American Airlines charges sailor a fee for flight change

I‘m hoping you can help my son with a situation,” Brad Lessem wrote to me a few days ago.

His son had just finished Navy basic training and had enough leave time to fly home during the holidays. But as a newly-minted Seaman Apprentice, he didn’t quite understand the ways of the military, and he miscalculated the actual amount of leave time. Now American Airlines wanted to charge a hefty change fee to get him back to his Navy base — a fee he couldn’t afford.

In order to fix the ticket, Lessem’s son was asking the airline to push his flight time back by a day.

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“He was told there was a $140 additional charge to change his ticket date, even though he changed it more than a month before travel,” said his father. “it seems a shame that American Airlines would take advantage of our servicemen in such a way, and not give him a break. As an E-2 in the Navy, he certainly isn’t earning enough money to throw away an extra $140. Is there anything you can do to help?”

Members of the armed services fall under a special category of passenger. I didn’t put them there; the airlines did. For example, American waives certain baggage fees for soldiers, as do other carriers. They also loosen some of their rules, particularly for servicemembers traveling with a change in orders.

The other thing that Lessem’s son had going for him was that it was the holidays, and that he’d just finished boot came. I know exactly what that’s like, because I remember picking Kari up from the airport after she finished Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., back in the 90s. Let’s just say I have personal reason for going out of my way to help someone who has just survived that place.

I contacted American on Lessem’s behalf. He also reached out to American Airlines through its Facebook page.

American offered a $140 voucher.

That’s not quite the refund he was hoping for, but it is better than nothing.

“Would you say this is an acceptable compromise?” Lessem asks.

Good question.

American Airlines is under no obligation to waive his son’s change fees, so technically this isn’t a bad offer. Could it have done better? Sure. But from the airline’s perspective, these change fees are a huge revenue generator. Just have a look at its conditions of carriage and you’ll see that it isn’t just the change fees, but the ability to sell an optional “your choice” package that reduces the change fees you would pay, that is making AA money.

Whether this is the right way to earn revenues or a wrong way is a discussion for another time. But I’ll give American credit for responding to this sailor’s request. Other equally deserving passengers have received little more than form rejections, unfortunately.

76 thoughts on “American Airlines charges sailor a fee for flight change

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  2. AA’s response is politely characterized as Bovine Effluent.  It’s not like a sailor has any schedule flexibility, and the voucher is likely to expire before the sailor will have a chance to use it. 

    This airline should be ashamed of itself.  But then I’ve had no respect for AA for more than 20 years, after the terrible treatment they gave me on some flights (where I was actually flying under military orders to Ft Sill for military training.)

    1. My few and far between experiences with American Airlines weren’t this bad.  I was actually allowed to change to a flight that departed 90 minutes earlier without a change fee, but that was over a decade ago.  I haven’t had to change a flight the other two times I flew AA since then.

      I have no problem if it’s a one time deal.  I don’t have a problem with change fees per se, but how much is another matter.

    2. Deemery… I’m also a vet but respectfully disagree with you. Rule number 1 in BCT or any other military training is to accept responsibility for your own actions. The kid screwed up his plane ticket. It had nothing to do with his service.

      AA did the honorable thing by the serviceman. They didn’t have to do anything.

      1. The thing that bugs me though is this – how many MIL passengers pay the fare difference and go on with life without asking Elliott to advocate for them?

        So this kid gets a $140 voucher and the rest don’t. I find the action of those who pay up and shut up to be more honorable.

        1. So you are questioning his honor because he requested assistance to fix this issue?  I’m sure when you were in the military you served much more honorably than this kid.

          1. The kid didn’t request assistance; his father did.  His father that claims that $140 is too much for his son to afford, yet apparently doesn’t put up the money himself. 

            Somebody is missing honor, but it’s not this soldier as far as we can tell.

          2. The airline went beyond its part of the deal. And I agree with John because AA did an honorable thing flying him back to base.

            All I am saying is that I find the actions of those who pay and play by the rules *more* honorably. (Jackson re-read my post.) What I don’t like is why AA will give this one $140 just because he (or his dad) had an ombudsman batting for them. How about the rest of all the soldiers who paid for fare differences?

            Finally I never claimed I did anything more honorable than this kid, you did.

  3. I certainly empathize with the situation, but it was ultimately customer error, and a voucher is more than would be given to the average customer.

    I don’t, however, get the statement about soldiers being offered special privileges.  Yes, our armed forces get baggage allowances, early boarding, and other privileges.  And I think that’s the right thing for airlines to do.

    But you then write, in effect, that they get these privileges, so therefore the airlines must extend them additional privileges as well.  It does not follow. 

    Waiving the change fee would be nice, but you’re trying to get blood from a turnip here.

    1. I don’t, however, get the statement about soldiers being offered special privileges.

      —–

      Everyone here places great emphasis on individual responsibility, and I have no objection to that.

      Do we have any collective responsibilities as a civilized society?  We ask our soldiers to leave their families behind and risk their lives for our freedoms and endure physical and emotional trauma that most of us will never imagine.  Typically for less than normal minimum wage.  

      I submit that each and every one of us shares a collective responsibility to provide our soldiers with whatever little courtesies we can afford to extend them.

