American Airlines: A year is actually nine months

What is it with airlines redefining a year? Seems that after I wrote about this bizarre reshuffling of the calendar, more air carriers have joined the fun.

Larry Thompson redeemed his hard-earned frequent flier miles for two American Airlines tickets from Dallas to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, earlier this year. But two weeks before traveling, he developed a blood clot and his doctor advised him to stay home. An American Airlines agent said he wouldn’t have to pay any additional fees if he used the tickets within a year.

Thompson asked for something in writing, but was again assured that there wouldn’t be a fee, and that he didn’t need anything in writing.

He should have insisted.

When Thompson phoned the airline to rebook, he was given the bad news: In addition to adding new fees and surcharges, the airline has apparently changed its calendar.

I was advised that the year was a year that started on the date my canceled tickets were issued, which was January 6, 2008, and I would need to travel before that date or pay the $150 to have my miles reinstated.

At no time during my conversation with American Airlines in March was there any discussion about a ticket issue date or that I had nine months to make a new plan.

Thompson tried to appeal this decision, but American refused. It basically insisted that a year is actually nine months.

Lesson learned? Always ask for details when you’re rebooking a flight. When an agent tells you that you have a year, ask, “A year from what date?” And don’t let them tell you that you don’t need anything in writing. If Thompson had communicated with American by e-mail, this might not have happened.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, American — a year is 12 months.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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