Hey American Airlines, where’s my ticket refund?

Question: My grandfather recently passed away and I needed to travel to Austin, Texas, a few days later for his funeral. Because I was already scheduled to fly from Baltimore to Austin on American Airlines on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be easiest to just move my outbound flight up a few days to Nov. 19.

I had originally booked the flight through American’s website months ago, so I called their helpline on Nov. 17 and explained my situation. They were able to switch me to a flight on the 19th, but said I would need to pay a $150 change fee and the difference between the fare I originally paid and the current fare, which was $254.

I then inquired about bereavement fares, and the agent told me that they were completely sold out of “compassion fares” for that date, but that if I sent them a copy of my grandfather’s death certificate, they would refund the difference in cost. I’m currently a graduate student with very little extra money to spend, but my grandfather and I were close, so I decided to go ahead with the ticket change given the information about the refund.

I received a copy of the death certificate just before I returned to Maryland, and began the process of requesting a refund on the American Airlines website. The online system tells me that I am ineligible for a refund because I used my nonrefundable ticket.

I have emailed American through the form on their website and have received no response. I am very upset that this is happening after the death of a beloved family member — if I had known that it would be this difficult, I would have canceled my flight on American and instead booked a flight on an airline that would have been more sensitive to my situation. — Tracy Wilkinson, College Park, Md.

Answer: American Airlines should have refunded your ticket as promised after you showed it a death certificate, of course. Every time you have to contact the airline to ask about your fare, it’s a painful and completely unnecessary reminder of your loss.

Bereavement fares are an odd thing, which may be why American seems confused. Many airlines no longer have them, but ticket agents are sometimes empowered to offer a discount off the overpriced “walk-up” fare that business travelers typically pay to fly at a moment’s notice.

When there’s a death in the family, airlines may also waive cancellation or change fees. But there’s no hard-and-fast rule about it, so if you find a ticket agent who is willing to make an exception, be sure the rule is bent for you now — not later. (And if you’re promised a refund later, make sure you get it in writing.)

It appears there was no written record of a promised refund, which is why American was denying your refund. Plus, because of an unspecified problem with its systems, it wasn’t receiving the death certificate, despite numerous attempts on your part to send it.

American is under absolutely no obligation to give you a refund or discount, even when there’s a death in your family. But if a representative promised your money back, then you should get it.

I got in touch with American on your behalf. A representative contacted you and issued a refund to your credit card.

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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Raven_Altosk

    If she was promised a refund upon showing the death certificate, I agree she should’ve been given it promptly. I also think she should thank her lucky stars that the agent offered; I’m an elite on UA/CO and let’s just say when I needed one, I had to hassle them until they followed their own rules outlined on CO’s website. (Part of the problem was the impending merger, methinks…)

    Also, I hope she realizes that “canceling her flight…and flying on an airline more sensitive to her situation…” would’ve probably cost her more in the long run. The ticket was likely a non-refundable cheap web fare, so she would be stuck with a credit on AA (minus the cancelation fee). Then, she’d need to buy a much more expensive ticket on another airline, which may or may not have bereavement fares. And…which would most likely be more expensive than the one AA offered her.

    That said, must everyone have a personal-whiny excuse why they need a refund? It seems here the OP was more interested in letting us know she is “a graduate student without a lot of money to spare.” 

    So? Regardless of your financial situation, I wouldn’t want an airline/hotel/other company promising me a refund and then not following through. 

    My advice once again: Leave the drama for your mama–it has no place in letters.

  • $16635417

    How about future poll for NON-Graduate students. “Do you have extra money to spend?’

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    In this case, if it’s up to the discretion of each agent, would it have helped to call back a few times hoping to get a compassionate one?

  • $16635417

    The poll question is about airlines offering bereavement fares.

    The old bereavement model was something like 50% off the “Y” fare. In today’s pricing model, especially on routes with a lot of competition, that would result in a higher fare than a regular published discounted fare. In that case offer both and let the customer decide with their wallet. (But no discount on the published discount fare.)My issue in the past is the complaints that no further discount was offered on the LOWEST published available fare, or that the EVEN LOWER fare was not available on the flight they want.

