a refund for my hotel and extra tickets?– Laurie Mankin, Washington, D.C.

Answer: If you purchased tickets on American Airlines to Puerto Vallarta, American Airlines should have gotten you there, at no extra cost.


When your connection from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta was delayed because of mechanical reasons, American Airlines did what it needed to, in order to get you to your final destination. The relevant terms of American Airlines’ contract of carriage provides:

If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.
In extreme circumstances, you will be rerouted on the next American flight with available seats, or in some circumstances on another airline.

When American Airlines transferred you to a same-day flight on Aeroméxico to Puerto Vallarta, it fulfilled its contract. The problem was that American Airlines transferred you to a flight that you were unlikely to catch to your final destination. You were international travelers arriving in Mexico, and the American Airlines agent treated you as domestic travelers. Big difference.

After your return, you submitted your receipts and a refund request to American Airlines. At first, American Airlines issued you and your husband each a $25 refund, and a $100 future flight voucher. That’s far less than the $600 you actually spent getting to Puerto Vallarta.

Related story:   Help! American Airlines canceled my flight but won't cover my expenses

You contacted our advocates. They were confused by this chain of events because Aeroméxico accepted your American Airlines international booking from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta. Why would Aeroméxico accept an international booking from American Airlines if there wasn’t enough time for you to transfer terminals and go through the typically time-consuming international traveler process? Plus, Aeroméxico already had your money, and did not have incentive to help.

Our advocates suggested that you try to contact Aeroméxico executives and send a short, polite note asking for a refund. We list information on our website for company contacts. Another option would have been to review the FAQS on our website to see if a situation similar to yours had been discussed.

Ultimately, our advocates contacted American Airlines on your behalf. Once it understood exactly what had happened, American Airlines reimbursed you for your hotel and increased the future travel vouchers to $300 per person. You were happy with the outcome.



  • Extramail

    Yes, I realize these folks were happy with the resolution and I know people accept vouchers for future flight (mainly because, after pushing so hard for a refund, you’re glad to get anything back) but why can’t anybody, especially airlines, just give me cash. I paid you cash so give me my cash back. Or, yes, just credit my credit card. I know, I know, they are hoping you never use the voucher so they really haven’t had to refund you anything but just give me my cash and we’ll be done with each other.

  • Wuerzburg

    If any other type of business, such as retail, gave you vouchers instead of refunds, I doubt they would be in business very long. But because of cabotage law, we get this crap from airlines routinely.

  • Hanope

    Even when some retailers give you a credit voucher or put it on a gift card, you can give or sell it to another person and often have. You can’t do that with airline vouchers. They are restricted to the person they were issued to. Also, most retailer vouchers or gift cards have no expiration date, unlike airline vouchers, which again tend to have expiration dates, many times ‘backdated’to when you bought the ticket, which could really shorten the available time to use them.

  • American did NOT fulfill their contract because they subcontracted out their obligation to a company that did not perform. As the prime contractor, American was always on the hook to make it right.
    Aeromexico basically accepted an “illegal connection” (not enough time to transfer) and should also have stepped up. They also failed to send an agent when they knew there was a terminal transfer with limited time.

  • Alan Gore

    AeroMexico definitely joins Air Canada on my Do Not Use Under Any Circumstances list.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Once again a multitude of errors at several points (both AA and Aeromexico). How difficult would it have been for Aeromexico to just rebook these passengers on the next Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta, even if it was the next morning ? No, instead Aeromexico lies to them and just blows them off — what a huge lie to tell these passengers that they could use only the flight that AA rebooked them on. When are specific airline employees who lie and mistreat passengers ever going to be held accountable ? Right, never. What a sorry state of affairs when consumers have no rights, little or no recourse (unless they can try through Elliott.org). Probably thousands of people are shafted every year by airlines.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Exactly……how many people dump those vouchers in the back of their underwear drawer ?…and the airlines know this. I was once given a voucher from Amtrak with an expiration date and of course, I had no use for it so that was about $100 I might has well have set fire to.

  • Rebecca

    Please add Allegiant to this list. They have a serious safety issue. For context – their ceo initially made his fortune with ValuJet. Seriously. There are several pilots suing them because they were fired for “not protecting company assets” when they made emergency landings or refused to take off because they felt the plane wasn’t safe to fly but the airline executives felt differently.

  • Alan Gore

    Allegiant, Spirit, et. al. go without saying as airlines to avoid. My list is of system carriers that should know better and which one might encounter in putting a standard international itinerary together.

