How long should I wait for this refund from American Airlines?

Every now and then people ask me about the three Ps of complaint resolution — patience, politeness and persistence — and which of those is the hardest.

The answer is easy: patience. But don’t take my word for it. Ask Jannette Thomas. After waiting weeks, she wants me to apply pressure to American Airlines to refund her ticket.

The particulars of her case are unfortunate.

“My cousin died while I was visiting her,” she explains. “I had to change my date of departure.”

“The reservation agent told me that I should claim my refund after traveling,” she says. That was at the end of August. Now, two months later, there’s still no money.

Here’s the weird part: According to American’s website, the refund has already been processed.

I contacted American by phone, but the reservation agent told me I can’t speak to anyone in the refunds department.

I had written to American. I received a response that I should resend the claim and submit a letter from the funeral home.

I resubmitted the claim along with the letter from the funeral home and highlighted the section that spoke to my relationship with my deceased cousin.

A closer look at the site message suggests that American may have considered her request for a refund but not granted it. The message reads, “a refund was given and my claim is denied,” she says.

OK, that’s confusing.

Thomas submitted some of her paperwork — a letter from the funeral home that showed her relationship to the deceased. That’s a good start.

It appears that after her cousin died, she changed her flight, paying a change fee and fare differential. She asked a ticket agent if American offers a bereavement discount, and the agent probably told her that she could apply for a refund of the change fee, but didn’t say she would get it.

American, like most other carriers, refunds tickets for dead passengers and often for passengers traveling with people who died. Distant relatives dying are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Here’s the relevant fine print:

Q: I have a nonrefundable American Airlines ticket that I am not going to use. Can I still get a refund?

A: Nonrefundable tickets generally cannot be refunded. However, exceptions may be available for refund of the unused portion of the ticket under the following circumstances:

✓ Upon death of the passenger, the ticket may be refunded to the original form of payment when supporting documents are provided.

✓ Upon death of a family member or traveling companion, the customer may be eligible to receive a voucher if the ticket is for domestic travel and supporting documents are provided.

✓ Upon death of a family member or traveling companion, the ticket may be refunded to the original form of payment if the ticket included international travel (along with travel to or from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) and supporting documents are provided.

Then again, the notification Thomas received could be the real deal, and she may be waiting for the requisite two to three billing cycles before it shows up on her credit card. If that’s the case, then my best advice would be to sit tight. Refunds can take time.

Is it asking too much for airline personnel to give it to us straight when we ask for a refund? Tell us if we qualify for it. Tell us how long it will take. Offer a way to track the progress of the refund.

Don’t test our patience. Not at a time like this.

Should I advocate for Jannette Thomas?

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