  • TonyA_says

    Why, do Universities offer bereavement tuition discounts? No. His tuition must have been way too high and he is paying for astronomical student loans. That’s why he does not have money for much of anything else. IMO, airlines should just get rid of the bereavement BS altogether.

  • sirwired

     I don’t blame the automated system for denying the refund, since it has no idea there was any promise of a special exception.

    However, the e-mail should have worked.

  • lost_in_travel

    I am going to make a guess that if she did not say she was a graduate student, you might have presumed she was simply being petty and should just absorb the extra $404 and not complain.  The issue is that a customer service person told her what to do and the airline did not honor it.  Certianly getting it in writing would be best, but I am not sure how one might accomplish that with a phone agent.

  • MarkKelling

    I can’t vote on this one.  

    Airlines are free to charge whatever types of fares at whatever rate they choose within any limits enforced by law.  If they choose to offer lower fares for certain circumstances, then great.  If they choose not to, that’s OK too.  Airlines, and every other business out there I can think of, are not in the business of being compassionate.  They are in the business of trying to make money.  That may sound cold and uncaring, but it is the truth.  If you find the specific business you deal with seems more uncaring and cold than you feel is right, you are free to quit doing business with them and try and find another company that better meets your expectations.

    In this case, since the OP was promised a refund if the proper documentation was provided, that refund should have been provided without further issue.  I find it difficult to believe that AA was “sold out” of compassion fares.  They are exceptions, not a published fare and should not have a limited number available.  The OP was most likely told this with the hope that the refund would be forgotten about.  Thanks to Chris for making AA do what they promised. 

  • MarkKelling

    Yeah, I’m a full-time employee at my company without a lot of money to spare as well.  Maybe I should ask for discounts when I travel too.

    Why do people think that if they are a student or retired or have a dozen kids or are disabled or the phase of the moon is not favorable that makes a difference in the validity of their claim?  It doesn’t.  If you are promised something, you should get it regardless of your personal condition. 

    Money is difficult to come by for everyone these days.  My income is just as “fixed” as any retiree or Social Security recipient is – I can’t ask my employer to increase my paycheck every time I need it.  Social Security recipients actually got a larger percent raise this year than anyone at my company!

  • fordmann

    Raven, why do you have to pick people’s letters apart.  Tracy was just relaying the story as it applied to her.   If you don’t want to give credence to her being a graduate student (which is relevant to her as she likely is poor and watching every dollar) then don’t, but you don’t need to call it “drama”.  I think your pointing out what is wrong with everyone’s letters is much more unnecessary than them telling their side.  I’m surprised you didn’t mention how she whined about losing her Grandfather.  No need to be mean.  Let it go.

  • Cybrsk8r

    The strangest part of this, for me, was the agent telling the OP that the airline was “sold out” of compassion fares.  I have two observations here.  First, compassion is not an object, like pillows and blankets.  How can you be “out” of it?  Second, if the airline does have a set number of compassion fares, exactly how may people does an airline expect to die on any given day?

    You might want to ask Grandpa to die in the off-season, if possible.

  • Chasmosaur

    I voted “yes”, because it’s the human thing to do and last-minute/walk-up fares are so incredibly expensive these days.  But in reality, I’d really just love to see a seat cost what a seat costs.  This !@#$%^&* of “book on Thursday afternoon between 2pm – 5 pm because that’s when fares are cheapest” (or whatever it is these days) is getting old.

    I also can’t help but think of the situation when my mother was diagnosed with advanced Stage IV colon cancer in early August, 2009.  At her diagnosis, they told her she probably only had about two months to live (she lived several months longer than that). About two weeks before that, though, my parents had booked two separate trips:  one in late September to MSP on NWA (the merger was still in process then) to visit me, and one in late October to PVD on UAL to visit my brother.

