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.

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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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18 Comments On "How I Got My American Airlines Christmas Flights Refunded"
  1. Dick DeBarolo|

    Same thing happened to me, JJ. As you mentioned on Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy (which I’m also on every Sat) I didn’t cancel my AA Las Vegas Trip in January, even though CES has been canceled. I was hoping they’d cancel it so I could get a refund. Got a phone call Friday that I was no longer on a non-stop & had to make a plane change. I said I’m a senior citizen and that just wasn’t possible. The AA lady on the phone said she totally understand & I would be issued a refund. When I checked my account the next day, it was a travel voucher, not a refund.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hey Dick,

      That is such BS what they’re pulling. I will get to the bottom of it. Thanks for sharing

  2. John M Dawson|

    Guys, they don’t have any CASH on hand to offer refunds. I would start the refund process with the credit card issuer. Almost all the travel companies are trying to do this. They cant pay the bills.

  3. AA Flyer|

    John you do realize the credit card company will not issue a refund (via credit on your account) if the service provider disputes it. In this case AA will almost certainly dispute the chargeback since they had already provided a credit.

    People think they can just dispute something with a credit card company and get their money back. That simply isn’t true. They don’t have a pot of money to pay people off for legitimate charges unless the merchant agrees with it.

  4. Dianne|

    They’ve made a BIG mistake with not giving you the refund. Besides the lack of following through with what you were told, they will realize that MANY people now know how their customer service is lacking.

    We always pay for travel with credit card. When a Canadian travel company (not giving name) that was handling a China tour for us went out of business and I found out before it really was made public, I simply contacted my credit card company and they dealt with it. Credit to my card within less than a week.

    This has been awful year for businesses.

  5. Paul Keyes|

    A similar thing happened to me. AA changed my departure time by three hours and so I asked for a refund saying that this large change did not fit in with the rest of my plans. They told me that any change less than four hours did not qualify for a refund. I replied that I thought the rule was two hours. They said no, it used to be one hour but we changed it to four. Well, I said, the rule was one hour when I purchased the ticket and that should be the contract. It worked. They gave me the refund, which was posted to my credit card account about five days later.

  6. Dougie|

    If you would all stop making reservations with the expection that you could get a full cash refund in the final hours before departure when your particular plane with your wide ass seat is changed, then this would not happen to you! The airlines have no CASH to refund to you. Get over it! Instead you should hope that Congress passes the compromise $908 billion bill ASAP so the airlines get their free $17 billlion (It is all about whether Nancy Pelosi will let Senators Perdue and Loeffler have the opportunity to vote YES before January 5th) That $17 billion just might be enough so that your thousands of dollars of flight vouchers do not become worthless when your airline files for bankruptcy soon.

  7. Devin Galaudet|

    I have had a couple of really bad experiences with American Airlines. I avoid them when possible. I haven’t flown in quite a while due to the pandemic. So, they sent me a notice that my miles are set to expire. This is minor but really? They’re the worst.

  8. Ann|

    I booked a trip to South Africa for November 2020 last December. I used frequent flyer miles to get from the US to South Africa and back but needed to purchase flights to and from the gateways. Because I was returning right before Thanksgiving I booked and paid for my nonrefundable ticket home in late December. American Airlines would not give me a travel voucher because my ticket was booked before Covid. When I pointed out that it was Covid now and I’m a senior with type 2 diabetes they still would do nothing. The flights operated so I’m out the money. I am lifetime Platinum but my chances of setting foot on another American Airline flight in this lifetime are slim to none. I’ll use my remaining FF miles to fly business class to Australia on Qantas at some point and then cancel my AA credit card.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Bastards

  9. Sherrie C|

    Amen to what Dougie says! They have no cash so take a breath and give them a break! We are lucky they are still flying.
    I have been on 14 planes so far and Delta is by far leading with their customer service, keeping their word about the middle seat being open and overall safety. Alaska would be my second choice. American, United and Southwest are packing their planes. That said, the media would love to jump on any story that someone got covid from flying so I think they are all doing the best job they can and trying to keep their companies afloat.
    Why don’t you start writing about Nancy Pelosi working on a YES vote?

  10. Hank T|

    This all started when US Air bought American a few years ago. They kept the American name because American had a better reputation then US Air. The problems started before the ink was dry. They changed the on board services, the plane sizes, the hub cities and customer services.
    They killed a great airline under the cover of the “new American Airlines”
    I have been a AA member since 1982 with almost 3 million miles. It is not the quality airline I joined back then. I remember the hole in the cloth napkins, do you?

  11. K. Millard|

    for the record: only non-essential cars are unable to cross the Canada/Us border- to and from US. It is still possible to fly.

  12. C Eckert|

    Submit a complaint to the Dept. of Transportation. I did this because United was not willing to give me a refund but instead insisted I get a voucher when I canceled my ‘non-refundable’ ticket because the country I was traveling to closed to travelers. The DOT has restrictions related to what the airlines can do about Covid19 related travel disruptions. Eventually I received my refund but complaining was necessary.

  13. Joseph Segal|

    Had an opposite and positive experience canceling a recent flight with American. Booked the overnight to DCA to land in time to attend the inauguration in January. They canceled that flight, and the only options were arriving too late in the day. Called into the platinum line and explained. The agent issued a refund. Initial email said airfare credit for future travel, but a day or two later another email arrived letting me know the credit had completed. Refund in my credit card.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Lucky you!

  14. Rose Wylie|

    I find this post calling your personal problem a “bait and switch” self-serving and small-minded. American is working with a reduced staff and doing their best to serve their customers. It seems you are using your blog as a bully pulpit to complain about AA and trying to get your inexpensive tickets credited. Did you use one of the many credits you mentioned to buy these three tickets? Sounds like you were hoping to turn one of those credits into a refund. You had a gracious res agent tell you one thing, then when you heard otherwise you ranted to all your followers how unfair the system is. It bothers me when consumers refer to giant corporations as if they were an individual dishonest shop keeper who doesn’t treat his customers well. You enjoy the privileges of high status for you “loyalty” and then you kvetch publicly, which doesn’t seem very loyal to me. More like kicking a friend when they’re down. I expect you would have gotten you $128 per person back with a courteous email to customer service.
    I’m a travel advisor and subscribe your newsletter and enjoy many of your pieces. I think we all need to cut each other a lot of slack. That said, I’ll cut you some slack and leave it at that. It’s a difficult time for everyone in the world. Happy Holiday.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Rose,

      I’m just letting people know not to trust what they tell you. They shouldn’t be allowed to say you will get a full refund then take it back without even calling the customer or making it easy for people to get a hold of their refunds department. All the best and Happy Holidays

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