Nothing says “I’m sorry” like airline miles

By | June 8th, 2012

Not something special in the air. / Photo by Simon Sees - Flickr
Question: My family of four flew from Chicago to Salt Lake City on American Airlines during spring break. About a half-hour into our outbound flight, we were told that the landing gear did not come up and that we had to return to O’Hare.

Once we landed, we were not rebooked and no alternatives were available, no communications about other arrangements were known or announced. We were able to find an American Airlines agent at a different gate who tried in vain to find us a flight to Utah that same day.

She finally found a flight to Salt Lake City via Newark on Delta Air Lines.

Our return flight to Chicago was canceled by American Airlines — another broken plane. We finally departed midday and arrived home hours later than we planned.

We complained to American Airlines, but it offered us a form apology and 3,000 miles each. I asked them for a refund; the airline refused. Somehow, this is unjust and unfair. Can you please help? We lost two full days of our vacation because of their broken planes. — Renata Fidman, Chicago


Answer: Losing two vacation days is unacceptable, but not as disappointing as American’s canned apology and mileage offer. After all, nothing says, “I don’t care” like a form letter, and nothing underscores it quite like frequent flier miles that assume you’ll take another American flight.

But do you have a case? Have a look at American’s contract of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline. Section 3 suggests it owes you nothing for the inconvenience.

Related story:   Does flying poodle deserve a straight answer about his carrier?

“American is not responsible for or liable for failure to make connections, or to operate any flight according to schedule, or for a change to the schedule of any flight,” it says.

I disagree, despite the contract. Most reasonable passengers assume the planes will work, and are willing to forgive one mechanical delay. After all, it’s better to be safe than dead. But being rerouted to Newark and then experiencing another mechanical failure on the return flight — well, I think it’s not unreasonable to expect more than a form apology and a few miles.

Although there’s nothing you can do during a mechanical delay except ask to be rebooked on the next flight — which you did — you can be more proactive when you complain. You sent an email to American, but you could have appealed it to someone higher up the corporate food chain when the airline kicked back a form letter. I list several helpful names and their contact information on my customer service wiki.

I contacted American on your behalf. A representative phoned you and offered a real apology and $800 in vouchers, which is somewhat better than the miles.



  • Wow. $800 in vouchers is pretty generous. Bad luck to have mechanical problems on both ends, though. But I can’t imagine the plane returning to the terminal and there not being personnel on hand to help people rebook (?) That alone is a cardinal sin.

  • backprop

    It sounds more like bad luck to me.  Miles are appropriate, although in my letter to AA I would have made a suggestion a bit higher than 3,000.  But kudos for getting vouchers.

  • DChamp56

    It could be a million dollars in vouchers, but it’s still not right.
    If they paid with real money, the refund should be in real money. Period.
    Maybe someone will begin legislation to that effect which will make airlines (and other businesses) a bit more aware of problems and go out of their ways to fix them!

  • $16635417

    Businesses would rather pay in vouchers in order to retain the customer in the future. In addition, when a business offers someone a dollar amount at retail, the redemption only costs the company their cost, so the voucher amount could be higher.

    I don’t know what the amount would be, but at what point would you take an $800 voucher over real money? For example, if American offered $200 cash for example…would you take the voucher instead? (Tongue in cheek: I’ll take the million dollars in vouchers in your example over $800 cash any day!)

    I would agree that it would be nice if a “real money” would be offered, but the voucher amount will always be higher and that may be a preference to some.

  • lost_in_travel

    It seems that passengers are really undesirable freight.  It would be just fine to deliver most packages under the standard contract – get it there it good condition within a reasonable time, but not on any particular flight and certainly not the shortest way.  Trouble is, people are not packages and just don’t like to sit inertly waiting to be shuttled at the airlines convenience.  Maybe airlines should recognize this or just handle freight.  Kudos to the person at AA who acknowledged the problem and apologized on behalf of AA.  Vouchers are better but still mean that the pax must try to fly with them again within a time frame so AA is still ahead.  Does sound like bad luck to have break downs both ways but when stuff happens, it happens badly and a real apology and attempt to make it right is needed immediately, not weeks later.  AA needs to realize that the pax will remember the first actions much longer than the second remediation, and the bad will always proceed the good in the telling of the tale.

  • sirwired

    Mechanical issues happen, even with very good maintenance.  Things break when they aren’t supposed to, and have to be fixed.

    That said, if they are going to provide compensation at all, 3,000 miles is more than a bit stingy.

  • sirwired

     A refund?  Why?  Sometimes things break unexpectedly, and it isn’t anybody’s “fault.”  A full refund seems a bit out of line since the transportation did happen, if a bit late.