    My Dad first called UAL to cancel the trip, as he has been flying them almost exclusively for years – he thought that brand loyalty would get him some good customer service.  After explaining the situation to a phone agent (including mentioning he had a doctor’s note he could fax to verify the diagnosis), he was told it would cost $150 per ticket to cancel, but they wouldn’t refund the tickets and they would have a year to use the fares.  He told them he’d call them back, since the vouchers they offered were non-transferable. As my mother might not ever fly again, what good was that?  He thought he’d try again later and hoped for a more sympathetic agent.

    Dad then called NWA to cancel the tickets to us.  He was definitely expecting the same routine – he and my mother had only started to fly them within the past few years and only to visit us twice a year – not exactly frequent flyers, so he was figuring he’d just have to suck the fares up.

    But he barely got the words “my wife was diagnosed with advanced Stage IV cancer” out of his mouth, and the agent said “Oh, let’s get your tickets cancelled.  I’m going to refund your money, and I’m removing any cancellation fee.  It’s not like they won’t fill those seats by the end of the week anyway.”  She even gave him her name/ID so if I wanted to get tickets, I could contact her and she’d help me get a good fare and good flight.  (I ended up driving out, but still, that was incredibly nice.  We think she or someone she loved was probably a cancer patient.)

    So after that incredibly positive experience, he called UAL back and shamed them into canceling and refunding his tickets without fees, after explaining how NWA had done so without hesitation, and those tickets had been far more expensive and the flights a solid month earlier.

    I think there’s always wiggle room – it just depends on whether or not you talk to someone who wants to wiggle, as it were.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    fordmann – in this posting today, what Raven is really saying is, “We’ve heard all this before and what’s relevant to the whole thing is the OP was promised a refund and didn’t get it.  The rest of the story is irrelevant because the OP wasn’t promised a refund due to her being a grad student, it was because her grandfather died.”

    To say anything beyond “My grandfather died and I was promised a refund I haven’t gotten, in spite of my many attempts to resolve this”.  The rest is hyperbole and white noise in an effort to evoke sympathy.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Isn’t it odd that whenever a company isn’t doing what they promised they would do they suffer “unspecified problems with its systems”?  What an unreliable form of communication they use with their customers…

    I had a company tell me once this same thing, though I had faxed/emailed them the same insurance declaration forms four times to four different people.  While I had one of the CSRs/office staff on the phone, I told her I was going to email/fax them again and I wanted her on the phone while I did it.  I emailed them 10 times and faxed them 10 times, much to her frustration, but they DID finally get them.  In this instance, their “losing” these pages over and over again was costing us an additional $100 a month for our insurance.

  • Chasmosaur

    I once called my doctor’s office because something was obviously wrong with me that needed to be seen to avoid a hospital visit.  When I called, they told me they “hadn’t scheduled any emergency time today.”

    After a stunned second or five, I replied, “You do understand how wrong that sentence is, don’t you?”  To which they replied “We don’t have any scheduled emergency time.”  Which is why I see a different doctor now…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Compassion isn’t an object, but an airplane ticket is…and that is what we’re really talking about. A bereavement fare is just another rate code in the system and likely has to have some number assigned to it. The agent showed compassion but couldn’t override the main system and while it took longer than it should have to get the refund, everything worked out well in the end.  

    And when you’re talking business, there without a doubt comes a time when you need be “out” of compassion in terms of giving things away. Let’s say the letter writer couldn’t afford even the reduced bereavement fare. To prove compassion would they have had to let her fly for free? If they did that, would it be a lack of compassion to tell the next person after her that they only give out one free bereavement ticket a day? We’re talking about an airline that is currently bankrupt–if they can’t get their financial house in order there won’t be any worries about how compassionate their bereavement policies are.

  • MarkKelling

    But if the change would have added to the bill instead of removing the $100 a month, I bet they would have got the forms on the first attempt and started billing the extra immediately.  Strange how that goes.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I agree wit fordman.  This noise as you call it are the details that makes the OP into a real person rather than just a number.  It significantly ups my enjoyment of the letters and allows me to easily distinguish between them.

    Also, one of the criticisms of several of the writers is that they are pursuing sums that many of the posters feel are too small to bother with.  These “sob” stories also shed light as to why someone would spend time pursuing $25.00.

