My trip was definitely in vain. Now where is my refund?

By | February 26th, 2017

When American Airlines cancels a flight midway through the outgoing segment and promises a refund for a trip in vain, shouldn’t American actually issue a refund? Lisa Davisson would like to know.

Question: We had round-trip tickets to fly from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, via Philadelphia International Airport. We had a meeting scheduled in Greenville, S.C., the same day. Upon our arrival in Philadelphia, we learned that the flight to Greenville was canceled. There were no other flights which would allow us to make our scheduled meeting.

I called American Airlines customer service. The American representative said that we had a “trip in vain” and would receive a full refund, even for the legs flown from and to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I was told to talk to an agent at the airport to obtain a refund. The airport agent to whom I spoke said she was filing a trip in vain form and we would receive a refund within seven days.

After seven days passed without receiving the refund, I called American’s customer service and was told there was no record of the information given by the agent at the airport about our trip in vain. I was instructed to submit a claim through the American Airlines website. I filed the online claim and received a case number, but haven’t received a response or a refund from American. Can you help me obtain a refund from American Airlines? — Lisa Davisson, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Answer: If American Airlines promised you a refund within seven days for your trip in vain, it should give you a refund. A “trip in vain” is an airline term that refers to a delay in an itinerary that causes a traveler to miss the purpose of the trip. Trip in vain delays may result in a full or partial refund, a credit, or tickets for future use. The airline trip in vain policy is not publicized and not part of the contract of carriage.

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Eventually, you received vouchers for the full value of the $449 tickets. But you didn’t want the vouchers, you wanted a refund. You had already rescheduled your trip and booked tickets on another airline. You wanted to apply the refund to the cost of your alternate reservation.

You posted your dilemma to our help forums. The forums are read by company representatives and volunteer subject matter experts who may be able to help. The forum advisors suggested that you start by sending emails to the lower-tier American executives, and escalate the contact emails as needed. We list company executive contact information in our website company contacts.

You were also advised to be polite, but insistent on receiving a refund, not vouchers, for the flight that American canceled.

American’s own tips for delayed or canceled flights states that if the “originally scheduled flight was canceled and you decide not to travel, you can receive a full refund.”

Prompt refunds are required. If a refund is due, the airline must forward a credit to your card company within seven business days of the request for a refund, according to Consumer Guide to Air Travel.

You were polite and persistent, and initially you received a reply from American Airlines saying that you weren’t eligible for a refund because you had accepted the vouchers. Except that you hadn’t accepted the vouchers. Our advocates reached out to American Airlines on your behalf. You received an email stating that the vouchers would be voided and you would receive a refund, and that you would receive 10,000 AAdvantage miles.

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