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Help! American Airlines changed my flight, but it won't give me a refund!

Travel Troubleshooter

When American Airlines changes Neil Gupta's flight from Seattle to Miami, he asks for a refund. The airline suggests it will offer a refund, but then backtracks. Will he ever get his money back?

Last year, I booked a flight from Seattle to Miami on American Airlines. The flight was a redeye, leaving at 12:39 a.m. This itinerary was ideal for me because I work late some nights and didn't want my trip to interfere with my schedule.

Before my flight, I received an email saying my flight time had changed and was departing at 10:15 p.m. I couldn't make this flight because I was working late that night.

I called American Airlines and a representative told me she could not refund me because it was less than a four-hour schedule change. She said I would have to apply for a refund online and canceled my ticket.

I applied for a refund online and received an email a week later stating that my refund was denied because of American's policy and that I had purchased a cheap ticket.

I called American again and spoke to a supervisor. She would not even give me a flight credit for future use. She did give me an option to book another flight at that time and possibly give me money back. When I said I didn't have any known plans to travel, she suggested I call back when ready and someone could help me but she could not promise anything.

American Airlines told me to cancel my ticket and apply for a refund. Then it denied my request for a refund. I think that's a deceptive business practice. Can you help me get a refund?

Neil Gupta, Seattle

If an airline changes its schedule, it should offer you a full, no-questions-asked refund. But American Airlines is correct: It gives itself the right to change its schedule by up to four hours without offering your money back.

The amount of delay required for a refund varies by airline. If you're flying in the European Union, it is standardized at two hours under EC 261, the European airline consumer protection regulations.

Your situation was a little different. You had spoken to an American Airlines representative who led you to believe you just needed to apply for a refund and cancel your ticket. The representative should have told you that there was no way you could get your money back even if you applied for a refund.

By the way, how much you spent on your ticket is irrelevant. The refund rules govern all tickets, no matter how much you paid.

I think this one's on American. If a representative suggested you might get a refund, you should reasonably expect to get your money back. And, on top of that, a supervisor then also suggested you could get a credit. Even if it's a misunderstanding, American could give you a ticket credit as a goodwill gesture.

A brief, polite email to one of the American Airlines executive contacts might have helped. I publish their names, numbers and emails on my consumer advocacy site,

I contacted American on your behalf. To be clear, American wasn't required to do anything under its policy. But I think a refund would have been the right thing to do under your circumstances.

American Airlines agreed to refund your ticket.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.


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