AA will not honor my vouchers ...

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Nov 3, 2015
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I feel American Airlines has unfairly kept $1000 credit from me and am unable to use it because they claim it has expired. I have contacted customer service with many attempts in both email form and in mail (snail mail, UPS) and can not get a live person to contact me with any of my attempts. How can a company so large not allow their customers to at least speak to a human being when there is a problem?? Attached is my time line of events that have led me to contact you for some help. After reviewing my timeline of events I would love your thoughts on my situation.
Thanks
Martha Hadley

8/12/14- ticket purchase from OKC to Cancun Mexico for business trip for 11/09/14. (ticket cost >$740)

11/9/14 - Denied access to plane by AA ticket agent when checking bag due to damage on a corner of the cover of my passport. The agent declared it was “mutilated” and refused to allow me to travel. The “damage” was a small spot on a corner where a pup chewed it over 6 years ago. I have traveled many places with that passport and have never been denied access. I asked to speak to her supervisor and she got someone on the phone that stated she was “too busy” to come to the counter therefore, what the agent says stands. I went home and immediately got on the phone to AA.

11/9/14 - Phone call to AA to ask what they were going to do since they denied me access and the agent stated that the computer showed that I was boarded and in route. I explained the situation and she passed me to someone else. This agent begins to look up the ticket and she tells me the ticket shows I was now a “no show”. Again I explained the situation and was passed on to another agent. Finally, I was told there would be an e voucher for the ticket and I could use it anytime for anywhere over the next year, from date of issuance. I made note for my records of the ticket #. (Ticket #0017487861465 ) Reference #1-415956073

8/14/15- Called AA Advantage desk to try to book my flight to the same destination for the same business meeting using the e voucher and was informed I could not use it as it expired 2 days prior. I tried to explain to the agent that I had received it on 11/9/14 and was told I had a year to use it. She informed me that it was 1 year from the date of issuance of the ticket, which was 8/12/14. I was not a happy consumer and politely asked for a supervisor. I was forwarded to someone else but was told the same thing and they did not have the power or authority to do anything about it. I asked at this time to speak to someone in Customer Service and was told I would have to go online. At that time, I look online and read this in the “Voucher FAQ”section,

Q:
Does my American Airlines eVoucher expire?


A:
Yes. The American Airlines eVoucher expires 1 year from date of issue.


My voucher was issued on 11/9/14, the date of my travel, yet they were holding to the date of ticket issuance. How convenient! Yet I was only 2 days from that date.

I have sent in 3 requests on the online complaint site for someone to call me so I could speak to a person and have gotten the same “automated” response each time. I have repeated the entire scenario through this form but again get the same automated response. I have also mailed a letter to the Phoenix address for Customer Service asking for a return call and got the same response again.

I find it very insulting that AA will not allow you to speak to someone live from Customer Service who can help resolve this problem. So as it sits now, I have donated $750 for a ticket that I cannot use due to an agent’s subjective opinion of a minimal flaw on my passport cover. (She would not even allow me to get TSA involved in the decision.) I quickly renewed my passport after this incident because I had another trip scheduled within a month. I had to surrender that passport at the time of applying for my new one. I never thought I would have this problem so I did not think to take a picture for my records to verify my point.

I also booked a 1 way ticket using Advantage Miles on 11/03/14 from DFW to OKC because I was not going to use the last leg of the Cancun trip to return so that I could stay in Dallas 1 night to meet our son for dinner. I went to rebook that flight and again was told it had expired. Again, I was thinking I had until 11/09 to reuse that ticket as that was they date I had to cancel it since I was not even making the trip to Cancun therefore, would not be in Dallas for the planned dinner.

As of now, I have donated close to $1000 to American Airlines and can’t even talk to a live person in Customer Service. This is maddening!!
Any suggestions?
 
Jan 3, 2015
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@iMartha H, you have two separate problems here.