      1. Umm…last time I checked, we don’t “ask” them to do that.  They sign up to do that themselves.  It’s called getting a job.

        1. And if they didn’t volunteer to do the job, we would have a draft. Do you know what enlisted people get paid? Barely minimum wage. Yeah, if you make a career out of the service, the pay rates go up as your service length goes up-along with your rank going up. At the highest enlisted rank-Sergeant Major in the Army (if you make it in 10 years0 your starting pay is $4635 a month-or $1158.75 per week. Before taxes-which you have to pay unless you are in a combat zone.

          And stop and think about it. Our Government doesn’t pay them a living wage. So if they did, where would the money come from? Our taxes, right? So where does the money come from when companies like AA waive baggage fees for military personnel? Not really us because other non-military personnel get the fee waived (I am assuming it is similar to other airlines where premium customers get perks). And does it cost anyone anything if they get to board first? No-unless you want to pay for the privilege.

          My point in all this tl;dr. Stop whining about the extra perks military personnel get and the next time you see someone in a uniform, thank them for their service to our country.

      2. You missed the point.
         
        Reading further, you would have read:

        “You then write, in effect, that they get these privileges, so
        therefore the airlines must extend them additional privileges as well. 
        It does not follow. ”

        It’s a non sequitur no matter how many patriotic heartstrings you pull.

        1. I’m afraid you missed the point.

          Chris Elliott does not use the world “privilege” even once in the article.  He does mention going out his way to help someone.  And he does mention that airlines have loosened some other rules for our soldiers (and links to an example where American got positive publicity, at least relative to a competitor, for doing so).

          1.  And my question back is…..so what?  If I like you for whatever reason, and loosen 9 rules for you because of that…would you feel entitled to have rule #10 loosened as well?  That’s the question here.  I’m not trying to be obtuse or split hairs.  All I’m saying is the fact that airlines bend X rules for soldiers doesn’t mean they should bend X+1 rules, and certainly not by getting a travel mediator involved.

          2. Without media exposure, such as the CNN piece linked above in the article, then instead of X rules that airlines bend for our soldiers, then there could very well only be X-1 or X-3 such rules.
            Maybe that’s what you would prefer.

          3. You’re not going to get your point across to people on the internet–most of whom have a gross misunderstanding of logic. But kudos for trying. 🙂

    2. If we see

      “American Airlines charges janitor a fee for flight change”
      “American Airlines charges doctor a fee for flight change”
      “American Airlines charges minority a fee for flight change”
      “American Airlines charges everyone a fee for flight change”

       how would these be any different?

  4. I don’t get why this is a case at all. I can sympathize with the soldier, but I don’t think he should get a free change either.  It’s not like his orders were changed.  Perhaps if he had been recalled, or given orders, and now had to report early and the airline already has an agreement that in those cases that it would waive the fees, than it should.  But in his case, he booked the wrong date, and now has to pay a change fee.  How should this be any different than anyone else who booked a ticket on the wrong day?
     
    I can’t vote, because I don’t feel the question is appropriate.  Did American do enough for Brad Lessem’s son? I can’t say yes or no, I think they should have done anything to begin with.

  5. I wonder how the $140 is calculated. Aren’t most change fees $150 plus the fare difference on top of that? Did AA already waive the change fee and just collect the fare difference?

    Is this a change fee issue or a fare difference issue?

    1. mike, read my post below. I don’t think there is change penalty fee for MIL passengers. So this sounds like a fare difference only.

      1. I wasn’t thinking MIL fare, the OP commented on how he is new and young and doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to do things in the military.

        But if it’s a MIL fare it is likely either discounted and/or less restrictive to begin with, so he had a benefit up front at time of purchase.

         

        1. Another possibility is if the ticket’s fare rules indicate that any difference in fare, if the new one is lower than the old one, be applied to the change fee. So if:

          1. The OP originally paid $410 for his ticket.

          2. The new fare (as if buying a new ticket) with new dates is $400.

          $410 – $400 = $10 difference. Assume the usual $150 change fee, $150 – $10 diff = $140 total fees to change the ticket.

          I’ve seen that on many of AA’s fares in my past life, if not all of them. In contrast, US Airways’ fare rules (unless they changed recently) generally don’t credit any difference if the new fare is lower than the old one.

          1. Whoops, just saw the subsequent comments. I guess my explanation above wasn’t really necessary anymore. 🙂

  6. AA screwed me on a flight change the same day. I needed an earlier flight on the same day. They told me three seats were available and that it would be $50.00 to change. So, I did change and when I arrived there were a total of 7 pax on board for the entire flight, CLE to LGA. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I’ll never ever fly AA again. Hopefully the BK will cease their operations or another company will take them over.
     
    The right thing to do for this sailor was to change the flight without any up-front fee or having to wait for a voucher that may never get used.

    1. CLE-LGA AA typical equipment EMBRAER EMB-135 with 37 passengers.
      You were probably told there were 3 seats left for a particular booking class . And, you probably misunderstood it to mean 3 seats left for the whole flight. The AA agent and you are not on the same planet.

    2. Apparently the earlier flight was worth (at least) $50 to you. Yet you wanted it for free and call American the bad guys because you didn’t buy a ticket for when you needed to fly in the first place.
      What gives?