  • john4868

    These are the stories I always love. The OP got to where he was supposed to get (during Spring Break that’s really lucky) and the delays encountered could have been due to anything (weather for example). Sorry but delays and mechanical failures are part of travel. I thought that AA issued food vouchers etc when a flight was cancelled due to a mechanical issue. I wonder if the OP got those?

    The full refund request makes the OP look entitled. The 3000 miles makes AA look cheap. The $800 seems to be about right to me.

  • backprop

     200 bucks per person for delays that got them there and back with, at most, a few hours delay on each end?  That compensation is more than “about right.” They hit the jackpot. 

  • MarkKelling

    It wasn’t a refund.  

    They flew, although it was not at the times they wanted.  The airline got them where they wanted to go.  If, on the other hand, the flights were cancelled and they chose not to travel at all, I would expect the refund in cash to the original form of payment. 
     
    In this case I would take the vouchers offered.

  • backprop

    I think you’ve posted this basic idea before, Dave.  Why do you assume the money is a ‘refund.’?  It is not.  

  • Raven_Altosk

    Whoa. $800 in airline funny money for flights that traveled on the same day!?  That’s pretty generous.

    I think the OP is smoking some wacky weed if s/he thinks such an issue is worthy of a full refund. That’s what we call a money grab in these here parts.

  • Asiansm Dan

    What a joke, AA just want to get rid of the complaint and sent some Monopoly money to customer AAdvantage account.
    3000 Airmiles value is near to nothing today.
    If somebody need to buy 3000 miles it cost at most 10$ but it cost nothing for AA who could be bankrupted before Mr Fidman can use that mileage.

  • SoBeSparky

    Stuff happens when you travel.  Ask any road warrior.  This is a very mild disruption of service.  I have been stranded for days, not hours.

    I am sure this was all very upsetting to Renata, but no matter the airline, this is the way things go every day.  She was lucky she got the miles, as AA had no responsibility to do anything further.  She was even luckier to get vouchers.

  • longtimetvlr

    Just wondering.  When you go to the theater and it starts later than posted, do you ask for a refund?

  • I do not think they are entitled to a refund.  The airline’s contract of carriage  states that they are responsible for getting you from point A to point B.  All departure times and flight times are subject to change.  considering they got from A to B (even though it wasn’t when they wanted), the dysfunctional airline fulfilled their obligated duties, and therefore, do not owe this person money.  

  • Rosered7033

    For elite-level fliers, miles mean practically nothing. It gains them no more status, and is usually a mere percentage of their trip total. This is the airline that quite recently announced it was cutting back on mechanics and other personnel. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/business/american-airlines-seeks-job-cuts.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all. My Prediction? There will be more & more people affected like this.

  • Lindabator

    But it is NOT A REFUND.  It is a goodwill gesture they are NOT legally obliged to give.  Therein lies the difference.

  • Lindabator

    But, once again, it is NOT A REFUND.  It is a goodwill gesture they are not legally obliged to give.  So yes, it is a nice gesture.

  • Lindabator

    Agreed – AA DID get them there, the same day, on Spring Break, no less.  They are lucky they got ANYTHING!

  • john4868

    @backdrop:disqus He said “two full days” missed not hours so I assumed (yea I know a really bad thing but Chris always has to edit for space so there is some that has to occur) that there some additional expenses incurred liked meals. That’s the only reason that I thought the vouchers were ok.

    Arriving on the next flight to his desitnation or just hours later… I wouldn’t feel that way.

  • And the others wonder why we’re so cynical…

  • backprop

    I think that may have been a little hyperbole by the OP.   Maybe Christopher can elaborate if the flight on Delta required going home overnight.  If so, and unless that flight through Newark was two days later, that *could* account for one full day of vacation missed.  On the return, they returned home “hours later than we had planned.”  So of course, that didn’t result in any days lost.

  • backprop

    Where on earth can I buy 3000 miles for $10?!? Sign me up!

  • TonyA_says

    I find your comparison of people and packages quite ironic since if we could ship people by FedEx, it would actually cost more.

    Consider an AA ticket from ORD to SLC for tomorrow.

     1*AA3772L 09JUN SA ORDSLC SS1   825A 1040A/O $ E

     PNR PRICED ON 08JUN FOR TKTG ON 08JUN
    * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT AA
    * SURCHARGE APPLIED *
    ** 09JUN DEPARTURE DATE/ 09JUN IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
    * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *
                                                               
    TICKET     BASE USD                TX/FEE USD       TKT TTL USD
     ADT01       453.95                     44.85            498.80
    *TTL         453.95                     44.85            498.80

    FBC ADT LA00ERD5

    It will cost less than $500 (either one-way or roundtrip) to travel by a passenger airline.

    Assume you weigh ~150 lbs and we shipped you FedEx from the ORD zipcode to the SLC zipcode. It will cost at least $900 to ship you overnite between airports (one-way).