For the first issue of the passport, a gate agent or ticket agent is allowed to deny you from boarding if they find that your passport is damaged. The definition of damage is broad, so what one person considers damaged another may not. However, airlines can, and should, lean on the cautious side because if you get to Cancun and the Mexican government rejects your passport, the airline then has to fly you home on their dime (and I believe they can be fined by the foreign government as well). It is your responsibility as a passenger to have a valid passport that is not damaged. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news on this, but that is how it works. You were smart to replace this one for future international travel.

Now for the voucher. It is standard industry practice that all vouchers issued expire one year from the purchase date, not from the travel date, and this has been the case for a long time now. It seems that AA did not explicitly tell you the date it expired, but as a consumer, it behooves you to find out that information up front, not later on, so you don't get caught in this type of issue.

What can you do now? Well, you can use our Company Contacts to escalate this to a higher level. If you do so, start at the bottom and work your way up the chain, giving each person at least a week to respond. In your communications, be concise, fact-based only (no emotions) and polite.

As for why getting people on the phone is difficult with AA, well, that is by design on their part. I think it isn't very customer friendly, but unfortunately, that's the way they do business now. However, for trying to get something like this resolved, electronic communication is best as everything is then traceable.
 
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Jan 3, 2015
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Also, just to add, from the US State Department regarding damaged passports:

"If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport. Conditions that may constitute damage requiring you to replace your passport include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries."

To me, chew marks from a dog definitely fall within the significantly damaged definition.
 
T

travellerdan

Guest
I faced a similar passport dilemma due to water damage. I couldn't get anyone at a passport office to say one way or another that there was an issue, so based on language as above just replaced the passport. One can read discussions of this in various places on the net and find people traveling all over the world for years on tattered documents, but it only takes one airline clerk or minor official in some country somewhere to take exception and make a mess of things.

As to the voucher, it is tough to argue an exception to a long standing and "well known" policy based on someone telling someone the wrong thing over the phone. The suggestion from GNRMatt to start up the e-mail tree may eventually generate something positive. A lesson here is to cross check everything and never rely on what an airline tells you over the phone if any significant value or importance is at issue.
 
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Realitoes

Guest
iMartha H.

I believe you are confusing an eVoucher (which the airline gives out for various reasons as compensation) to a credit for an unused ticket. The below copied text from AA's website explains that this credit is only good for 1 year from purchase of the original ticket.

As GNRMatt suggested, I recommend you write the airline asking them to extend your credit. Don't get your hopes up, as there is little hope of them doing so, but you won't know for sure until you ask.

Good Luck.

From American's website
"I have a nonrefundable American Airlines ticket that I am not going to use. Can I use it toward the purchase of a new ticket?
A:
Subject to certain restrictions and charges defined in the rules of the fare, the value of a wholly unused nonrefundable ticket may be used toward the purchase of a new ticket. Travel on such reissued tickets (or subsequently reissued tickets) must commence no later than one year from the date of issue of the original ticket.

For partially used tickets the residual value may be used toward the purchase of a new ticket. The residual value will be the difference between the fare paid and the fare for the transportation actually used as determined by the applicable rules less any charges or penalties defined in the rules of the fare that was purchased. All travel on such reissued tickets (or subsequently reissued tickets) must be completed no more than one year from the first date of travel on the original ticket or sooner if required by the tickets' fare rules.

However, the itinerary for any unused or partially used nonrefundable ticket must be canceled before the ticketed departure time of the first unused coupon, or the ticket will lose any remaining value and cannot be used for travel or reissue.

Contact our Reservations agents when you are ready to make your new travel plans. They will advise you of the applicable procedures and charges."
 
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kenish

Sep 1, 2015
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The comments from @GNRMatt agree with what I've read. Keep in mind that other countries have their own standards for damaged travel documents. A quick Google search provides numerous articles warning that Mexico is extremely strict about damaged or worn passports. Travel agents warn Mexico-bound clients about this, and airlines routinely deny boarding as you unfortunately discovered (the same goes for Canadian passports and airlines too). So it sounds like your passport was probably unacceptable for re-entry to the US and you would have been denied entry by Mexican immigration.