  • Mary Ramsey

    “I then inquired about bereavement fares, and the agent told me that they were completely sold out of “compassion fares” for that date”

    hahaha. when i read that i knew this would be an intresting article.
    I like i posted in the past- there is no such thing as “compassion fares”.

    I think 99.999% of all people who called would get the same “we sold out of compassion fares” line.

    I have skipped out on going to 2 funerals last year because me and my husband could not afford it and no family members were willing to help.

    should they have “compassion fares”- yes. does this person deserve a refund for a lie that the rep told him, just to get him off the phone? –no.

  • TonyA_says

    There seems to be a trend from the recent cases – I was “PROMISED” something by the agent on the phone or at a desk. A lot of times, just to get rid of you or to make you feel better, agents blurt a lot of nice sounding BS. Are these real contractual promises? Or are they illusory promises? Sometimes, we hear what we want to hear. For example, instead of hearing “just send the paperwork and we MAY give you a refund”, we hear “just send the paperwork and we WILL give you a refund”.

    American Airlines has this on their Contract of Carriage (COC):

    No agent, employee or representative of American has authority to
    alter, modify or waive any provision of the Conditions of Carriage
    unless authorized in writing by a corporate officer of American.
    (Most carriers have something similar.)

    That said, AA agent’s and employees CANNOT PROMISE ANYTHING on behalf of AA. All passengers get is what is included in the COC and the fare rules of their actual ticket.

    So what does AA’s non-refundable fare rules say?

            CHARGE USD 150.00 FOR REISSUE.
                 NOTE –
                         PAID AND TICKET MUST BE REISSUED WHEN
                         ITINERARY IS REBOOKED.
                     CANCEL AND START OVER.
                         REISSUE RULES.
                      3. ALL PROVISIONS OF THE NEW FARE I.E. ADV
                         RSVN/MIN/MAX STAY/INVENTORY ETC MUST BE ME    
                         MEASURED FROM THE REISSUE DATE TO THE
                         DEPARTURE OF THE PRICING UNIT.
                         CHARGE MUST BE COLLECTED.  IF THE REPRICE
                         RESULTS IN A LOWER FARE/ THE DIFFERENCE IN    
                         FARES LESS THE SERVICE CHARGE MAY BE
                         TRAVEL VOUCHER VALID FOR TRAVEL VIA AA ONL    

                  AA PASSENGER REFUNDS.

    Me thinks the fare rules are clear. They should have refunded the Change Fee $150 in the form of a voucher. The problem is the AA website didn’t help the OP at all. It seems to me that the problem is in the claims process of airlines. Maybe a new DOT Rule should include Reliable Claims Processing.

  • Spanky_McF

     I’m sure if the poll read:  Are you willing to cut your profits/salaries for your company to give “compassion” discounts the overwhelming response is “NO.”

  • TonyA_says

    I am a father of 3 full-time students. Can you please give me a refund? When is this going to stop? :-)

  • $16635417

    “So incredibly expensive?” In this market, BWI-AUS, the Southwest walkup fare for today (buy today, travel today)  is $190 one way. How much cheaper do they need to be?

    Sorry I didn’t get past the first sentence yet.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, he is correct – it is not relevant to the circumstances, and just gets the person reading the letter another reason to roll their eyes and ignore it.  I write letters on my clients behalf, and even tell them to forward their letters when they have done something on their own, so I can clean it up and make it more professional.  Emotions do not work with a company, but a professional business-like approach does. 

  • Lindabator

    Actually, sob stories do NOT get you anywhere with a company, as it is just considered another emotional ploy (see violin).  BUT if you keep it professional and business-like, you’ll find it easier to get somewhere.

  • Jason Hanna

    Most companies I have worked for give 3 paid days off for the death of a close relative(Not counting against any vacation/sick leave time). Isn’t that, at the end of the day, cutting profits to give compassion? But.. The airlines are in a tough spot here. Offering the fares is good business, but, it’s also open to alot of abuse. Imagine you’re looking at a fare that’s $1500 to travel to a funeral next Tuesday. But, the same fare, if purchased 2 weeks out, is less than half that at $657. You can’t generally plan deaths in the family. But, then you get the “he was like a brother to me” and so on. I can’t blame airlines for not doing it, but..

