American Airlines Hoses Me, Again

Stennis You think I’d learn.

I’d been scheduled to go on an embark aboard the USS Stennis this week, on a trip similar to this one taken by Guy Kawasaki and others.  (Thank you, again, USNavy for the invitation, and Andy Sernovitz for facilitating.)  However, the storms hammering the West Coast changed the plans, and the embark was cancelled.  No problem, these things happen.  Totally understand.

I’d split my flights so the outbound to San Diego was on American Airlines, and the return was on Southwest in order to get the best fare.  When I found out the trip was canceled, I pulled up the two respective emails to try to see what could be salvaged from the trips.  Here’s what happened.


  • Opened email.
  • Clicked on “Refund Information” right there in the email.  This took me to the refund web page.
  • Clicked on “Cancel your flight reservation.”
  • The ticked was non-refundable, so was given a dialog box that said “Hold funds for future use,” and I clicked through.
  • Done. Flight cancelled, flight funds banked, and I can use them for another flight within the next year.


  • Opened email.
  • Clicked on “Refunds” right there in the email.  So far so good.
  • Went to the web site, entered my ticket number.
  • Uh oh. Big red error message: “The refund
    request you submitted is for a non-refundable ticket. In some cases,
    you may be able to apply this value towards the purchase of another
    non-refundable ticket. Certain restrictions and fees apply. Please call
    American Airlines Reservations at 1-800-433-7300 for further assistance.
  • Fine.  I’ll fail over to the call center.  I call the number.
  • The CSR was pleasant.  I give her my info.  Then we have The Conversation.

CSR: That’s a non-refundable ticket.

Me: Yes, I understand.  Can I apply to fees to a future flight?

CSR:  Yes, as long as you take it within a year.

Me: Cool.  Thanks.

CSR: The change fee to do that will be $150.00.

Me: ‘Scuse me?

CSR: The change fee is $150.00.

Me: Um…but the ticket was only $98.

CSR: Yes.  It’s not worth it.

Me: So…you’re saying I’m hosed?

CSR (verbatim): Yup.  Pretty much.


5 Replies to “American Airlines Hoses Me, Again”

  1. In my humble opinion, NOBODY beats Southwest. I know their schedule isn’t the greatest… BUT THEY GET IT, when it comes to taking care of their customers. Whenever possible, I support Southwest with my travel dollars.

  2. Christopher,
    I’ve certainly shared in your frustration in past. On the other hand, I recently had a very good customer experience with American Airlines, yes with American Airlines. I realize this is not usual… However, my wife and I had 2 very large bags and 2 smaller bags. The nice woman behind the counter weighed the bags and quickly said, “move a few jeans into the other bag because I would HATE to charge you for the extra weight”… the bag was still over 50 lbs, but she said we were close enough. Great! We stuff some jeans into the smaller bags, and regarding our 4th bag, she said, “we can fit this small bag into your carry on.” Somehow she made it work, it wasn’t a pretty sight, but in the end she saved us $100. The last thing she said was, “I know AA needs the money, but YOU need it too!”. Maybe it was because we were coming from the “self proclaimed” nicest airport in the US, Sky Harbor in Phoenix, which is plastered all over the signage in the airport.

    It proves that there is extreme variation in the level of service you receive as a customer. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes not. I think the key for these companies is leverage an effective customer service platform to see how valuable the customer is (e.g. how much money have they spent and how much are they likely to continue spending with your company). With the proper information, employees can be guided to make good “customer experience” decisions.

    Brian Jameson

  3. Had a simialr experience with Hotwire – not only could you not change flights on-line (which seems like a really obvious feature for an on-line travel outfit), but there was a big change fee. Since business travelers NEVER have their flight schedules change (he said, sarcastically), this is fairly amazing, since it just took Hotwire off the list of possibilities for making business travel plans.

  4. Yes, Southwest is the best. I’ve heard it’s a great company to work for as well. I always travel with them, and dread flying to cities they don’t service.

  5. Man….that’s rough. Great comparison of the 2 experiences and definitely gives me something to consider before my next bookings. I wonder if the extra charges from AA come from the fact that they have to utilize customer reps and related resources as opposed to offering a simple/cheap online feature to complete the same task.

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