    Next time people complain about passenger airlines, they need to take a deep breath and think again. They are paying less to fly than overnite cargo.

  • Michelle B.

    Let’s see… on outbound OP was rebooked on a plane the same day. 1 day vacation lost (at most), safe arrival ensued. On return, they arrive at airport in time for flight home. Left a few hours late. No vacation day lost, just changed a few hours at home to a few hours in the airport. Safe arrival ensued.  Oh, and all other passengers on same planes were similarly inconvenienced.

    Meal vouchers and 3K miles are enough for an inconvenience like this. If you aren’t mentally able to handle a few hours of delay on a travel day, perhaps you should not fly.

  • MikeInCtown

    Do the federal laws cover this type of scenario, or just ones which involve denied boarding? Maintenance of a plane and mechanical failures are not an act of god. They are controllable and largely preventable through preventative maintenance.

  • TonyA_says

    You can’t be serious, They should be thankful to AA

    She finally found a flight to Salt Lake City via Newark on Delta Air Lines.

    AA3756 ORD-SLC was cancelled on (Friday) 02MAR12. It was scheduled to depart ORD at 1230PM and it is AA’s latest nonstop flight. So any AA reaccommodation would likely via another AA hub. Below would have been the later flights:
    AA1345   ORDLAX- 105P 330P   7 738 0E
    AA3651      SLC- 450P 735P   8 CR7 0E
        AA3651 OPERATED BY AMERICAN EAGLE
    AA2329   ORDDFW- 140P 415P   8 M83 0E
    AA1925      SLC- 645P 825P   7 M83 0E
    AA5094   ORDIND- 240P 440P   8 ERD 0E
    AA2059      SLC- 710P1100P   6 M80 1E
    AA5094 OPERATED BY CHAUTAUQUA AS AMERICAN CONNECTION
    AA2333   ORDDFW- 305P 540P   8 M80 0E
    AA1925      SLC- 645P 825P   7 M83 0E
    AA2333   ORDDFW- 305P 540P   8 M80 0E
    AA2059      SLC- 920P1100P   6 M80 0E
    AA2341   ORDDFW- 425P 655P   9 M83 0E
    AA2059      SLC- 920P1100P   6 M80 0E
    AA2345   ORDDFW- 510P 745P   8 M83 0E
    AA2059      SLC- 920P1100P   6 M80 0E

    But the OP said they were reaccommodated via EWR using Delta. That would have been these flights:
    AA3694   ORDEWR-1150A 300P   7 CR7 0E
    DL1185      SLC- 529P 835P   7 320 0E  
    AA3694 OPERATED BY AMERICAN EAGLE
    Now think about it, why would AA go this far (endorse them to Delta) when maybe it could simply reschedule them on the other AA flights? The only logical reason I can think of is that is was Spring Break and all the seats were taken on the other AA flights. Very nice of AA to do that!

    She said:

    We were able to find an American Airlines agent at a different gate who tried in vain to find us a flight to Utah that same day.She finally found a flight to Salt Lake City via Newark on Delta Air Lines.

    But, the OP complained they lost 2 vacation days. I can’t see how that happened if they were reaccomodated for the same day and the Delta EWR-SLC flight gets in at  835PM. Maybe they left the next day (considering the ORD-EWR is earlier than the ORD-SLC flight). But she did not mention staying overnight at ORD or EWR or coming back to ORD for the next day’s flight. So where are the 2 missing days?

  • AAmerican1

    Interesting comment about freight vs passengers. AA back when Bob Crandal was running the airline did recognize the difference. At the time passenger and freight revenue was reported together and AA was flying high. Crandal seperated the two revenue streams and made freight a seperate company. After that both AA revenues and profits on the passenger side plummeted.
    It’s one of the reasons that some flights fly when the planes are only half full of passengers. It’s not the passenger who is the priority to get from point A to point B it’s the freight and mail in the belly of the plane.
     

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe @lost_in_travel:disqus is right; people (indeed) are undesirable freight. They are cheap, too fragile, and whine a lot. :-) Please don’t shoot me.

  • MarkKelling

    The type of miles granted for these situations don’t get anyone more status.  They only count toward a mileage redemption flight or other product.

  • bodega3

    I read this last night and wondered about the missing two days of vacation.  Interesting that nothing was mentioned about going home or a hotel stay until they could fly out. 

  • Joe Farrell

    You can’t see how they lost a vacation day???

    One schedules an early morning departure – ORD-SLC [prob nonstop] – leave 645am arrive SLC 8a-ish – get to the slopes and skiing by noon at the latest. 

    Or – you get CXL – go to NYC and arrive in SLC at 8p instead of 8a – thats a day lost to my thinking . . . . spending an entire day traveling when it should be a 2 hour flight?  Yeah – I take that as losing an entire day.