  • TonyA_says

    ooohhh, but it’s too hard to use Southwest’s website. Students too busy social networking, don’t have time for anything else. :-)

  • TonyA_says

     Besides, ‘Compassion’ and ‘Airline’ are oxymoron.

  • bodega3

    Mary, I am sorry you missed the funerals.  My question to you is, did you call a travel agent to get assistance?  Bereavement fares still exist, but often if you are flexible and can fly to other nearby airports, you open your options to low last minute fares. Calling one carrier isn’t going to give you the other options.  My last bereavement ticket for a client would have cost over $600 one way but by having flexibilty I got her a ticket for $240.  Being ‘sold out’ means that the class of service needed wasn’t available. 

    Yes, it would be nice if the carriers had what you call compassion fares, but you can thank past passengesr who abused this offer and lied just to get a lower fare.  We all pay for those who cheat a business. 

  • $16635417

    We’ve gone through several doctors due the ineptitude of the front office staff. 

    Once we specifically made two appointments back to back for our two children to have back to school checkups. We got a call that one was cancelled. We pointed out that we planned the first available time where two appointments were available because we wanted to do it in one trip. We were told “OH! I see the other appointment here! Bring them both in and we’ll combine them on the one appointment.” We get there and they refused to see both, we had to choose one. I said I spoke to “so and so” and was told that doesn’t matter. (Why the “get a name” approach doesn’t always work.)

    We brought both daughters into the exam room and the doctor looked a bit confused because he only had the charts for one. I explained the problem. I also told him our children will no longer be patients. He went and got the other child’s charts and said if we EVER have a scheduling problem with his front office staff to call him 24/7.

    Until my job changed insurance, he remained their doctor.

    Sometimes the inmates run the prison!

  • bodega3

    I find the poll question to be unfair.  The carriers use to offer these, but due to abuse many decided to stop providing them. 

  • Michael__K

    That’s not quite fair because this student already had a ticket.  Note what she(?) wrote:

    if I had known that it would be this difficult, I would have canceled my flight on American and instead booked a flight on an airline that would have been more sensitive to my situation.

    Of course in general, not every route is served by Southwest (or JetBlue) and sometimes all of the last minute options are incredibly expensive.

  • TonyA_says

    Why not a simple letter like this one?

    Dear AA,
    Re: Ticket # 001-xxxxxxxxxx

    Attached is the death certificate of my grandfather. According to your rules, I am entitled to a refund of your Penalty Change Fee in the amount of $150.

    Please send the voucher in the same amount to:
    Graduate Student
    Podunk University
    Baltimore, MD

  • TonyA_says

    Michael__K, which airline would have (could have, should have) been more sensitive to his situation? IMO probably none.

  • bodega3

    Maybe not like they use to be, but I do find many of the people I speak with at the airline’s to care.  Sometimes their hands are tied due to policy and I understand that. 

  • TonyA_says

    That’s exactly my point. We call the desk and get nice people. But airline POLICY itself is not always compassionate. Maybe they cannot be because of business reasons.

    I agree with your other comment. Instead of begging for compassionate fares, these folks should simply ask for good Samaritans for help in finding the Cheapest Way from point A to B.

    But in the case of this OP, the airline’s POLICY states he should have been given his $150 change fee back. He didn’t have to BEG for it.

  • Chasmosaur

    If SW goes where you want to go.  Which in my case, it doesn’t.  

  • TonyA_says

    After the UA/CO merger, the new bereavement compassion fare discount is a HUGE, WHOPPING 5%. Perhaps we just forget these pity calls and just find the lowest fare for any airline. Also, if compassion is that important, then how come Uncle Sam does not drop his part of the deal. The taxes and fees are still charged regardless.