  • PsyGuy

    This is a case of passing the buck, without the buck. Kind of a mess, but I believe in this instance it’s the airlines fault, some airlines, don’t know which one. My rationale is that a passenger just missed a connection and is stranded and a counter agent endorses your ticket to another airlines, but even if you know you won’t make the connection, what are you supposed to do? The PAX is entirely at the mercy of the particular county agent. If you say no, even if it’s super polite, they will just as likely shrug and call next. CSR’s are generally in the business of passing the problem on to someone else, and they get evaluated by how effectively they do that.

  • PsyGuy

    Accountable too who? their supervisors love the idea of having PAX spend more money. Why do they do this, because you are stranded in a foreign country, and they know you have little option. You aren’t really going to voluntarily just live in the airport, and if you try they will just arrest you and put you in jail, and you don’t want to be in Mexico jail.

  • PsyGuy

    Well let’s take a step back, this wasn’t two CSR’s at a table fixing or negotiating this scenario. It was a computer talking to another computer, and computers generally do what their operators input.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m not a fan of Aeromexico, I won’t fly them if I am making the choice. I do like Air Canada though.

  • PsyGuy

    Sounds like he’s the kind of CEO that shareholders and boards want.

  • PsyGuy

    Sorry, I like Spirit. Yes it’s completely no frills, and they unbundle everything about their ticket costs, BUT that’s what i love about them. Spirit’s pretty transparent about what your buying and what it includes, they don’t hide anything that matters.

  • PsyGuy

    Well you answered your own question. It’s not just they are hoping you don’t use it, it’s that cash makes your equal with everyone else. When they give you a voucher, they can set all sorts of restrictions and limits on it, because it’s their money.

  • PsyGuy

    I only keep underwear in my underwear drawer.

  • Actually, software usually does what the specification says. That’s determined by the customer, who should be following regulations. None the less, the software should know minimum connection times and it should know what terminal is used for domestic and international flights.

  • PsyGuy

    Why would the software know that? Most GDS is little more than a database.

  • And databases get queried by software all the time. The technology has been around for 30+ years.

  • PsyGuy

    That it is, and software looks for a seat, finds one, and fills that seat.

  • Rebecca

    I assumed, but you know what they say about assuming. It’s genuinely scary how many aborted takeoff and emergency landings they have. When you adjust for how small their fleet is, it’s significantly more than any other US airline. Their planes shouldn’t be in the air.

  • Travelnut

    Especially for non-airline travel. Some vouchers would be virtually impossible to use, which I am sure they realize and just don’t care. If you travel to a remote location, what are the chances you will return? Likely, slim. Several years ago I was on a train from London to Edinburgh that was severely delayed mid-trip. The train personnel came through and gave us the paperwork to apply for reimbursement. When I saw it was a voucher, I was like, I’m sure they will work with me if I let them know I’m a US citizen unlikely to return to the UK in the near future. Um, no. I spoke with several different people and they were unwilling to do anything but a voucher. I think it is criminal.

  • Attention All Passengers

    You’re right, simply because this is the world we live in. Nevertheless as an airline public contact employee for many years, I’m glad to say my parents taught me the basics like honesty and caring about other people (which when I entered the airlines 35+ years ago), this was actually the concept of CUSTOMER SERVICE taught in the class-room. It’s called a conscience.
    Now the airlines (and parents for that matter) don’t teach any of that. Ergo, even the agents are left to their own defenses which in most cases is coded as “No, leave me alone, can’t handle it, don’t know how to handle it, I’ll say (lie about) anything to get you out of my face” attitudes……I’ve seen agents that can carry this off with the utmost convincing fortitude. Do you think supervisors are any different?

  • PsyGuy

    Right, it’s called “Alternative Facts”, it’s not lieing any more.
    Again, accountable to who? Supervisors and executives, they want these kind of soft skills. It’s not about the facts and evidence anymore it’s about who has the best spin and story.

  • BubbaJoe123

    They would have been happy to give the poster cash back. They weren’t going to book her on another flight AND give her the cash back.

    If you buy an iPhone, and it breaks, Apple will give you a replacement, or maybe give you your money back, but they won’t provide you a new phone AND refund your purchase price.

  • BubbaJoe123

    How do you know that the ticket as booked violated MCT?

  • Attention All Passengers

    “alternative facts” deceive or can confuse people. Lying is bad enough, now people have to figure out if the alternative facts are true or not ?…..and since when do people work for a company (airline or otherwise) that are not expected to be accountable to supervisors or managers if they do something wrong or unethical? No accountability = no responsibility, no ethics or honesty.