You mentioned TSA- they only use passports as photo ID and have no expertise or authority over passports as an immigration document. Ultimately it's the airline's judgement call since they have full responsibility when a passenger is denied entry.

It's totally correct the eVoucher expires 1 year from the issue date; 11/8/15 in your case. It's also very standard with all airlines that a credit from a nonrefundable ticket expires a year after the ticket issuing date (8/11/15). The fare rules on your original ticket will state this. The ticket credit expired before the eVoucher containing the credit expired. It seems that you didn't understand this subtle but crucial distinction and AA acted totally within the rules. eVouchers are also issued when a passenger is denied boarding, when they're inconvenienced, etc. and those type of funds expire a year after the eVoucher is issued. (Hope that makes sense).

Follow Matt's great advice for communicating with AA. Your situation is very unfortunate but AA acted totally within the rules and you're asking for a favor. I'd focus away from the passport issue (suggest including a mild and brief mea culpa for assuming the damaged PP was OK). Instead, focus on your confusion between the ticket and eVoucher expiration dates.

Keep us updated as events unfold.
 
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Nov 3, 2015
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Thank you all for your replies. My main complaint is NOT being able to communicate with a real person, live, about the confusion or my lack of understanding of the expiration of the ticket vs what I considered to be an voucher and being the expiration from date of issuance.
I have tried already the communication steps listed on line with their forms and email and even mail. I will continue to try if there are any different ones listed on this site....I don't think there are. Thanks again for your insights.
Martha H.
 
Aug 28, 2015
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I just got a live person from AA on the phone in literally 3 minutes.
Google AMerican Airlines get human and select the option for them to call you back then enter your number. I just did it and 3 minutes later a lovely agent named Sheryl called me back.
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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imartha, I do sympathize with your plight, if you used the chewed passport for 6 years without trouble. But my colleagues are correct ... you don't want to get stuck in Mexico. BTW, your old passport should come back to you after the new one is issued, mine just did.

But my reason for responding is this: your story needs to be cut by about 75% before submitting it to Customer Service and then on up the executive ladder. Just make a list of the facts, no emotion. Think of the person reading your letter who is not very interested in her dumb job and just slogs away every day. You want her to completely understand both your problem and your request with one read-through. You want your letter to be routed to the right department. Be polite, patient and persistent.
 
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Oct 28, 2015
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Do not wait much longer. (1) File "service not delivered" and "chargeback request" with the credit card you paid with - general rule of Fair Credit Billing Act is that certain deadlines (60 days post cc billing etc.) do not apply if charge was for purchase of future services or future delivery is involved. FCBA mandates that the refund must be done to the same means the ticket was bought, e.g. to the credit card that paid for the ticket. A voucher of any kind or I-owe-you does not meet that requirement. (2) File a claim in small claims court under FCBA law.
 
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Mike Z

Jan 8, 2015
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In addition to what the others have said, I would caution you to NOT bring up the DFW to OKC trip you bought with the miles. it is against the ticket rules for you to do this type of trip and skip using a leg of travel. The airlines frown on this pactice and can even make notes in your account to prevent you from flying with them again. I'd consider those miles gone forever and to not push the issue.
 
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Mike

Oct 1, 2014
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I just got a live person from AA on the phone in literally 3 minutes.
Google AMerican Airlines get human and select the option for them to call you back then enter your number. I just did it and 3 minutes later a lovely agent named Sheryl called me back.
And was she able to help you?
 
Aug 28, 2015
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@iMartha H There was a recent case covered in the blog section about a honeymooner who was denied travel bc of her passport and a lively debate in the comments discussed who really has the authority to make this decision and whether her passport was really that damaged. There may be some interesting info in that. You should do a search for it. I'm sorry I don't recall the date but try searching with terms honeymoon and passport.
 
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