    The cause of action for a refund here is breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  Mechanical delays happen.  Mechanical cancellations happen.  When they do – a passenger has the right to expect as an implied part of the contract that reaccomodation efforts will be made.  As part of this accommodation effort the airline should have a gate agent meeting the cancelled flight passengers to attempt reaccomodation – the meager effort posted by most airlines now is a SINGLE agent to handle 160 people – which – predictably takes hours.   such is NOT within the ambit of the expected standard of care as part of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing – its not dealing fairly with a passenger who has other arrangements – they are not flying to a city to simply sit there until their return flight . . . they have consequential issues which the airline has disclaimed liability for – but that does not mean you can just leave your passengers to their own devices either.

  • LeeAnneClark

    John Baker, time to buy that lottery ticket.  I agree with you!

  • bodega3

    You misread what TonyA wrote.  He was trying to figure out the two days of missing vacation which I couldn’t figure out either.

  • bodega3

    Sadly, as a passenger, you sometimes feel like you are undesirable and taking the airline’s time…while they are taking your money to treat you that way. 

  • Raven_Altosk

    I prefer to think of myself as not an “elite level flyer” but as a sucker who just gets more miles in the air than on his car in a year. 

    *snerk*

    Really. There aren’t many “perks” for us anymore. :S

  • TonyA_says

     According to Flightaware, AA3756 scheduled Dep ORD 1230PM Arv SLC 255PM was cancelled last 02MAR12. If she was reaccommodated the same day (assuming) via EWR, then the Delta flight was scheduled to arrive 835PM. So it’s more like 5.5 hours arrival delay if she got a flight the SAME day. Maybe she left the NEXT day, but the article does not say that.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Correct. They are probably considered “bonus” miles which don’t go into “qualifying miles” or “qualifying segments” which determine status.

    (I say probably because I don’t know AA’s policies, but that’s the way it is on CO/UA)

  • Extraneededmail

    I’ve never been given a voucher so I have to ask: when you go to use the voucher are you forced to buy the most expensive flight and do you have to use the entire voucher on just one flight? Or is it like the phony “reward” companion tickets that are given out like candy because nobody uses them given that you can usually buy two tickets for less than the one and the companion ticket?

  • TonyA_says

    Read carefully. The flight took off ORD, with them onboard, but it turned back to ORD. So they were NOT INVOLUNTARILY DENIED BOARDING. Cancellations are not qualified IDBs. You need to get BUMPED from your flight [and your seat given to someone else] (i.e. due to overselling) to be compensated for IDB.

  • Answer:  it depends.  Some vouchers can be used anytime, on any flight.  Others have restrictions on use, such as blackout dates, certain fare codes, etc.  On your second question, I think the answer is yes, you have to use it up all at once, but I’m not 100% certain of that. 

  • Michelle C

    First I have to say that I have my issues with AA- even written Chris about it.  I wouldn’t be surprised to read that they are the airline with the most cancelled scheduled flights.   AA is the easiest flight from my home to my parents home so we all fly them a lot. Though the cancellations and delays have become so annoying the past 2 years that I have changed to Southwest which requires a two hour drive from my hometown.    We have been delayed days because of AA not just a few hours.   A flight was cancelled on Wednesday and not rebooked until Friday do to “volume of impacted travelers.”  My spouse was trying to get home.   AA also once canceled a flight a day of head a time, and rescheduled my mother on an earlier flight that left early in the morning instead of that afternoon so she lost vacation time that way too.  

    Second, to play a little devil’s advocate, I don’t see how they lost “two full days.”   The article makes it seem they arrived the same day to their destination via Delta.    So that is a loss of one day at the most.  I am curious to know how many hours. If I had to put a number on it, I would say that any delay 7-8 hrs later is considered a full day, and any delay over 4 hrs is a half day. Anything under 4 hrs should be nothing more than a mild annoyance. Lets say a flight was supposed to arrive at 10am but didn’t arrive until 6pm. To me that is a loss of a day.   The second part of the trip was delayed so they would have still had to arrive at the airport the same time even if the trip was on time.   No loss of vacation time there. 

    Third, it is ridiculous to offer 3,000 miles on AA.  It gets you nothing, and I would consider it an insult by them. 25,000 would be more like it.  800 dollars in vouchers is nice and I think they should be happy with that.

  • $16635417

    Why do you think railroads got out of the passenger business? 

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It would cost more but it’d be guaranteed to be on time!

  • TonyA_says

    Michelle, what you are describing is just regular air travel nowadays. Most airlines are cutting flights and capacity since the economy is lousy and oil prices (fuel is biggest cost to airlines) remain stubbornly high. With less flights come less flexibility and buffer. So a small change somewhere can easily snowball and cause a much larger problem to a lot of passengers.

