Laurie Mankin and her husband have tickets on American Airlines to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A travel delay and a resulting transfer to a different arline leaves them stranded in Mexico City. Mankin incurs costs to stay overnight, and has to buy new tickets to get to Puerto Vallarta. Neither airline will reimburse her. Can we help Mankin obtain a refund?
Question: My husband and I bought tickets on American Airlines to fly from Washington, D.C., to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, via Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. A three-hour mechanical delay caused us to miss the connecting flight from Dallas. American Airlines rerouted us on Aeroméxico from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta, via Mexico City.
We were told that once in Mexico, we would be leaving from the same terminal, and that a gate agent would be available to get us boarding passes. But, upon arrival at Benito Juárez Mexico City International Airport, we had to transfer from the international to the domestic flight terminal. We were too late to get boarding passes and missed the Aeroméxico flight to Puerto Vallarta.
Because we missed the connecting flight to Puerto Vallarta that American Airlines had booked us on, Aeroméxico would not honor our tickets. The Aeroméxico agent said our tickets were only valid for the flight we were booked on, and we had to buy new tickets for a flight departing the next morning. The agent said it was American Airlines’ problem, but we couldn’t get any help from American Airlines, so it was our problem.
We had no choice but to buy two Aeroméxico tickets to Puerto Vallarta for the next day. We had to pay for a one-night hotel stay in Mexico City. After our vacation, I contacted American Airlines and requested a refund of $600 for the airline tickets, the hotel and meals. I submitted all my receipts. But, American Airlines refused to issue a refund because it had endorsed our tickets to Aeroméxico — meaning that our money went to Aeroméxico.
American Airlines told us that it had no control over Aeroméxico policies and doesn’t reimburse costs when another airline doesn’t operate a flight as planned. Can you help me get a refund for my hotel and extra tickets?– Laurie Mankin, Washington, D.C.
Answer: If you purchased tickets on American Airlines to Puerto Vallarta, American Airlines should have gotten you there, at no extra cost.
When your connection from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta was delayed because of mechanical reasons, American Airlines did what it needed to, in order to get you to your final destination. The relevant terms of American Airlines’ contract of carriage provides:
If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.
In extreme circumstances, you will be rerouted on the next American flight with available seats, or in some circumstances on another airline.
When American Airlines transferred you to a same-day flight on Aeroméxico to Puerto Vallarta, it fulfilled its contract. The problem was that American Airlines transferred you to a flight that you were unlikely to catch to your final destination. You were international travelers arriving in Mexico, and the American Airlines agent treated you as domestic travelers. Big difference.
After your return, you submitted your receipts and a refund request to American Airlines. At first, American Airlines issued you and your husband each a $25 refund, and a $100 future flight voucher. That’s far less than the $600 you actually spent getting to Puerto Vallarta.
You contacted our advocates. They were confused by this chain of events because Aeroméxico accepted your American Airlines international booking from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta. Why would Aeroméxico accept an international booking from American Airlines if there wasn’t enough time for you to transfer terminals and go through the typically time-consuming international traveler process? Plus, Aeroméxico already had your money, and did not have incentive to help.
Our advocates suggested that you try to contact Aeroméxico executives and send a short, polite note asking for a refund. We list information on our website for company contacts. Another option would have been to review the FAQS on our website to see if a situation similar to yours had been discussed.
Ultimately, our advocates contacted American Airlines on your behalf. Once it understood exactly what had happened, American Airlines reimbursed you for your hotel and increased the future travel vouchers to $300 per person. You were happy with the outcome.