Flight cancelled, involuntary downgrade

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Apr 5, 2018
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#1
Hi folks. I recently was scheduled to fly with husband and daughter from ANU - JFK (returning from vacation). Paid full fare for 3 business class seats on RT non-stop flights. AA cancelled the flight the night before (due to a predicted "storm" which never materialized), so of course I was on the phone to them right away, and was told the next available seats were on a flight FOUR days later. I laughed, they weren't kidding. I was told "keep checking back, something might open up". So, I spent many hours over the next four days on the phone, mostly on hold, occasionally getting a CSR who would read from the script with no resolution.

Bottom line was that we had to pay for 4 more nights in the resort (> $2000 just for the room), plus, we were downgraded from business to basic economy, had to take connecting flight through Miami (vs. direct) which took 14 hours total vs. 4 hour direct flight. (It was especially insulting that the CSR agent wouldn't ("couldn't") assign us the available "Main Cabin Extra" seats on the MIA to JFK leg, but told me I was "welcome" to purchase them). Now, I know that 4 extra days "stuck" in Antigua sounds like a dream, but...truly, it was like paying for an entire second vacation. Then factor in the cost of meals, lost wages, lost vacation days, paying more to the house-sitter, the dog kennel, etc. The time I spent on the phone, and on the AA website, was just truly painful, made worse by the absolute dismal customer service reps who were just...awful...vapid, uninformed, scripted - how I managed to not lose my patience, I don't know. I don't actually expect them to care that we were stranded in a foreign country, but the only effort being made to get us home was by me ("how about connecting in Charlotte? DC? Hartford??").

So, what am I seeking? I don't exactly know. I do know not to expect much from AA (hoping that my credit card will cover the extra nights in the hotel).

So I will turn it over to the experts - if it was you, what would you do? What would you seek from AA? We don't currently have status, fwiw. Thanks.
 

Barry Graham

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Jan 7, 2015
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#2
I think you should write to American and ask for compensation, using the contacts above under "Company Contacts". I am puzzled by what you say about being downgraded to Basic Economy as this is a fare class, there is no separate cabin called Basic Economy. They certainly ought to be refunding the difference between Business and Coach and I think you are within your rights to ask for something for the extra cost.
 
Likes: AnnM

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
I can't speak to what you should ask for, we've got others here that can help you with that. But I second @Barry Graham 's comment about reaching out to American. On the Company Contacts page please read the introduction and then read the proven strategies for resolution. This explains the process that generally leads to success. We recommend waiting at least a week between emails. If you haven't reached out to customer service, start there. If no response, or not the desired response, move to the primary contact. Rinse and repeat. Make sure your email is concise and do not attach anything to the email. This can cause the email to not go through. Let them know you can provide additional information if requested. If you would like, we can preview your email prior to sending. Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#4
I agree about reaching out to AA.

Did you have Travel insurance? Policies generally have coverage for trip delay and cover a certain dollar amount each day. That would reimburse you for some of the days you had to stay extra.

We just helped a client who had a flight cancellation and the insurance would cover $200 per day for up to 5 days.

If you didn’t have insurance, call the credit company of the card you used to pay for the trip and ask if they had any travel insurance for using the card.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
Reach out to AA and also check if there is any travel insurance with the credit card used. When you write to AA be careful of the phrases used. This was not an involuntary downgrade- your flight was canceled and the next available date only had seats in economy. And it was not basic economy as that fare does not allow paying or reserving for main cabin extra —basic economy is no seat assignment and no overhead luggage space — basically I am repeating what Barry Graham said. Now I do agree that AA treated you badly and you should be reimbursed and compensated. You paid a premium fare and did not receive premium service. Please let us know what happens.
 
Likes: AnnM

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
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#6
Unfortunately, when weather systems hit or are predicted to hit major hubs, the airline networks get thrown into chaos. One year a system hit just as my family was getting ready to return from Miami. Next available flight was a week away and I have status with the airline. Just too many people needing to be rebooked and too few seats.

At a minimum AA owes you cash for the downgrade but be ready for them to pull the airline math routine (your business fare was less than our walk up economy fare so you owe us money. I'm not kidding).

As far as covering your additional expenses, just be ready but AA isn't going to pay you cash. They may give you a small "we're" sorry voucher but they aren't going to poay you $8000. You can ask (and send them receipts) but be ready for the no. Also keep in mind that how you ask will be as important to getting something as how much you ask for. If you are demanding, you may get nothing. After all, it was a weather event so they don't owe anything. As far as getting something, I agree with the others, check the credit card you used for the trip to see if there's a travel insurance policy included.

Here's a lesson learned... Trip insurance could have saved the day here. A higher end policy would have worked to get you rebooked on another airline and covered your expenses while you waited. In my case, we drove home since all the winter storm caused every airline fits. All paid for by the travel insurance policy... best $400 I ever spent...
 
Apr 5, 2018
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#7
Thanks, all. I guess I knew all this - I'm ready for the "no", sadly. I could still use guidance on what to ask for...cash? miles, if so, how many? confirmed future upgrade?
 
Apr 5, 2018
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#8
And thanks for clarifying my incorrect use of the terms "involuntary downgrade" and "basic economy" That will help when I write my very polite email to AA. ;)
 
Apr 10, 2017
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#10
I believe you will not have a problem getting cash for the downgrade. My husband was downgraded from Business to Economy on AA and the refund for the difference was quite fair.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#12
A true travel nightmare, Ann, I am so sorry this happened to you. I once spent a week at the Heathrow Hilton when the airport couldn't deal with the snow. Hilton charged me 400 pounds per night and I gladly paid it. There wasn't a question of getting to Paris, or even getting back home earlier. It was complete chaos. We were fortunate to have a hotel room, tens of thousands of people "lived" at the airport for several days.

My colleagues have given you excellent information, and advice; I am just adding my sympathy and this: The airline did what was contracted for ... transport you from point A to point B. When it comes to "scripted answers" from the AA agents, that is just maddening, I absolutely hate it. While not excusing their behaviour, the airline agents were taking calls from irate, helpless, sobbing, screaming passengers at least 8 hours a day. In our case, the AirFrance people just went home and didn't come back until flights started to depart again.

The person reading your letter did not cause your problem, sees far worse things every day, and you want her to help you. So time for gritted teeth, super-sweet politeness, patience and persistence. Cash for the fare diff will be no problem, but of course it will take a while(!). Figure out whether you'd like miles or a voucher for the rest and ask them for a reasonable amount. And remember that everyone in the office will be rolling their eyes at the thought of someone complaining about an extra four days in paradise. Easy for them, but the realities of jobs, dogs, house issues on an unanticipated 4 day extension of your trip are not so enjoyable. Good luck and please let us know the outcome.
 
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Likes: AnnM
Sep 19, 2015
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#13
AnnM, I do think you should be refunded the fare difference (to your credit card, not in vouchers) and not at the walk up rate difference, and that you should receive miles or a voucher as compensation for the lack of customer service --- maybe $200 -$300 per person? Or more? Would you be able to use a voucher in a year from issue date?

Of course you had not prepared or budgeted for an extra four days of expenses and hopefully the credit card company will handle some of the hotel issues.

What makes the delay more aggravating is that lack of proactive assistance from customer service. They should have explained that once you were ticketed in economy that you had all the negatives of non-status economy -- ie paying for more leg room and such.

Good luck and let us know what happens.