  • TonyA_says

    Because the airlines were stupid enough to take them? :-)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Apples to oranges. Did I have to take vacation time to attend the theater?  Did it start late and then have another delay before the movie was over, which would be more like what happened in this case?  

    BTW, I’ve been to movies where the projector broke and people had the option of waiting for the repair or getting a refund. The vast majority took the refund.

  • TonyA_says

    Sad but true. When I was with FedEx, I remember Fred Smith [shaking his head]  asking why anyone thinks a passenger airline is good business. Warren Buffet apparently asked the same question.

    Scott Mcartney (WSJ Middle Seat) wrote an excellent article yesterday. I suggest y’all read it.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2012/06/07/how-airlines-spend-your-airfare/

    If people knew this (how difficult it is to make money in the airline business), maybe they will complain less.

  • bodega3

    Of all the vouchers I have used for clients and for myself, there is no residual.  I had several clients be given $900 each if they gave up their seats, which they did, thinking the would use that for an international trip.  Only thing is the carrier gave the amount out in $150 vouchers, and you can’t use more than one per new ticket issue.  Be careful of what you accept and ask questions first.

  • lost_in_travel

    Tony,  I was not really thinking about Fedex overnight shipping because I said, “good condition in a reasonable time” meaning that a standard package wouldn’t care if the trip took a little longer, it did not worry about losing a vacation day or some sleep.  So don’t ship me overnight, use two or three day shipping because that is closer  to what the airline contract allows.  And there would be a tracking label on my butt so I would not get lost!  :-) 

  • bodega3

    Also, the first day needs to be considered a travel day.  So if they indeed got to Utah the same day as scheduled then they really didn’t lose a day, just a few hours.  Now I have encountered a delay on a flight that required new equipement.  Prior to the carrier arranging a new plane, we were going to have to be reaccommodated on another flight.  First one out that they could get for us was two days from then, so I know the frustration firsthand. 

  • MarkieA

    Through your many posts, I get the feeling that you think the world would be a much better place without all these confounded people in it. I hope you’re not in the Customer Service part of the airline business.

  • $16635417

    LOL!

  • cowboyinbrla

     Actually, the wholesale rate for airline miles (what airlines get from hotel companies, credit cards, etc.) is about a penny per mile. So 3,000 miles are worth, wholesale, about $30. That’s how much the initial offer was worth, which is insulting, particularly since to use them, you have to acquire tens of thousands more.

    The vouchers are a big step in the right direction, and probably the best the customer will get, but vouchers are still “funny money”. They’re often loaded with restrictions (i.e. you can’t use this on the cheapest seats, even if they’re available). If they’re valid towards ANY airfare, then I’d say it’s a decent deal.

  • bodega3

    Guess you really don’t follow this site.  Thanks for the Friday Funny!

  • cowboyinbrla

     Sorry, but NO. For a flight of two hours, there should be no way that everyone should expect to lose an entire day traveling. That’s insulting, especially considering that the airlines require you to be at the airport 90 minutes or more before “scheduled” takeoff or else run the risk of losing your seat.

    Under your logic, airlines should just tell everyone to show up at 6 AM at the airport and they’ll load people in order of arrival – first arrivals get the 6 AM flight till it’s full, then the next batch leave at 712, or whatever, and eventually everyone (hopefully) flies. Or you could pay a $50 fee and get bumped up 100 spots in the line.

    On second thought, perhaps I’d better shut up now,  before I give the dinosaur carriers any new ideas.

  • longtimetvlr

    So it was either or?   Did anyone finish the movie then ask for a refund?

  • longtimetvlr

    I am platinum on American.  I have several perks that I apprecialte.  No bag fees, no premium seat fees, early boarding, extra miles on flights and on several occaisions when the flight did not go as planned for mechanical or other r reasons I have received bonsu miles.

  • Michelle C

    I disagree with your post about the travel day.  It depends on where you are going.    I can see a cross country or international flight with a layover being considered a day, but I routinely buy AM (going to) flights, and PM (return home) flights for one way-no layover 2-3 hr flights with the expectation that I will be able to do a few more things if the flights are on time.  I edited my initial post to reflect what I personally consider a travel day delay. I’m not bothered by a couple of hrs of delay, but I can’t help but notice that I spend more time waiting for AA then I do any other airline.    I have never been compensated even when the delay was 2 days.

  • Michelle C

    ugh… we travelers always have to be one step ahead.   Before this I wouldn’t think to ask if the vouchers are good all at the same time.    To me a voucher should be like a gift certificate- use as much or as little as you want when you want. 

  • bodega3

    Having sold airline tickets for many decades, you learn a thing or two.  Consider your day of flight a travel day and you won’t be disappointed if you are late.  It will be a treat to actually arrive on time.  This is why we NEVER have clients fly on the day they need to attend something or get to a cruise.  Delays are more common that ever before. 

