After a hurricane threatens her destination wedding, are these American Airline tickets worthless?

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By Christopher Elliott

Char Collins has to cancel her flights from Minneapolis to Santo Domingo after a hurricane threatens her destination wedding. Will she have to throw away her American Airlines tickets, or can she reuse them?

Question

I used my US Bank Visa card points to buy three economy tickets on American Airlines to attend a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. Because of a hurricane, they rescheduled the wedding to Mexico.

I’ve communicated with American Airlines, but it is unwilling to reschedule us since our departure date does not fall within their travel alert. We have “basic” economy class tickets, and you can’t change them. We now need to pay for three more tickets to attend the wedding in Mexico.

I have asked the US Bank Rewards Center what they can do for me about this situation, and they said their only option is to contact American Airlines to see if they would consider other options. And when I ask American Airlines, the response is the same — they refer me to US Bank Visa. Can you help? — Char Collins, Minneapolis

Answer

It looks like a hurricane has stuck you between your bank and your airline. Not a good place to be! 

After a hurricane took aim at the island, we moved your destination wedding from the Dominican Republic to Cancun, Mexico. That’s one of the risks of traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season. It looks like you had travel insurance — good call — but it wouldn’t cover you because the storm wasn’t imminent. 

You already paid for your three tickets using your points via US Bank Visa. Typically, that’s a one-way transaction — you can’t get the points refunded to your account. It looks like American Airlines had authorized flight ticket changes between September 17 and September 25, but your wedding was happening later that month. (Here’s how to get a refund on a nonrefundable airline ticket.)

American Airlines should have seen the problem and made an exception to its refund rules. And I think it would have if you had complained to the right person. Unfortunately, the folks in American’s customer service department could only repeat their policy, which is what they’re trained to do. Escalating this to a higher level with one of the American Airlines executive contacts I publish on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org, might have helped. A brief, polite email might have allowed you to use your flight credit for the rescheduled wedding in Mexico. (Related: American Airlines downgraded us. Can I get the fare difference refunded?)

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Will you get a refund from American Airlines?

Your case highlights the risks of using credit card miles to book a flight. When you have another party involved — your bank or credit card company — you are often at the mercy of its policies in addition to the airline rules. And you may also find that your ticket comes with extra restrictions that could render it useless if you need to make a change.

Travel insurance should have helped you, but it wasn’t the only way to avoid this mess. Buying a more expensive economy-class ticket that allows changes might have kept you from having a worthless ticket.

I contacted American Airlines on your behalf. A manager reviewed your problem and agreed to refund $582 as trip credit, which you can use to pay for flights to the new wedding location in Mexico.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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