  • dave3029

    This is where doctors have to choose which type of office they want to run: they can either (A) have a schedule that allows time between appointments (which allows for walk-ins, “unscheduled emergencies” and ample time to discuss problems with patients), or (B) they can allot only a certain amount of time to each patient and schedule them back-to-back-to-back and see as many patients as possible, but not spend a lot of time with each patient and stay on schedule.

    Sounds like you were with a “B” doctor.  Switching to an “A” doctor would give you the ability to get in, but the drawback is that as more people are dropped into the day that were not scheduled, your appointment time may not actually happen on time.

  • BAB19

    So if I need black clothes for the funeral, I should get a discount? If I have to pay for parking at the funeral location, I should get a discount? Why would we even expect any business to price its products differently for customers in certain situations.

  • Nancy Marine Dickinson

    I’m sure you’re right, MarkKelling.  Not only would it have happened within seconds of receiving said documents, they would have done it two or three times just to make sure I spent a few more days on fixing the “unspecified problems” on my end.

  • $16635417

    You opened with a general statement that last minute/walkup fares are “so incredibly expensive these days” when, in reality, they have gone down in most markets. 

    For purpose of illustration I used the city pair in the case.

    I will agree that most smaller markets not served by Southwest or another LCC have not seen this advantage, but in most cases those markets have always had a high fare.

  • lorcha

    How are you seeing that? I just priced out BWI-AUS and it was $500 each way.

  • lorcha

    I was under the impression that they had sold out of their compassion fares about 10 years ago.

  • $16635417

    Tony’s response was actually in response to my response to another’s who mentioned walkup/last minute fares were “so incredibly expensive”. 

    I understand the OP in the case had a ticket on AA. I was using the city pair in the case to point out that not all last minute fares are incredibly expensive. I happened to have a Southwest open in another browser window and checked the fare.

  • $16635417

    For that matter, what industries do have compassion? 

  • $16635417

    Find the person who figures out a way to get something done rather than tell you why it can’t be done.

  • TonyA_says

     The Religion Industry.

  • Michael__K

    SW & JB are generally “more sensitive” to all last minute travelers with their pricing.

    Fortunately I haven’t had much occasion to look into the policies of other airlines in this situation.  

    (I had a situation in the midst of a Continental itinerary a few years ago and they were very accommodating, but I had status with them at the time and I was also travelling for work so my employer would have reimbursed me regardless).

  • $16635417

    You’re right! It’s not there now! They must have read my post! :)

    I was checking another city and date at the time I had the window open. I winder if i checked the wrong date…if so, my apologies for giving a bad example!

  • TonyA_says


  • TonyA_says

    @mikegun (my reply to you gets posted as a new one)
    For some reason that lady who slept at SFO for [I think] 3 days comes to mind. Didn’t she get money from a nearby church?

  • SooZeeQ

    They should have the fares, but with 100% proof of death.

    Too many would try to get away with it for the lower fare.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Does anybody have the common sense to use a real live agent? They are your “advocate” and could get instant authorization to re-issue the ticket on the spot! Emergencies happen daily and it takes a good travel agent to help figure out the ins and outs of this industry. Did AA send or email a written authorization? I always get it in writing, because 6 months later they can still come after you for additional costs. YOU CANNOT BE YOUR OWN TRAVEL AGENT WHEN IT COMES TO PROBLEMS! By then it is too late. Make friends with your local travel agent, be prepared to spend $20.00 to $40.00 for a transaction, then be prepared to be wowed when the S hits the fan!

  • bodega3

    They did and people still scammed them.  What do you expect them to continue to do?  Being a business owner, I and have had people blatantly lie to me.  I get why the carriers have dropped this.

    I remember things people say.  A classmate of mine, who is a local Deputy Sheriff lied to our reunion committee, trying to get his money back because he couldn’t attend.  At the next reunion he forgot about his lie and made a comment to someone I was standing next to as to why he really missed the last one.  Hard to trust anyone anymore! 

  • bodega3

    Oh but travelagentman, it is online so how hard can it be (tongue in cheek).  Even her comment about canceling and going with another carrier showed how uniformed she was.  Using a TA is like having insurance.  We are there to back you.