  • bodega3

    Sorry, but in today’s world of airline travel, delays are more prevalent than ever before.    As much as I wish all would go perfectly, it doesn’t so you need to allow for delays.   

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Wouldn’t know because I took the refund! 

    But you’re still sure you want to equate a $20 purchase with a delay measured in minutes to a thousand dollar purchase where the delay was two days?   

    If there’s a problem at the theater I get in my car and am back home in a few minutes. That wasn’t a possibility for these folks and you can’t reschedule a vacation nearly as easily as going back to the theater.

  • In my view frequent flier miles are worthless–at least for air travel–and “vouchers” aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.  Such things would not exist if Congress forced airlines to comply with state consumer fraud laws.  A refund is the only true compensation.  The fees, black-out dates, and other restrictions airlines use to prevent their customers from using frequent flier miles for air travel make a pathetic joke out of the notion that there is some relationship between frequent flier miles and free, or discounted, air travel.  For those who simply can’t avoid frequent flier programs I advise transferring your miles to a hotel “frequent stay” program and using miles to buy an airline club (ie: United Red Carpet) membership.  Likewise, airline vouchers are akin to a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s difficult to impossible to use them in a booking—unless, perhaps, you are fluent in Hindustani which is the native language of those working the call centers of some airlines.  Also vouchers have expiration dates and other restrictions designed to discourage use.  Domestic air travel would improve 100% if frequent flier programs were abolished and we turned the clock back to the 1950s.  Back then you got a plaque if you racked-up a huge number of miles.  AA even threw-in a membership to its little-used club at LaGuardia/New York. 

  • flutiefan

     if i’m on a driving vacation and my car breaks down through no fault of mine, does Ford owe me compensation?

  • Actually, some elite level fliers (think flyertalk) rabidly collect miles.

  • flutiefan

     MeanMeosh is right: it depends.  some airlines i know allow you to use the value of the voucher like cash… it’s good toward any flight, and you get to “keep the change” until it hits 1 year or you use it up.

  • You’re on vacation, and your rental car breaks down in the middle of the desert.  No water, no AC, cell reception, sweltering until finally you are rescued by highway patrol.  Different situation.

  • bodega3

    Which carrier have you experienced to do this?  We use to be able to issue a residual, but it has been a use it or lost policy for a long time for the one’s I have received or used for clients.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yes, I get the same treatment on CO/UA but it seems that getting those comp upgrades is much harder to score lately.

  • I would have been howling mad

  • I think the truth is somewhere between you and Michele.  It really depends on the flight, time of year, importance of arriving on time, etc.

    For example, I would never consider a short commuter flight to waste an entire day of travel.  I”m flying on a direct flight SFO-LAX tomorrow. One hour flight on a light travel day.  I have the entire day planned out beginning at noon, giving myself time for delays.

    But if the flight is long, multple connections, transitting through airports with known delays, then I give a much greater buffer.

    And if I were traveling on a cruise, I would absolutely arrive the day before, possibly two days depending on my confort level.

    When I travel for court, I always arrive the day before.

  • cowboyinbrla

    Depends. If the car’s under warranty, they may well owe you a rental car. And in point of fact, in that situation, you can usually rent a car and be on your way with only a short delay. With air transport, you’re at the mercy not only of the schedule of the airlines, but whether they’ll deign to put you on another flight (theirs or someone else’s – the latter increasingly rare).

  • I have to respectfully disagree with everything you said. You make many grandiose, yet unsupported statements.  FF miles are like any investment, you have to know which one is appropriate for you.  I have had great success with my frequent flier miles, most recently using them for a free business class ticket to the Caribbean to attend a family member’s funeral.

    As far as the 1950’s goes, surely you remember that back in the day, airline travel was prohibitively expensive for the average American.  Today, its crowded and full of delays, but if you have a job, you can afford to fly.

    The egalitarian in me prefers a system where everyone has access rather than a privileged few.

  • MarkKelling

    I still get my comp upgrades on UA (so far) on the DEN IAH run. 

    But trying to book reward flights is much more difficult and costly than it was under CO.  I’m trying to get to LHR in late August from DEN. They have a seat available in 1st for only 175,000 miles – one way. Plus all of the taxes, fuel surcharges and fees you would pay on a cash purchase ticket. And I have to fly from DEN to SFO, back to ORD and then to LHR.

  • bodega3

    Hope the winds don’t delay you! 

  • MarkKelling

    Collecting is a disease that some people catch.  While I like my miles and have a lot stashed, I don’t do anything stupid to get them.

  • cowboyinbrla

     I didn’t say it wasn’t becoming increasingly common. It’s just unacceptable.

    It’s logic like yours (“consider your day of flight a travel day”) that leads people to figure that if they can drive somewhere within 12 hours, it makes more sense to drive than fly – because you can’t depend on an airline to do jack any more. And then people wonder why they think airlines are crappy businesses?