  7. Actually, this is an extremely good resolution.  As a young sailor, he’ll probably use the voucher in ample time.  Military members travel quite a bit, no matter what branch of the service, and young single military are more inclined to fly as they don’t have the encumbrances of a family adding to the expense. (Not that my family is an encumbrance, just that when it’s all of us, we drive)

    AA didn’t have to do this but all airlines give special consideration to the military, as they should, given they are making a great deal less money than their civilian counterparts.  Within the next year, this sailor will have accrued about 30 days of leave time, which will afford him the opportunity to either visit his family again (or a friend somewhere).  Having this voucher makes him more inclined to do so.

    The military has more flexibility than most civilians think.

    1. Actually, you would be incorrect. As the wife of a 20 year veteran and mother of a young, new Marine who graduated boot camp in November, went straight to combat training and then career training, then transferred to Okinawa in March and is now in Afghanistan for a 7 month deployment, she’d have a hard time using a voucher within the time frame allowed.  Military in these troubled times have far LESS travel and vacation flexibility than civilians think.  Accruing leave and having the opportunity and money to USE the leave are not the same thing.

      1. Um, actually, you would be incorrect – as the daughter of a 22 year veteran (now deceased thanks to the nuclear testing in Nevada in the 50’s), as the wife of a 22 year veteran, as the mother of two combat vets, with our third son entering the military after he graduates High School this coming May, I really DO know what I’m talking about. (He’s already taken his first oath and has his job reserved)

        My father, having served in three wars, was home a great deal and could travel.  He and my mother, no matter where they were stationed, made it home at least twice a year to see their parents.  This is a guy who was in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  

        Twice a year – no matter what. (Except for Korea – he could only come home the one time when my maternal grandfather died)  I am the youngest of 5 kids and my birth is the only one my dad made it home in time to see.  It just so happened he was on a rotation from Vietnam (in his second of three years spent there)

        My two sons, both having served, one as a combat engineer (now in the AZ Guard) and the other as an infantryman (now an Apache Helicopter pilot stationed in Korea), both were deployed in the initial part of the war (Attached to the 3rd ID – the fastest way home is thru Baghdad) and were in the sandbox for fourteen months total (Because Rumsfeld lied – they didn’t come home when they were supposed to) and my husband having served in the first Gulf War.  

        Oh, wait, I’m also a Veteran of the military – got the VA disability and the pretty little form on the wall to prove it.

        Huh, that’s FIVE military members in my family alone who would have no problem using this voucher.  Sorry, Amiga, but YOU are the one who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.  

        And that little brown card that gets renewed every four years tells me I’m not a civilian – never have been, never will be.  I joined right out of high school, met my husband at the end of my four years, married and then started following him around the country.

        So how about you wipe the smug off your face?  I’ve been at it a lot longer than you have and with every single one of my sons.  I spent a sum total of 14 months while MY kids were in the sandbox.  Yours went to Afghanistan?  Mine were in the invasion to Baghdad and every day of that 14 months I kept one eye out the window looking for that green car to come tell me one of them had died. (The additional months are due to my second son having already been in Afghanistan on another deployment and his unit being sent to attach to the 3rd ID for the invasion) 

        We DID get the call that one of them had been shot.  Worst weekend of my life and I never want to go through that again.  The anxiety didn’t end until he was allowed to call and all he could get out was, “I love you Mom, I’m still alive.  Tell Dad to record the Baltimore game for me.” before he fell asleep again.

        You’ve been a military mom for three months, I’ve been doing it since 2000.  You’re a military wife of a recently retired?  I’ve been doing it since 1984, when I met my husband.  You were never in the military?  I was – started in 1982, three weeks after my 18th birthday.  

  8. First off, I don’t ever think a voucher is an acceptable form of compensation, as it may be completely worthless depending on the passenger’s future plans. The airlines know this and see it as a opportunity to look generous when the true cost of the voucher to them may be pennies on the dollar.

    As to the core issue, I’m sympathetic to anyone who is faced with a change fee, as they are nothing but pure profit to airlines – the airlines already charge the difference in fare, and the administrative cost of changing a ticket is at most a few dollars. However, I have a hard time understanding why this customer deserves a special exemption just because he’s a soldier.

    I don’t think it’s appropriate for his father to suggest that AA is “taking advantage” of the fact that he’s a soldier because all they’re doing as applying their change fee policy the same as they would to any other passenger. As another commenter said, it would be different if he was facing a change in orders or something that is a unique to the military, but he’s not. He basically just miscalculated his “vacation” time and has to change his travel plans as a result.

    1. Except, in this case, it’s not compensation.  It was a nice gesture, a gift. 

      If an airline lost your luggage and gave you the value of your possessions in the form of a voucher, that would be compensation.

  9. If I am reading the article, the sailor was trying extend his time at home, yes? I would have an easier time justifying the fight for a refund of the fees if he miscalculated his leave time and would have been late reporting back for work.  I understand the value of spending time with your family – especially at the holidays – but, the worst case scenario of flying back as scheduled would have been that he would have reported back for work a day early?  I couldn’t fight for that change fee refund.

    1. You misread the article. He miscalculated his leave time because he was new in the Navy and didnt’ completely understand how much leave he had. He would have been late reporting to work if he had taken the original flight, thus the need for the change. It wasn’t because he wanted to spend more time at home.