  • Jasper Nijdam

    It should be good business for airlines to allow bereavement fares when a passenger can credibly show that he needs to go to a funeral. Generally, I’d say that the lowest possible price offered for that flight would be good. Customers would appreciate the service and come back to that airline. However, in reality, airlines try make things such a hassle that they loose customers over what is a very reasonable request: Compassion.

  • Linda Jordan

    Bereavement fares are not always the best fare.  It’s usually a 10% discount at best.  I’ve asked for them in the past directly with the airline and after the fare was quoted, have found better rates on other travel sites. Some airlines no longer offer bereavement fares. What is curious to me was that the airlines quota for bereavement fares was already filled.

  • MarkKelling

    But the 5% is off ANY fare you book, not just off full fare.  So if there are still discounted fares available on the route you need to fly, you get a little something more than nothing.  The CO discount was larger.  I don’t remember the exact amount.

    Not saying I am a fan of United or most of their policies by any means, but at least they offer something. Now actually trying to get that 5% may be a completely different story.

  • TonyA_says

    In other words, it’s the Travel Agent (TA) who does the calling to the airline to get waiver codes. Either pay the TA or do it yourself. Depends on how much people value their time.

    I thought it might be a good idea if travelagentman can elucidate when he charges $20 versus $40. Maybe it is educational for customers what to expect for $20-$40. I have a feeling many don’t understand what they are paying for. Thanks.

  • TonyA_says

    CO was up to 20% depending on price of ticket.
    I’m not sure the telephone booking fee is waived by UA today.

  • TonyA_says

    The desk agent is already currently overworked. Do you want them to become death certificate verifiers? Can you propose a credible and reliable way so the system cannot be gamed by unscrupulous passengers? Compassion goes both ways.

  • ClareClare

    “The agent showed compassion but couldn’t override the main system and while it took longer than it should have to get the refund, everything worked out well in the end.”

    Point taken, EXCEPT that it’s obvious the airline refunded the money, as the compassionate agent had promised, only because Chris contacted them.  Thank your lucky stars, OP, that you knew about Chris! because otherwise you’d clearly still be waiting! 

  • TonyA_says

    This is probably a misquote. For most airlines that still offer bereavement fares, the seats have to booked at a particular booking class (or classes). If seats in those class(es) are not available, then you can’t get bereavement fares.

    That does not mean however that there can’t be published fares that are cheaper than bereavement fares.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Your guess is incorrect. If she was promised a refund–no matter what her financial situation is–she should be given one.

    I still maintain that the added bit about being a student is irrevelent to the situation at hand.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I pick the letters apart because I spent 3 years in college (late 90s) answering customer complaint letters/emails about hotels. I can tell you every ploy people tried and how they failed.

    The best letters were short, stated the facts, did not try to pull at heart strings, asked for a reasonable compensation and gave contact info (yes, people would write and then never give us a way to contact them?!!!) 

    Yes, it is drama. Telling me that you’re a senior on a fixed income/newlyweds with no money/parents with a ‘special needs’ child/a student/other group will not affect how the case should be handled.

    I empathize with her loss, as I would with anyone who has lost a loved one, but her status as a student has nothing to do with this case.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I don’t think someone’s financial situation should be considered when a refund is due them. If the OP is dirty poor or filthy rich should mean nothing–the airline promised her a refund, and it should’ve delivered.


  • TonyA_says

    The agent said and did the right thing – AA policy allowed refunds of change fee (in case of death of immediate relative) for non-refundable tickets.

    The problem is with AA’s online refund and claim system. They dropped the ball. If AA customers need an ombudsman to collect what is due them, then AA has a big customer service problem. Not a compassion issue but a fairness and quality issue.