  • OP stated there wasn’t enough time to get boarding passes. Most MCTs are in hours for international travel (1-1/2 hours or more)

  • PsyGuy

    What you as a consumer are considering wrong or unethical is not what the company and thus its managers and supervisors consider wrong or unethical.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Nope. Read the OP’s story. Link is below. He wasn’t allowed to check in for the FIRST flight (ICN-CGO).

    “I booked a flight through Travelocity and due to their error had to cancel my trip while at the airport. Yesterday I was supposed to fly from Incheon to Zhengzhou to Bangkok. The trip was booked via Travelocity a month prior and when I confirmed I was told everything was good to go. Everything was in fact not good to go and I soon learned that once I arrived at the airport.

    As I was getting ready to check in I was told to step off to the side to speak to the Manager on Duty. She informed me that my layover time (70min) was not sufficient and she would not check me in due to Airline policy (China Southern). I asked her what I needed to do and I was more or less met with a blank look that implied figure it out and was told to call Travelocity and work it out with them. ”

    http://forum.elliott.org/threads/not-allowed-to-check-in-cancelled-trip.4648/#post-51673

  • Um, The OP was in Mexico City

  • BubbaJoe123

    Sorry, thought you were commenting on a different story.

    That said, again, how do you know the ticket as booked violated MCT? If the flight to Mexico City was late, then it could be impossible to make the connection, even though the ticket as booked was totally valid.

  • MCT is calculated from arrival time of the previous flight. The flight from Dallas to Mexico City and Mexico City to Puerto were both Aeromexico flights. So a late flight in to Mexico City would still be the responsibility of Aeromexico. If it violated MCT then Aeromexico would have to fix it by rescheduling. If that was a next day flight then Aeromexico would pay the hotel costs. The only “out” would be weather related and that didn’t happen.

  • BubbaJoe123

    You don’t seem to understand MCT. MCT has nothing to do with whether a flight’s on time or not. It’s the minimum connecting time that’s “legal” to be _ticketed_. Looks like I-D MCT at MEX for AM is 2.0 hours. So, you can’t BOOK a ticket on AM from the US to a location in Mexico with a connection in MEX with a connection under two hours.

    There’s no evidence that this ticket, as booked, violated MCT.

    A ticket can be completely in compliance with MCT, and a traveler can still miss their connection.

    I don’t disagree that AM should have rebooked the passengers once they missed their connect.

  • Attention All Passengers

    I can tell you that if my manager or supervisors were to ask me to do something wrong or unethical, I would not do it. There are ways to be honest with people without having to deceive, embellish or withhold information. Sometimes it’s just a matter of explaining why a company does or does not allow something and then being empathetic to their frustration.
    I once had a supervisor refuse to come out and talk to a passenger with a totally legitimate complaint beyond my control (even after trying to phone appropriate departments to fix it). I simply told her that he is refusing to come out and talk to you. Why should I have to lie for him ? She was persistent for his name so I simply went back into his office and told him she would like his name (all the while playing dumb – “what should I do” ??). Well, he wanted no part of that so decided to come out and confront the woman. I gotta tell you she was savvy, cool, calm, collected and he finally had me call the appropriate department – with his name as an “okay” to give her what she wanted. Done. That is how you do it – not by lying, deception and confusion.

  • PsyGuy

    They would also be well within their legal right to terminate you as well.

  • Attention All Passengers

    With what cause ?, legal how ?
    That’s why we have unions and shop stewards – no so easy.

  • PsyGuy

    I’m saying if you’re a CSR you aren’t a member of a union of shop and that if a supervisor and organization want’s to terminate you for cause including insubordination or no cause at all, because you live and work in a at-will state they would legally be able to do that.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Right, thankfully I am not in one of those states and am in a strong union (IAM). Still there is something wrong and very scary about employers being able to fire people at will and with no cause – 21st Century ??

  • PsyGuy

    Oh there are all types of laws and regulation, but as soon as they are created, then corporate lawyers figure out how to get around them, and then educate their management on what to do and not do (or say). For example, it’s illegal to discriminate based on a number of demographics such as race, etc. So when a manager terminates or rejects an applicant they just don’t give a reason. If you’re a CSR and helping customers, etc. They aren’t going to terminate you for doing “the right thing”, they are going to fire you for being “inefficient” or something else.

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