Help, American Airlines canceled my flight and charged me an extra $1,147

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By Christopher Elliott

When American Airlines cancels the last leg of Sandy Burchett’s flight, it offers to cover the cost of her next flight. So what’s with the $1,147 charge on her credit card?

Question

I have a problem with an American Airlines ticket. I recently flew from San Angelo, Texas, to Washington, D.C. On a stopover in Dallas, American Airlines canceled my connecting flight. The airline rebooked me on a flight later that day, but it also canceled that one.

I received a notice on the American Airlines app saying I could book another flight at no charge. I booked another flight. As soon as I did, I noticed the airline had charged me $1,147.

I called immediately, and a representative assured me she would fix the charges. But when I went to pay my bill for the original ticket, the $1,147 charge was still on my card. I called American Airlines and my credit card, and they both said I had to submit a written request for the ticket I had purchased. I submitted that request, but my credit card denied it because I had a nonrefundable ticket. Can you help? — Sandy Burchett, Appomattox, Va.

Answer

American Airlines should have rebooked you on the next available flight without charging you. 

But the rules are a little different. If an airline cancels your flight, federal regulations require it to offer a full refund or a flight of its choosing — not yours. American Airlines appears to have gone off-script by offering you a flight of your choosing through its app.

Fortunately, you had that promise in writing. You kept a screenshot of the offer.

I can’t overstate how important a reliable paper trail is to resolving a complaint like this. If you don’t have it in writing, it’s American Airlines’ word against yours. And I think we all know how that will end. (Related: I canceled my flight to Frankfurt but now I can’t use my American Airlines credit.)

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You tried to appeal this through the regular customer service channels. And I should add that your flight experience on American Airlines was less than ideal. It involved numerous delays, a missed day of work, and a night spent on the airport floor. To your credit, you didn’t ask the airline for any compensation other than the refund it said it would give you.

You might have tried appealing this to one of the American Airlines executive contacts I publish on this site. A brief, polite note to one of them with all your documentation might have fixed this.

You reached out to my advocacy team. I contacted American Airlines on your behalf. A representative called you and apologized for a “system glitch.” The credit for your ticket showed up the next day. 

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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