      1. Again, maybe I am not reading it correctly, but what gave me the idea was this: “In order to fix the ticket, Lessem’s son was asking the airline to push his flight time back by a day.” That sounded like he wanted an extra day at home – which, I don’t begrudge at all, but I don’t know that it is the airline’s responsibility to waive any associated charges.

  10. Actually AA (and other US carriers) does have special fares that only military (MIL) personnel and their family are eligible for. I am not sure at what point in the journey he wanted to change his return date. I am going to assume he wanted to make a change after he already had begun his trip (already departed his origin). That said, AA does have different rules for MIL fares. Also MIL passengers are allowed to fly standby.

    The question is what was the $140 charge for? It certainly is an odd number for a typical change fee. I suspect it is for a difference in fares. But I can’t tell for sure.

    The best thing to do is read the AA tariff rules for military passengers and make your own decision.

    I post the pertinent provisions here:

            NOTE –                                               
              MILITARY ID REQUIRED AT TIME OF TICKETING AND/OR    
              CHECK-IN.                                           
              —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —    
              1. STANDBY – ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY AND THEIR         
                 DEPENDENTS MAY STANDBY WITHOUT CHARGE AS         
                 NOTED BELOW.                                     
               A.PASSENGERS MUST BE HOLDING CONFIRMED RESERVA-    
                 TIONS AND TICKETS FOR FLIGHTS OPERATED BY        
                 AMERICAN AIRLINES/ AMERICAN EAGLE OR AMERICAN    
                 CONNECTION                                       
               B.STANDBY IS PERMITTED FOR EARLIER/LATER SAME DAY  
                 AA NONSTOP AND/OR CONNECTING FLIGHTS BETWEEN     
                 THE SAME ORIGIN AND DESTINATION AIRPORTS         
                 PROVIDED THE ROUTING IS APPLICABLE FOR THE       
                  FARE CHARGED.                                   
                C.WHEN TICKETED TO/FROM CHI/HOU/NYC/WAS/DFW —    
                  CHECK FLIGHT APPLICATION FOR ANY AIRPORT        
                  RESTRICTION.                                    
              ///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—//  
              2.SAME DAY – CONFIRMED FLIGHT CHANGE/CFC/ –         
                PASSENGERS HOLDING CONFIRMED RESERVATIONS AND     
                TICKETS IN INVENTORIES K/M/L/W/V/G/S/N/Q/O MAY    
                CONFIRM TRAVEL ON AN ALTERNATE FLIGHT FOR A       
                NONREFUNDABLE FEE WITHIN 12 HOURS OF THE          
                ALTERNATE FLIGHT/S DEPARTURE TIME BASED ON        
                THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS                          
              —                                                 
                 A.THERE IS NO CHANGE TO THE ORIGIN/DESTINATION   
                   OR STOPOVER POINTS.                            
                 B.NEW FLIGHT/S/ AND ROUTING ARE PERMITTED PER    
                   THE TICKETED FARE RULE.                        
                 C.ALL TRAVEL IS ON AMERICAN AIRLINES/ AMERICAN   
                   EAGLE AND AMERICAN CONNECTION.                 
                D.REQUESTS ARE MADE VIA AIRPORT SELF-SERVICE      
                  CHECK-IN/ TICKET COUNTERS /INCLUDING ADMIRALS   
                  CLUBS AND PREMIUM SERVICES/ OR BY CALLING AA    
                  RESERVATIONS.                                   
                E.CHANGES PERMITTED TO OUTBOUND OR CONTINUING/    
                  RETURN FLIGHTS.                                 
                F.CONFIRMATION IS SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY.        
                G.ALTERNATE FLIGHT IS ON SAME TICKETED DATE.      
              ///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///    
              PASSENGERS TICKETED IN Y/B/H INVENTORIES MAY        
              CONFIRM TRAVEL WITHIN 12 HOURS OF THE ALTERNATE     
              FLIGHT/S DEPARTURE TIME FREE OF CHARGE FOLLOWING    
              THE ABOVE CONDITIONS.                               
              ///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///    
              REQUESTS MADE MORE THAN 12 HOURS IN ADVANCE OF THE  
              ALTERNATE FLIGHT/S DEPARTURE TIME WILL BE           
              PROCESSED FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES FOR RESERVATION  
              CHANGES/ WHICH INCLUDE COLLECTION OF APPLICABLE     
              CHANGE FEES PLUS DIFFERENCE IN FARE. SEE PENALTIES  
              ///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///–///    
              3. OPEN RETURN NOT PERMITTED.                       

    …..

    PENALTIES                                                     
                                                                  
      CANCELLATIONS                                               
                                                                  
        TICKET IS NON-REFUNDABLE.                                 
             NOTE –                                               
              TICKET HAS NO VALUE UNLESS PASSENGER CANCELS        
              TICKETED FLIGHT RESERVATIONS PRIOR TO TICKETED      
              DEPARTURE TIME.                                     
                                                                  
      CHANGES                                                     
                                                                  
        CHANGES PERMITTED FOR REISSUE.                            

