On Saturday, I called American Airlines (AA) to cancel our Los Angeles to Toronto (YYZ) tickets, which I had booked in early February for Christmas because they were so cheap ($385 for three one-way tickets). We almost always spend Christmas in Toronto with Natalie’s family and then we thaw out in Hawaii for New Year’s. Not too shabby, eh?
We were originally supposed to fly via Chicago and the first leg was on a widebody, so we had premium economy seats, which are more like domestic first class but better. Normally, I wait until the last minute (a couple hours before) to see if they’ve canceled or severely delayed our flight to get a full refund. God knows I don’t need any more American Airline credits since I canceled so many spring and summer trips and they didn’t end up canceling the flights so I was stuck with these travel vouchers.
But this time, when I went into my reservations online, I noticed that AA had changed the routing to go via Charlotte (CLT) and switched us to a narrow-body but the arrival time was now just an hour later so I didn’t think I qualified for a full refund. But I wanted to find out for sure so I called the 800 number for Executive Platinum members (you have to fly 100,000 miles and spend $15,000 a year or more on AA and their partners).
There was no hold time except for the annoying prompts and the friendly agent informed me that because they’d changed the flight, I could get a refund. But it had nothing to do with Canada changing their entry requirements. (Because of COVID-19, Americans can’t currently enter Canada and the date for when they’ll reopen the border keeps getting pushed. I’m guessing and hoping they will open it April 21). I thought that it was interesting that American issued a refund because of their routing change and that it wasn’t because Americans can’t even travel to Canada right now.
A couple things to note besides the ticket refund: Our bulkhead seats all stayed the same even though they changed our flights and equipment, which was nice. Also, there wasn’t a single seat open when I looked at the seat map, which I found surprising especially for the CLT to YYZ flight.
Another thing: The agent said all flight credits from the spring and summer had been extended until December 31, 2021 instead of expiring a year after purchasing. They also extended all system-wide upgrades by six months, which is helpful for Exec Plats.
I almost always make small talk with the call center agents because I learn so much and they’re usually really nice. I asked the agent I was speaking with if more people are booking or canceling and she said that definitely more people are booking but a lot of customers are calling to see if their flights are still going out and if anything has changed.
Update: I just received the email below from American Airlines, which really ticked me off. First, they tell me I can get a full refund and then they say:
“Your trip is non-refundable, but don’t worry. The unused value of your ticket is safe, and you’ll be able to use it toward future travel.
When you are ready to rebook call 800-433-7300 for help.
When you rebook your trip keep in mind:
– The same passenger must travel on the rebooked ticket.
– Travel must be completed before your ticket expires.
– Travel agency tickets will need to be rebooked with the travel agency, booking source or the airline that made your reservation.
– Other fees may apply. ”
If that’s not a bait and switch, then I don’t know what is. I called up reservations and the agent said that she probably can’t reinstate my tickets after I said I would never have canceled them if they weren’t refundable as I would have waited until the last minute. But she suggested I go onto AA.com and contact reservations and tell them I should get refunded because I wanted to fly via ORD and not CLT and we were on a widebody that was downgraded to a small plane.
She also said that because of Coronavirus, American Airlines changed their refund policy on March 1, 2020 from customers being able to get a refund if their flight schedule changed by one hour or more to now four hours or more, which is total B.S.
I will update this post once I hear back.
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