  • emanon256

    I would love to have read some of those letters.  I reviewed similar letters for parking ticket appeals in college many years ago and the crazy stories people give just blew my mind.  I did find them very entertaining.
    One of my favorites was about how the ticketed person’s daughter’s building’s elevator broke while they were moving in, and they had to climb 9 stories and dropped the microwave down the stairs, and their clothing was too sweaty, and the daughter hurt her knee carrying the furniture.  Then they had to go buy a microwave so their daughter could eat, and there were no close parking spots and the garage was too expensive for them to afford and they were too sweaty to walk in the heat and her daughter knee still hurt, so they felt they should be able to park in a handicapped spot, and were very quick so it didn’t prevent someone else from using it, and they ask that we over turn the ticket giving their extenuating circumstances.
    Bottom-line: they illegally used a handicapped spot.  Appeal denied. Yeah, their situation may have sucked, but why spend so much time trying to explain how horrible their situation was.  And how much of it was true anyway, how can they prove no one needed the spot while they were shopping?
    Yeah, in this case the OP should be refunded, but why say they are a poor college student?  Leave only pertinent business in the request, anything else is distracting from the situation at hand.

  • DavidYoung2

    Wow — seems like there’s a lot of animosity or jealousy because this person is a grad student.  The ‘why not me too’ seems so petty.  Jeez, some guy got a refund because his grandfather died — good for him.  Anybody who’s jealous because he’ll soon have and advanced degree — go put in the time and work and get your MBA or PhD. 

  • TonyA_says

    Anyone trying to find cheap one-way fares for BWI-AUS for tomorrow 10MAR is gonna go nuts. That $500 is actually cheap.

  • bodega3

    I find it very interesting that the only consideration people think about for bereavement fares is the price.  There is another benefit that is very important and that is that fare also allows the passenger to change the return for no fee or add collect provided the same class of service is available on the new flight and date.  That is very helpful for those who don’t know what arrangement can be made to know when they may be able to return home.   

  • TonyA_says

    That’s true. But people who really need a bereavement fare don’t really know what that fare is without calling the airline – making it rather opaque – adding to the confusion and uncertainty. That’s why they are primarily concerned with knowing how much it costs.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JWIDK73REHGADBHYLCUC3FBV7Y Bob

     The Religion Industry is just full of sh!t though – even more than airlines :)

  • Crissy Maier

    since the reason they offer higher last minute fares is geared towards business travelers then yes they should be offering bereavement or compassion fares.  Or in cases like this they should wave their change fees.  

    Of course they don’t actually have to do anything, which seems all too easy for them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bmgraham Barry Graham

    I did not think that AA offered them any more.  I find it odd that AA would be so unresponsive, usually they are pretty good at replying.  Since they did offer the bereavement fare, I am surprised that the agent didn’t just take the customer’s word and apply the discount.  It’s interesting how business that trust customers this way seem to thrive, and those that don’t go bankrupt.

  • AgentSteve

    To me, this issue is not as clear cut, as one might think.  As someone mentioned earlier, where does the “entitlement” mindset end?  Buying black clothing: discount!  Hotel expenses: discount!  Taxi fares: discount! Etc., etc., etc..  In response to this incident, it would be generous if an airline waived the “change fee” (as understood and effected, by Chris’ involvement).  Regardless of the circumstances, the airlines are in business to make money and the “change fee” is nothing more than brazen highway robbery!  Please tell me why it cost $150 to change a misspelling of a name, substitute one passenger for another, or to just simply change a date (given that all factors are equal; i.e. weekday/weekend, etc).  Like so many of the issues we read/talk about, it often comes back to one simple thing: Get It In Writing!!!

  • Slanchenka

    i also didnt get a refund from american airlines even they sad i will get then in 10 days. i had a tickets from warsaw to new yourk and back and had to fly in november 2011….but then there was an acsident landing in warsaw by airplane of company LOT. thats why they closed the airpost for 2 days. but american irlines sad that they could change my tickets for othere ones in 5 days and thay i have to stay at warsaw and wait there 5 days without any accomodation and money (i came to warsaw from russia!!!) and i sad i want to get money back and they sad ok u will ghet them in 10 days. so i got a new tickets of othere company (payed more) and flew. and now, a write theme few times, i camed to there office few times , but i never got my money back! if someone can help me, write me please on Frolova_1987@mail.ru