             NOTE –                                               
                     IF PASSENGER CANCELS TICKETED FLIGHT         
                     RESERVATION PRIOR TO TICKETED DEPARTURE      
                     TIME/ TRAVEL THAT IS REBOOKED IS VALID AS    
                     FOLLOWS. 1/WHOLLY UNUSED TICKETS ARE VALID   
                     PROVIDED TRAVEL COMMENCES WITHIN ONE YEAR    
                     FROM THE ORIGINAL TICKET ISSUE DATE OR 2/    
                     PARTIALLY USED TICKETS ARE VALID PROVIDED    
                     TRAVEL IS COMPLETED WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM     
                     THE OUTBOUND TRAVEL DATE ON THE ORIGINAL     
                     TICKET. IF TICKETED FLIGHT RESERVATION       
                     IS NOT CANCELLED PRIOR TO TICKETED           
                     DEPARTURE TIME/ REBOOKING IS NOT PERMITTED   
                     AND THE TICKET HAS NO VALUE.                 
              —                                                 
                     FARE DIFFERENCE MUST BE PAID AND TICKET      
                     MUST BE REISSUED WHEN ITINERARY IS REBOOKED  
              —                                                 
                     WHENEVER A NONREFUNDABLE FARE TICKET IS      
                     REISSUED TO A REFUNDABLE FARE/ A             
                     NONREFUNDABLE NOTATION MUST BE MADE IN THE   
                     ENDORSEMENT BOX OF THE NEW TICKET.  THE      
                     ORIGINAL NONREFUNDABLE VALUE REMAINS         
                     NONREFUNDABLE FOR ANY SUBSEQUENT REISSUES.   
              —                                                 
                     CERTAIN DOMESTIC REISSUE PROVISIONS MAY BE   
                     OVERRIDDEN BY THOSE OF AA INTERNATIONAL      
                     FARES.                                       
              —                                                 
                     GUARANTEED AIRFARE RULE-                     
                     TRANSPORTATION IS SUBJECT TO THE RULES/      
                     FARES AND CHARGES IN EFFECT ON THE DATE/     
                     TIME OF TICKET ISSUANCE OR PREPAID TICKET    
                     ADVICE PURCHASE. SHOULD FARES INCREASE       
                     AFTER TICKET PURCHASE/ NO INCREASE IN FARE   
                     WILL BE COLLECTED PROVIDED THE ORIGINATING   
                     FLIGHT COUPON OF THE TICKET REFLECTING A     
                     CONFIRMED RESERVATION HAS NOT BEEN           
                     VOLUNTARILY CHANGED/ AND PROVIDED THAT       
                     VOLUNTARY CHANGES FOR FLIGHT COUPONS OTHER   
                     THAN THE ORGINATING FLIGHT DO NOT REFLECT    
                     A CHANGE IN CARRIER/ FARE BASIS/ ORIGIN/     
                     DESTINATION OR STOPOVER POINTS FROM THOSE    
                     FOUND ON THE TICKET.                         
                     IF AFTER TICKET HAS BEEN ISSUED AND BEFORE   
                     ANY PORTION HAS BEEN USED EITHER A DECREASE  
                     IN THE FARES OR CHARGES APPLICABLE TO THE    
                     TRANSPORTATION SHOWN ON THE TICKET BECOMES   
                     EFFECTIVE/ OR A NEW FARE FOR WHICH THE       
                     PASSENGER QUALIFIES IS ADDED BETWEEN THE     
                     POINTS SHOWN ON THE TICKET/ THE DIFFERENCE   
                     IN FARES WILL BE REFUNDED AS STATED BELOW/   
                     IN THE FORM OF A NONREFUNDABLE               
                     TRANSPORTATION VOUCHER/ PROVIDED             
                     A. THERE IS NO CHANGE IN TICKETED ORIGIN/    
                        DESTINATION/ STOPOVER POINTS/ FLIGHTS/    
                        DATES                                     
                     B. ALL CONDITIONS OF THE DECREASED FARES OR  
                        CHARGES OF THE NEW FARE ARE MET/          
                        INCLUDING BOOKING CODE AND ADVANCE        
                        RESERVATIONS AND TICKETING REQUIREMENTS   
                     C. ADVANCE RESERVATION REQUIREMENTS ARE      
                        MEASURED FROM THE ORIGINAL TICKET DATE    
                        TO THE DEPARTURE OF THE PRICING UNIT      
                     D. THE PASSENGER WILL RECEIVE THE            
                        DIFFERENCE IN FARES IN THE FORM OF A      
                        NONREFUNDABLE AA TRAVEL VOUCHER VALID     
                        FOR ONE YEAR FROM THE DATE OF ISSUE       
              —
    ….