    And it’s why businesses are pouring millions into the ability to videoconference – if sending someone to a three-hour meeting in a city that’s only a 3-hour flight away requires allocating two full days for travel, it makes more sense to find a way to get everyone together virtually. What’s that going to do to airline bottom lines as an ever-increasing share of their short-notice business fliers stop flying and start videoconferencing?

  • TonyA_says

    I begged earlier — pls. don’t shoot me. I’m begging again :-)

  • bodega3

    Video conferencing should be considered first!

  • Sadie_Cee

    While I don’t believe the OP is entitled to a refund, there is something about this situation that perplexes me.According to the OP, “Once we landed, we were not rebooked and no alternatives were available, no communications about other arrangements were known or announced. We were able to find an American Airlines agent at a different gate who tried in vain to find us a flight to Utah that same day.”  Given what had just happened, is this statement plausible?  If so, why were the usual courtesies not extended by AA voluntarily to these pax?  Is there something I don’t know? Bewildered in TO.

  • longtimetvlr

    Yes you are right Raven.  I am happy on most flights with seats on the aisle in the exit row.  I use the miles for personal trips to Europe.  AA has a night web interface that shows you the miles needed by date and you can pick what you want.

  • flutiefan

     Southwest does.  as i’ve mentioned before, i’ve worked in their terminal and roomie worked there several years. i believe JetBlue is same way?

  • longtimetvlr

    This website blocks what I am typing after two lines so I meant nice web interface not night web interface, but I usually do use it at night so maybe that works just as well.  Agiin I can’t see what I am typing so I hope it is still readable.

  • $16635417

    True, it’s a goodwill gesture. Does anyone believe that if they offered a goodwill gesture of $800 that it has a cash equivalent to the airline of the same amount though? 

    Dave Champagne indicated he would prefer cash to $1,000,000 in vouchers. (Insert Dr. Evil impression with upturned pinky finger at corner of mouth.) I simply indicated that if the choice were say $1,000,000 in airline credits or $800 cash…under the right conditions I’m taking the million.

  • backprop

    Did you read the story?  They were not refunded anything; the airline gave them miles and vouchers as a gesture of goodwill, which they did not have to do. 

  • backprop

    People are not reading today.

    I replied to the poster who said, quote, “If somebody need to buy 3000 miles it cost at most 10$”

    The offer was not “insulting” because the OP was not owed anything.  A free $30 is not “insulting” (and it’s really more than $30 for the average person).

  • cowboyinbrla

    Backprop, with respect, I DID read your post. My reply was to you AND the poster to whom you replied.

    Legally, it may be true that under the contract of carriage, the OP isn’t “owed” anything. If all we were concerned with was the contract of carriage, there wouldn’t be a need for commentary at all. Chris could just read the contract, tell every OP “You’re screwed”, and call it a day.

    The question isn’t what’s LEGALLY REQUIRED; it’s what is ETHICALLY and MORALLY RIGHT. Airline contracts of carriage are written from the point of view of protecting the airline from responsibility for anything. They have absolutely nothing to do with what’s right.

  • Mr. Farrow:  Yes, the average air fare, in the ’50s and ’60s, was significantly higher than today.  HOWEVER you (conveniently??) overlooked the fact that, even then, discounted air fares DID exist.  During my college days (in the late 1960s) I frequently took advantage of Delta Air’s “youth fare.”  Unlike competing carriers this fare offered a confirmed reservation, as opposed to “stand-by” status.  Also, Delta was a totally different airline then in terms of the way it related to customers.  Even I, with my piddling 50 buck (one-way) fare, was treated with basic respect—something that most US-based carriers, today, couldn’t do if their life depended on it!

  • technomage1

     It depends on the nature of the disruption if flight miles are valid or not. Years ago I flew overseas on Northwest and the video screen in the main cabin broke.  They tried to fix it but could not.  They apologized over the intercom and I thought that was the end of it.  But to my surprise, we were met when we landed with someone handing us vouchers good for 500 free frequent flier miles.  I never used mine but for the miniscule cost of that voucher Northwest had my business for years until they merged with Delta.

  • bodega3

    Those are two I have never worked with regarding vouchers.  My last voucher from UA didn’t allow for any residual.

  • SallyLu

    That isn’t even comparable.  When I choose to take my car, that I own and am responsible for maintenance on, I am assuming all responsibility for my trip.  When I pay someon to transport me to a destination, I am paying them to take the responsiblility of getting me there.  Judging by the majority of responses here, we have come to expect no service from the airlines and the thought that if they actually get us to our destination we are pretty lucky.  I know someone will chime in and say that the COCs just say they have to get them to their destination and that is it.  That doesn’t make it right.   What is sad is that all of the seasoned travelers who post on this site seem OK with that and act like the OP is a whiny looser for expecting to actually be transported, as scheduled, so they can enjoy the vacation they paid for.  I just don’t get this wide spread acceptance of such a low level of expectation from the airlines.  It bothers me that so many here seem to accept that the airlines COCs are so one sided. 

