Where are the vouchers my airline promised?

US Airways promises Robert and Nancy Fletcher two $450 vouchers if they switch flights. Then it doesn’t deliver. Now what?

Question: My wife Nancy and I recently were scheduled to fly on US Airways from Santa Barbara, California, to Hartford, Connecticut, with stops in Phoenix and Charlotte, North Carolina.

When we checked in at the airport, a male gate attendant asked if we would consider moving to a different flight in exchange for $450 flight vouchers per person. We agreed, and then were placed on a flight plan that sent us through Phoenix and Philadelphia, with a final destination in Hartford.

The agent neglected to give us the vouchers or a number before we boarded the flight. We are seniors and inexperienced fliers. We asked about the vouchers in Hartford, but a US Airways representative told us we needed to get them at the original airport. Nancy called US Airways and was assisted by a woman who was extremely helpful and recorded all this information. The woman also contacted the Santa Barbara Airport and made its staff aware of the situation.

It’s been several months, and we haven’t seen the vouchers. Can you help us? — Robert Fletcher, Suffield, Conn.

Answer: US Airways should have issued the $450 vouchers, as promised, when the offer was made. But since you’re not an experienced air traveler, you couldn’t have known that.

For future reference, though, if a gate agent or front-desk employee makes any kind of promise, get it in writing. Talk is cheap, especially in the travel industry.

Your flight from Santa Barbara to Phoenix was overbooked, which means US Airways had sold more seats than it had available. In almost any other business, that would be illegal (remember “The Producers”?). But in the airline world, it’s common. Had you waited a little while longer, and if the airline had to do what’s called an “involuntary” denied boarding, it would have been required to pay you real money for the inconvenience.

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It’s unclear why the US Airways representative didn’t give you the vouchers while you were standing in front of him. Maybe it slipped his mind? At any rate, I’m not sure you were the ideal candidates for taking the voucher. By your own admission, you don’t know much about air travel, and you probably don’t want to extend your trip by more than two stopovers. Remember, the more complex your itinerary, the greater the chances that something will go wrong.

When your vouchers didn’t arrive, you could have appealed to someone higher up at US Airways (now American Airlines). I have a list of American Airlines’ executives on my consumer advocacy site.

I contacted the airline on your behalf. A representative promised to send you the $450 vouchers. But guess what? No vouchers. I asked again, and this time, you received the vouchers, as promised.

This story first appeared Aug. 24, 2015.

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.

  • Jeff W.

    I recall this story from last year and it is a repost, but not marked as such.

    (Still glad they got their vouchers.)

  • KanExplore

    I’m glad you were able to help and the advice is sound – never settle for an oral promise, get it in writing, meaning the physical voucher in this case. I love being bumped, especially when I’m on a free flight and can then get another free flight out of it. If they were not allowed to overbook, then yes, their revenue per flight would decrease, which would indirectly but inevitably result in higher prices.

    Overbooking happens because the airlines know from experience approximately how many people per flight will be no shows and they don’t want to fly empty seats. Sometimes they get it wrong, and more people show up than expected. That’s when the offers come, and usually there’s somebody like me who will want to snap them up. And I agree it should be somebody who will be able to do so successfully, since I’ll bet a lot of people take those vouchers and end up never using them.

  • Michael__K

    I think I recall the case you are thinking of, but it was a different passenger and different itinerary and different voucher amount. See: http://elliott.org/forum/threads/vouchers-promised-then-refused.1143/

    The deja-vu part is that it’s US Airways/AA again.

    Then again, we have encountered similar complaints against other carriers.

    United: http://elliott.org/forum/threads/help-getting-united-to-pay-promised-400-voluntary-denied-boarding-credit.2002/

    Spirit: http://elliott.org/forum/threads/flight-vouchers-promised-not-awarded.1471/

  • Jeff W.

    Nope, this was posted on August 24, 2015.

    A Google search confirms this, but the original article and comments are lost as this site was having some technical challenges back then.

    The original post still resides on Chris’ Google+ feed,


    Original post (but bad):


  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Jeff,

    Well done! Thanks for the catch. :-)


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