              IV.  AFTER DEPARTURE OF THE JOURNEY – WHEN THERE    
                   IS NO CHANGE TO ORIGIN/DESTINATION OR          
                   STOPOVERS. THE FOLLOWING OPTIONS ARE           
                   AVAILABLE AND THE LOWEST SOLUTION WILL APPLY.  
              —                                                 
              A.   ATTEMPT TO KEEP THE SAME FARES AS TICKETED.    
                   REPRICE THE ITINERARY USING THE SAME FARE      
                   BASIS CODE/ SAME FARE LEVEL/ SAME RULES AS     
                   TICKETED/ THAT IS/ THOSE IN EFFECT AT THE      
                   TIME THE ORIGINAL TICKET WAS SOLD.             
                   1.NO CHANGE IS PERMITTED TO STOPOVER/THE       
                     FIRST FARE COMPONENT OR FARE BREAKS.         
                   2.THE TICKETED FARE BASIS CODE/ SAME RULE      
                     MUST BE USED AS THE REPLACEMENT FARE FOR     
                     THE REVISED FARE COMPONENT ON THE NEW        
                     TICKET.                                      
                   3.NEW FARE MUST BE EQUAL TO THE PREVIOUS       
                     FARE.  COMPARE BASE FARE VALUES              
                     FOR THE REVISED FARE COMPONENT TO THAT OF    
                     THE TICKETED FARE COMPONENT.                 
                   4.ALL RULE/BOOKING CODE PROVISIONS MUST BE     
                     MET/ EXCEPT DAY/TIME.                        
                   5.FLIGHT SPECIFIC FARES MUST REMAIN WITHIN     
                     THE TIMES SPECIFIED FOR THAT FARE.           
                   6.ADVANCE RESERVATION REQUIREMENTS ARE         
                     MEASURED FROM ORIGINAL TICKET DATE TO        
                     DEPARTURE OF PRICING UNIT.                   
              —                                                 
              B.  REPRICE THE ITINERARY USING THE SAME FARE       
                  BASIS CODES AND RULES AS THOSE IN EFFECT ON     
                  THE DATE OF ORIGINAL TICKET ISSUANCE FOR        
                  UNCHANGED FARE COMPONENTS AND USING FARES IN    
                  EFFECT ON THE DATE OF NEW TICKET ISSUANCE FOR   
                  ALL CHANGED FARE COMPONENTS.                    
                  1.NO CHANGE IS PERMITTED TO STOPOVER/ THE       
                    FIRST FARE COMPONENT OR FARE BREAKS.          
                  2.THE TICKETED SAME FARE MUST BE USED ON THE    
                    FIRST FARE COMPONENT.                         
                  3.USE ANY AA FARES ALLOWED BY COMBINATION AND   
                    REISSUE RULES.                                
                  4.NEW FARE MUST BE EQUAL OR HIGHER THAN         
                    PREVIOUS FARE.  COMPARE BASE FARE VALUES FOR  
                    THE REVISED FARE COMPONENT TO THAT OF THE     
                    TICKETED FARE COMPONENT.                      
                  5.WHEN THE SAME FARE AS TICKETED IS USED IN     
                    REPRICE FOR THE REVISED FARE COMPONENT/ ALL   
                    RULE AND BOOKING CODE PROVISIONS EXCLUDING    
                    DAY/TIME MUST BE MET.                         
                  6.OTHERWISE ALL RULE PROVISIONS MUST BE MET.    
                  7.ADVANCE RESERVATION REQUIREMENTS ARE          
                    MEASURED FROM ORIGINAL TICKET DATE TO         
                    DEPARTURE OF THE PRICING UNIT.                
                  8.ANY DIFFERENCE IN FARES MUST BE COLLECTED.    
                    IF THE REPRICE RESULTS IN A LOWER FARE/ THE   
                    DIFFFERENCE IN FARES MAY BE RETURNED          
                    IN THE FORM OF A NONREFUNDABLE                
                    TRAVEL VOUCHER VALID FOR TRAVEL VIA AA ONLY.  
              —                                                 
              C.  REPRICE THE ITINERARY USING HISTORICAL ONE      
                  WAY FARES FROM THE PREVIOUS TICKET ISSUE DATE   
                  FOR FLOWN FARE COMPONENTS/ IN AN EQUAL OR       
                  HIGHER BOOKING CLASS. USE FARES IN EFFECT ON    
                  THE DATE OF NEW TICKET ISSUANCE FOR ALL         
                  UNFLOWN COMPONENTS.                             
                  1.FARE BREAKS FOR THE FLOWN FARE COMPONENTS     
                    MAY NOT BE CHANGED.                           
                  2.USE BOOKING CLASS HIERARCHY WHEN REPLACING    
                    FARES FOR FLOWN FARE COMPONENTS.  THE         
                    HIERARCHY IS                                  
                    ECONOMY CLASS – Y B H K M L W V G S N Q O     
                    BUSINESS CLASS – J D I C                      
                    FIRST CLASS – F A P                           
                  3.USE ANY AA ONE WAY FARE ALLOWED BY            
                    COMBINATION AND REISSUE RULES.                
                  4.ALL RULE AND BOOKING CODE PROVISIONS OF THE   
                    NEW FARES MUST BE MET.                        
                  5.ADVANCE RESERVATION REQUIREMENTS ARE          
                    MEASURED FROM THE REISSUE DATE TO DEPARTURE   
                    DATE OF THE PRICING UNIT.                     
                  6.COMPARE THE TOTAL FROM THE ORIGNAL TICKET     
                    TO THE NEW TOTAL OF THE FLOWN AND UNFLOWN     
                    FARE COMPONENTS.                              
                  7.ANY DIFFERENCE IN FARES MUST BE COLLECTED.    
                    IF THE REPRICE RESULTS IN A LOWER FARE/ THE   
                    DIFFERENCE IN FARES MAY BE RETURNED           
                    IN THE FORM OF A NONREFUNDABLE TRAVEL         
                    VOUCHER VALID FOR TRAVEL VIA AA ONLY.         

