One year later, our refund is MIA

After American Airlines makes a data-entry error on Elaine Stokols’ airline tickets, it promises a refund. One year later, it still has her money. Now what?

Question: American Airlines made a data-entry error when my husband and I booked our airline tickets by phone. An agent entered our return dates as January 2016 — a full year after our planned dates of travel.

The airline agreed to refund the tickets, but we’ve had no luck with getting the money back. Our original tickets were purchased in April 2014. Since then, we’ve been back and forth with the airline.

Every piece of required documentation was enclosed with our letter. We meticulously followed the directions on its website for obtaining a refund.

Finally, in desperation, we turned to American Airlines’ AAdvantage desk. A representative informed us that despite what was stated on the website, the refunds department does not handle this type of refund request, and instead we should submit our documents to the customer-relations department.

We were dismayed that after we had exhaustively followed the directions, the airline completely disregarded our refund request. Apparently, American Airlines had no intention of informing us that we needed to resubmit our claim, and had we not called, our inquiry never would have been reviewed.

The utter lack of customer regard, professionalism and attention to detail on the part of the airline baffles us. We have been flying with American Airlines for as long as we can remember, and we are shocked to have been treated in this manner. — Elaine Stokols, Alexandria, Virginia

Answer: If an airline agent erred when entering your dates, the airline should have offered you an immediate, no-questions-asked refund. A one-year delay is unconscionable. At the very least, it needed to send you an answer of some kind, even if the answer was “no.”

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It looks as if you initially tried to take this up with American Airlines in writing, and it seems there was some confusion about who should process the refund.
It’s unclear if the problem was related to American’s merger with US Airways, as I see some of the correspondence suggests, or if you just went to the wrong department. But what is clear to me is that someone should have responded to you and offered some guidance. In reviewing your correspondence, it appears that no one did.

When an airline takes your money and doesn’t return it, don’t wait a year to ask for help. Do something right away. You could have escalated this to one of the executives at American Airlines. I list their contact information on my site.

I contacted American on your behalf. It promptly refunded your airfare.

This story first appeared May 8, 2015.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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