  • Joe_D_Messina

    What always interests me is how the poll results tend to be so much more forgiving of the travelers than the comments. The poll’s running 73%-27% right now against the airline, but the comments might be the mirror image of that. 

    We’ve got the OP being called greedy, people trying to compare it to a movie starting a little bit late…. These folks must be the most accepting travelers on earth, willing to accept any inconvenience with a smile. (Or they’ve got a totally different set of standards for what they’d put up with versus what they think others should endure.)

  • MarkKelling

    Your key statement is “was a totally different airline.”

    Every airline back in the day was a totally different airline. They all offered service with a smile and treated everyone with respect.  Those days are gone and will never return. And even $50 in the 60’s was a whole lot of money to most people.

  • SimoneNY

    Chris, your question asking if FF miles are an appropriate response for a flight disruption isn’t so easy to answer.

    First of, we’re talking about TWO flight disruptions on one R/T itinerary.  That’s rather inexcusable.
    Also,3000 miles for 4 people comes to 750 miles per person – that’s totally useless. Had AA given each of the 4 people 10,000 miles, that may have been appropriate.  Althought the $800. vouchers that you secured for them is best. I’m sure they appreciate that. Kudos to you!

    AA’s lack of communication once the first plane was grounded is truly disgusting.   What are these people supposed to do? Go home and forget about their vacation?  This “We don’t give a damn” attitude blows my mind.

  • Rosered7033

    I am aware of this type, it’s like a religion to them. But for the most part, someone who has flown a million or more miles doesn’t have much use for 3k miles. It’s a standard answer to most inconveniences brought on by the path of less maintenance the airlines have now chosen.

  • Rosered7033

    Yes, as I said – the elite-level flyer can buy a magazine subscription with them. Woohoo.

  • Rosered7033
  • It does not appear that they incurred any financial loss for the rebooking on Delta. So what is the price of inconvenience? For me miles are acceptable

  • Rosered7033

    According to my plat. Elite, 4 mil. mile SO, there are no gate agents when flights are grounded. The is a phone bank passengers are expected to use to rebook. Admiral’s Club members can use the club employees, if available, to rebook.

  • jim6555

    It seems that recently AA has had many incidents of “things breaking unexpectedly”. Currently, they have the oldest fleet of any of the legacy carriers. I have the impression that they also rank last in customer service. To AA’s credit, last year they placed a huge order for new aircraft. Until those new planes begin to replace the worst of the current fleet, expect more stories like the one above. For the last few years, AA has been on my personal “don’t fly” list.

  • Michelle C

     Amen to that.. We are going on an Alaskan cruise in 9 weeks and we are flying in the day before as always. 

  • Michelle C

    No one has disagreed with you that delays are on the increase but to keep setting your expectations lower and lower just so you don’t become disappointed doesn’t fly with me-no pun intended. Like I said..I’m not bothered by anything under a 4 hr delay.   After 4 hrs I get a little irritated depending on the circumstances (AA cancelling because they want a fuller flight is not acceptable to me).If it was I would have not changed to Southwest. Did I go yelling at the gate attendant- No. I just choose to reconsider who gets my business. Weather and mechanical delay- No problem, I want to stay alive.    I’ve done customer service jobs my entire working career, and my goal
    was always to do better, not have people lower their expectations.  I don’t have the unrealistic approach to air travel as you seem to interpret. I’m not a business traveler, but I’m not a novice. I’ve also had more positive experiences with airlines then I have had that were negative.

  • judyserienagy

    Miles are an appropriate gesture, cash is not possible, but not a paltry 3K miles is insulting.  AA really screwed up here and I’m glad you were there for these people, Chris.

  • Steve_in_WI

    Sure, but at what point does “a bit late” become unreasonable? Obviously it’s reasonable to expect that some level of delay is possible, and to try to plan for it, but IMHO there has to be a point at which the airline has failed to deliver what they promised. (And I don’t care what the legalese says – in the eyes of pretty much anyone, the promise is that your flight will arrive at the time printed on your ticket). While it’s ridiculous to say “my flight was an hour late – I want my money back,” it would be equally ridiculous for an airline to say “we’ve decided we can’t put you on a flight until 2 weeks from now – but that satisfies our obligation to you.” There has to be some middle ground.

  • bicjal

    In a general sense, airline miles can make a good apology, but how about five figures per person?

  • I’ll take the miles, the vouchers and most importantly, the extra miles earned on Delta from the rerouting ORD-EWR-SLC.