      1. It is how the rules are written and what we get to read.  He is only posting what the airline posts.  Welcome to our world!

      2. If you read the text output of what I do for a living, you’d probably think it was unreadable too.

        It’s sort of like the movie “The Matrix” where some of the characters stared at screens of text all day and could make out what was happening.  A professional travel agent can pick out all the essentials in seconds.

    1. “The question is what was the $140 charge for? It certainly is an odd number for a typical change fee. I suspect it is for a difference in fares. But I can’t tell for sure.”

      Already commented above, Tony, but here’s your answer:
      “IF THE REPRICE RESULTS IN A LOWER FARE/ THE   
                      DIFFFERENCE IN FARES MAY BE RETURNED                           IN THE FORM OF A NONREFUNDABLE                                 TRAVEL VOUCHER VALID FOR TRAVEL VIA AA ONLY.

  11. Since it was ultimately the customer’s error, I think AA did exactly the right thing.  As often as servicemen get leave nowadays he will certainly be able to use the voucher.

  12. Having spent time in the Army, basic training is, in part, learning about personal responsibility. We Americans trust very young adults in the military to operate and maintain complex equipment under highly stressful conditions. If we encourage bailing out this young sailor who made an expensive personal mistake, can we later trust him to act with personal responsibility under much more trying circumstances while protecting our liberty?

    Life is full of opportunities to learn. I say, take them.

    1. Oh right, because making a mistake like this translates into him not being capable of doing his job later on.  By your logic, everyone that is bailed out of a certain situation is not to be trusted in the future – as if someone is incapable of learning a lesson unless there is a punitive aspect to it.  He is not trying to game the system.  He made an honest mistake which most people make at various points in their lives.  As a former JAG, I dealt with many young airmen that made honest mistakes.  Most learn from these mistakes without the necessity of punitive measures being taken – and they are still capable of performing their jobs post-mistake.  Your logic is horribly flawed.

      1. why is paying a $140 difference is fare punitive?
        everybody plays with the same rules gets to pay the fare difference if they want to change a ticket? civilians actually have to pay another $150 change fee when people in the service don’t.

        Also if any of my 3 sons change their flights to return to work earlier, they will ask me for money to pay for the fare difference because they don’t have any. So I pay up. I don’t go the Elliott and complain about it.

      2. People who make mistakes need to bail themselves out.  That’s one excellent way to learn and retain the learning for a long time.  Young adults tend to not become capable adults if daddy and AA sweep up after their messes.  As a former JAG, I’m sure you have witnessed recidivism in its various forms, which, in part, occurs when adults don’t learn.

  13. I wouldn’t want to be him when he gets back to the unit and his mates find out his Mommy tried to fix it for him.  That alone would have been worth $140 to avoid.

  14. I’m at a loss as to why Mr. Lessem’s son would merit the waiving of the change fee in this particular case. And I have numerous friends and family members in the Navy, so I’m not unsympathetic.

    Yes, the US military get special perqs from the flight industry (as they should as far as things like baggage fees and special rates go – even barracks/ship life is different than “normal” life, let alone combat missions).  But this was a customer booking error, not a change in his schedule caused by a change in orders or a cancellation of leave.  In my head I can hear my uncle telling one of the young charges under his command, “Well, you’re not going to make that mistake again, are you?”I hate these stupid change fees like the plague, but as far as military airline perqs go, I don’t think being able to change your mistaken booking at will should be one of them.  Change in orders is one thing, but this isn’t the case here.  A voucher is a good deal, since he can use it on a subsequent leave, and this Seaman will always remember to make his leave plans with more care.

  15. This young man is to be commended for his service, and it’s nice that Dad stepped in to advocate for his son. But our sailor has to learn the lessons of life just like the rest of us did. He miscalculated his leave time; now he knows how to do that and likely won’t do it again: a $140 lesson well learned. AA could have been nicer about it, but it’s the sailor’s mistake, not theirs. And, yes, what about all those other folks, military and otherwise, who have similar problems and who don’t contact Chris, but suck it up, pay the penalties for their mistakes and move on.

  16. $140 isn’t AA’s change fee.  I appears he just had to pay the add collect for the new flight(s) based on what was available at the time of the change.  If the same class of service you booked in is available, then no add collect is needed.  It doesn’t matter if you make the change 6 months, 1 month or one day out, it is all based on availability.

    1. My take is that the change fee is still $150 but that the re-calculation of the fare based on the new dates of travel but the fare $10 less than the cost of the original ticket.  AA allows one to apply any residual in that case to the cost of the change fee… hence the $140 cost to make the change

  17. I’m still trying to figure out how this sailor was able to obtain written, signed orders that put him back on base a day late. The leave time error should have been caught waaayyy before any plane ticket was purchased. The military doesn’t just let individual soldiers go out and make their own vacation plans. Not unless things have changed a great deal in the last 20 years. There’s  multiple steps to go through before leave is approved along with travel itinerary.

    1. He wasn’t flying on orders, but booked his flights home after basic himself, with the time he calculated  himself.  Hence the error.

