Q: I am hoping that you can resolve my issue with American Airlines. I recently booked four airline tickets on the American Airlines site from Buffalo, New York, to Miami.
I had to change my flight, and an airline representative told me I would be charged a fee but would be refunded the $2,410 price difference. I was perfectly fine with being charged the cancellation fee.
I asked to be emailed a copy of the changes so that I could have a hard copy. The representative said I would have to call back after the flight for a receipt. I found that strange and asked her for assurance that I would be able to get a receipt. She assured me I would.
I called back after the flight to get a copy of the receipt, and it was a headache. I then checked my bank statement to see if American refunded me the difference. It didn’t.
American Airlines owes me $2,410. I don’t understand why the airline was so quick to charge me additional fare and take it from my account but can’t give me back the difference. Can you help? — Ahlam Shahbel, Toronto
A: American Airlines should have promptly refunded the money, as promised. Actually, it probably shouldn’t have charged you a change fee at all, since you made your changes within 24 hours of making the reservation.
American Airlines has a 24-hour rule, mandated by federal law, which requires it to fully refund most tickets within a day of purchase. Since you were making your arrangements for domestic travel, that rule should have applied, even though you reside in Canada. But that isn’t the real problem here — it’s that the airline offered you a refund but didn’t follow through.
You were smart to try to get American’s promise in writing. When the airline representative didn’t offer a receipt or a written assurance, you were right to be skeptical. I can understand why you would check with your bank after getting only a verbal promise. After all, when it comes to airlines, talk is cheap.
In a case like this, you really need to take your appeal up the chain of command. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of American Airlines’ executives on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/.
I contacted the airline on your behalf, and it turns out there’s a little more to this story. Part of the fee you paid was for your seat assignment, which is nonrefundable. But you were due a refund for the fare difference on your four tickets. It’s not clear why American hadn’t sent that yet, but after I reached out to the airline, it did.