No compensation after an awful trip on American Airlines

Helen Weinheimer books tickets on American Airlines, for her and her four grandchildren. They are rerouted, then bumped. What should have been a short flight turns into a 30-hour odyssey, with overnight expenses. Can our advocates help them get compensated?

Question: I traveled with my four grandchildren from Reagan National Airport to Greater Rochester International, N.Y. We had confirmed seat assignments and boarding passes. We were rerouted four times, including a departure airport change. What should have been a two- to three-hour trip lasted over 30 hours, requiring an overnight stay.

I travel to Rochester annually with my grandchildren to volunteer at a camp for children with visual impairments. Our previous four trips had been uneventful, just the way we want a flight to be. This time, it was not just one issue, it was a series of missteps by American Airlines agents that caused so much frustration.

After the second flight disruption, we were forced to stay overnight at a hotel. The next morning we arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport for our third flight assignment. We had confirmed seats and boarding passes in hand, only to be told that there were no seats.

I incurred hotel and shuttle expenses. During the 30 hours of travel, the children spent all of their discretionary money on meals. They had to depend on others for incidentals during their time volunteering at camp. The numerous arrival date and time changes created a disruption for the camp staff responsible for meeting our flight. Other camp volunteers had to work twice as hard to perform our assigned tasks along with their own, because we arrived late.

I contacted American Airlines and it offered to issue each of us a voucher worth $200 per person. I appreciated the gesture, but asked American Airlines to increase it to $400 per person.

That would allow the youngsters to return to camp as volunteers next summer and restore our faith in American Airlines.

American Airlines made the $200 offer, and then stopped communicating. At this point, I would be willing to accept the offer of $200 vouchers toward a future American Airlines trip for each of the children and for me. The experience with American Airlines has left us with a sour taste. If you can encourage them to send the five vouchers, I would be satisfied. Can you help? — Helen Weinheimer, Middletown, Del.

Answer: Sometimes, flight delays and cancellations can be unavoidable. Under some circumstances, airlines normally do not provide compensation for flight delays or cancellations. The airline is only obligated to accommodate you on the next available flight, or provide a refund of the unused portions of your ticket. In some cases, the airline may offer some goodwill compensation. In your case, American Airlines was offering you and each of your four grandkids, $200 vouchers as a goodwill gesture.

The American Airlines conditions of carriage set forth the agreed-upon terms between you and the carrier. Basically, these terms provide that American Airlines is not responsible for delays and cancellations caused by events or circumstances beyond its control. This could include weather, strikes or work stoppages, and any “fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by American.”

You contacted American Airlines through email. When it stopped communicating, you could have tried to escalate your complaint to company executives. We list executive contact information for American Airlines on our website. And you could have posted your question to our help forums. Our help forums are staffed by travel industry experts, who may have had helpful suggestions about how to address this issue with American.

Our advocates contacted American Airlines on your behalf. You told us that you received a phone call from American Airlines, and the five vouchers. We’re happy that we could help.

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