  18. Another reason AA is bankrupt ….. when will this legacy carrier understand its anti-consumer/customer policies have lost it billions of dollars…. its Econ/Business 101

    1. I disagree with that statement and more with the CEO of Southwest who feels AA failed not because of customer service, but because of high costs. Great customer service cannot overcome high costs, according to Gary Kelly.

  19. From reading the article it sounds like the sailor wanted to stay an extra day on leave? That is hardly comparable to traveling under orders. Also, why is his father contacting Chris for help? He’s responsible enough to be in the Navy but not to resolve his own mistake? I voted that the voucher was enough. In fact, it was more than enough.

  20. Just an aside, but American Airlines has been trying to market themselves as an organization committed to getting our military personnel home as recently as 2010:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6iAMiJUu5g
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo9y37zc-_I

    I even remember as far back to an American Airlines commercial from years ago where a soldier on base calls from a pay phone to make a reservation with an AA CSR, then gets over a dozen of his buddies tack on to the same call – making reservations to get home.  In the end, the call is over, the CSR’s supervisor comes up and asks her how many call’s she’s taken so far.  Her answer is “Just one.” as she hold up a single finger.

    1. What if changing those flights cost a civilian $290? ($140 fare difference and $150 change fee) If AA waived the change fee and gave the OP’s son the fare difference back in the form of a voucher show their compassion for our service men and women? Based on the facts presented, this is certainly a distinct possibility.

  21. As an USAF (ret.) wife, Navy brat, and mother of a Navy-bound son, I can certainly empathize with this situation.  But, just because someone serves in the military, is young and broke  doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply to them.  If a young Peace Corps volunteer, teacher, police-recruit, or new fireman had the same situation occur, would Chris be sent the same letter?  Do not those that serve in other capacities deserve the same leeway?  Where does AA draw the line?  I put a few bucks in the red kettle this afternoon–should they cut me a break, too?

  22. As an Army wife, Marine Mom, and Army mom, I can sympathize with the frustrations of trying to figure out leave time.  However, I have also been at the mercy of the military changing ordesr at the last moment, canceling leave, etc.  The young man made an error, and, like the rest of us, will have to pay for it.  If he was under orders, and those orders changed, the airlines would not charge him a change fee.  However, it was personal leave, therefore his reservation was made as a civilian, and he pays the civilian price for making an error. 

  23. If he is old enough to be in the military, he is old enough to 1) read the leave calculation policy and 2) ask a unit clerk how much leave time he has accumulated.  He was simply too lazy to find out. I hope this will motivate him (and his father) to grow up and be responsible. I too was in the military and, after basic training, I made sure to find out about how much leave I had.  AA is not supposed to be a nanny service.

  24. I wonder why several commenters are saying that the sailor won’t be able to use the voucher before it expires. How do they know when the voucher will expire? It’s not mentioned in the original post. And if the sailor was unhappy with the voucher expiration date, I would think that would have been mentioned in the original post.

  25. Since he is the one that made the error in calculating his leave time, he should thank his lucky stars he figured it out in time to change his flight before he was AWOL. I also think that AA went above what they needed to do in this instance since it was personal leave and it was an error on his part and not a case of his orders being changed or rescinded.

    I also have to wonder if the $140 charge was not a change fee but the difference in ticket price or some combination of ticket price and a bargain change fee. And yes, as an E2, he is only making $1645 a month-before taxes. And depending on where he is gets stationed, that may not necessarily be a lot of money. Granted, he won’t need to pay rent (or will get a BHA if he lives off base) but after taxes, he will bring home about $276 a week. Which has to pay everything but rent. Not a whole hell of a lot of money when you stop and think about all the regular bills you pay every month. Car payment, insurance, electric, phone, cable, food, gas, water/sewer, etc…

    It is going to be an expensive lesson to learn. But there are people on base that can help you with these things and he needs to learn to take advantage of this for the next time. And maybe the parents can help him cover the cost of the change.

  26. So far as I’m concerned, the Airlines receive huge advantages from our military spending. Just off the top of my head likely 30% of the cost of flying is covered by the taxpayer. So when or if a uniformed member of our military has a problem such as this one, or the one several weeks ago when returning troops had to fork over $1200 in excess baggage fees, the FAA needs to fine them X percentage as a liberty fee. Or better yet, make a big deal about all the free things they can do for our troopers coming home close to how we sent them over. An Admiral’s club???, no, Let the USO have use of the facility. When was the last time a ceo/cfo or C level executive put his axx in the line of fire for this country?

  27. American did more than enough after being harassed by this grown adults father and a consumer advocate.   Just like the rest of us, he made a mistake and there were consequences for that mistake.  He may be a member of the military, but he was NOT flying on orders, he was going on a vacation like any of the rest of us and while I appreciate what members of the military do for us (I have family in the military), this situation does not qualify him for any special treatment, except for a learning  event where he learns to pay better attention to what he is buying, and in a new environment double and triple check leave guidelines and availability.

  28. I’ve been thinking about this one and agree that the father seems like a complainer.  Sorry. To paraphrase what somebody else said, why should a sailor get a break on fees because of a mistake that the sailor made, but not somebody in the peace corps, a doctor, a teacher, etc.  Not that I’m blaming the sailor here, sounds like he has accepted responsibility for his actions.

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