Involuntarily Bumped: No Reasonable Alternative & Nonrefundable Hotel

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Mar 19, 2019
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#1
Hello,
First - I applaud this website and am very grateful for the insight (and contact info!) it provides. I'm writing to share my recent incident as I'd love any-and-all feedback on whether my fiancé and I are entitled to more from AA.

Last Thursday (3/14), we arrived at JFK early to check in for our 7:55am Antigua-bound flight. This short vacation was actually to celebrate our engagement. My fiancé checked-in first & was not assigned a seat and I checked-in mins after and was. I fly frequently for work/pleasure and have to say I'm often not assigned a seat until I'm at the gate. Long story short, we were involuntarily bumped as were a few other people. As a side note, we had a very unfriendly AA supervisor who unfortunately, showed little-to-no interest in helping us (and the others) with next steps. After some time she summoned us to say she had our alternative option:
To fly to Antigua on Monday 3/18 or Tuesday 3/19 -- 4+ days after the intended travel day. We were scheduled to return to JFK/NYC on Monday 3/18.

As you can imagine, the "option" was quite upsetting. We of course asked if we could be flown that day (or the next, or even Saturday) by other carriers - we were told there were no other options and that all options were overbooked?!? We asked if we could be flown to another Caribbean destination and were told yes and then no. During this ordeal, another woman told us we could get a check but before we could negotiate numbers, she disappeared. When we received them, they were for ~$970. We were not spoken to about 200% vs 400% depending on flight etc. Before the supervisor rushed off she told us to go home and apply for the flight refunds via website. Once back home, we spent more than half the morning on the phone with reservations (to see if we could in fact fly anywhere else - we were given hard a no) and drafting the Customer Relations Complaint note. We both applied for flight refunds - interestingly, my fiancé received his the following morning...while mine is still pending?!?!

This leads me to our BIGGEST concern at this time: our nonrefundable hotel in Antigua. The hotel has a strict cancellation policy. If a guest cancels less than 60 days prior to arrival, they will be charged for the reservation in-full. This is of course the one time we did not use the right credit card when reserving the room so our bank said they could not help with this matter. The hotel kindly offered to honor the reservation if we could come in the next couple weeks...we of course cannot due to work schedules, etc. And so, we were charged $3,500+ for the hotel.
As you can imagine this priority matter is quite upsetting. This is our hard-earned money...and it was meant to spent on a milestone/celebratory experience.

As mentioned, I had submitted polite complaints via AA website and received an upsetting response via email yesterday. It blatantly disregarded my issues and told me my flight refund was pending/to check on status on AA.com, etc. Between the typos and insensitive tone, it was evident how careless the response was.

My questions to the forum:
-- Given that AA could not offer a reasonable alternative (flight) option, do we have a chance at having them cover our hotel? Especially considering the only option the could give us was the same day (4+ days later,) we were scheduled to check-out?!
--While we were given checks, we have NOT cashed them as I don't want to "accept" anything until this matter is squared away. Additionally, I'm curious if we should fight for max check amount ($1350) as again, we were not provided with a feasible flight option?!?; even if you were to combine our checks, we barely have half the cost of the hotel and I'm still without a flight refund. Not to mention money spent on transportation to-and-from airport, the useless day off from work, etc.

Please note: I compiled a polite, brief/to-the-point email to one of the contacts provided on your AA contact page and included the AA customer relations response I received yesterday. Do these executives typically forward these emails to others on their team? In the coming days, do I wait and follow-up? Do i write the others? Again, any-and-all advice is welcome!

Thanks much!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,794
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
Did you book basic economy seats and that’s why you weren’t assigned seats when you booked? Did you do online check in the night before?

I believe you are owed the maximum amount for being bumped according to the DOT - 400% up to $1350. From the DOT Passenger Rights Bill-

If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

They aren’t required to reimburse you for the hotel.

I just don’t understand why you didn’t have seat assignments when you booked unless you booked basic economy. Did you request to be out on another airline? In some cases they might put you on another airline.

Did you know that sometimes one of the factors taken into account in who gets bumped is who is the last to check in? That’s why it’s important to do online check in 24 hours before.

Go back to AA and reiterate the DOT rules. If they still won’t budge, file a DOT complaint.
 
Likes: VoR61

Dwayne Coward

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Apr 13, 2016
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St. Louis
#3
Unfortunately, none of the airlines will accept liability for any cost that results from a flight cancelation, delay or overbooking that isn't booked directly with them. In the US, unless their Conditions of Carriage provides otherwise, they are only required to either rebooked the bumped passenger(s) on the next available flight with open seats or provide a refund of the ticket. If the passenger(s) are bumped involuntarily, then they are required to pay compensation for this under Department of Transportation regulations. This information can be found on the USDOT website that Neil linked.

It appears based on you checking in separately, that your reservations were not booked together and that only you were provided a seat but not your fiancé. This sounds as if your fiancé was involuntarily bumped, but not you. If this is true, then only your fiancé would be due compensation for the overbooking and a refund. If your booking was not on the same reservation and you were not bumped, the airline may not have to provide you a refund or compensation. We would need more details on this to be able to advise further.

On receiving additional compensation for your experience, you can appeal to the company executives, detailing your experience. In some cases, they may provide a small voucher or miles as a goodwill gesture. The following forum post will explain how to best do this using our company contacts.

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#4
Ugh how horrible.

AA has the most flights to Antigua and the Caribbean and Jet Blue has a few — otherwise it is dreadful long routings.

Calendar wise it is a busy time as it is Spring break for a lot of colleges and that means peak travel time especially to the Caribbean. I am not sure that it would have helped to just end up anywhere in the Caribbean nearby like Nevis — then how to get to Antigua? More flights? A charter?

AA owes you for the involuntary denied boarding? Did the airline even try for volunteers? Since it was more that 4 hours it is the 400 percent up to 1350.

I do not think airline will pay for hotel costs. They may give goodwill vouchers but may not after paying the denied boarding.

Since you got around 970 — is that each? How much was the round trip fare — if that is each then the one way fare was around 242 each.

So no travel insurance either personal or on the credit card correct?
 
Likes: VoR61
Mar 19, 2019
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#5
Did you book basic economy seats and that’s why you weren’t assigned seats when you booked? Did you do online check in the night before?
Hi Neil
Thank you for the quick response - so very much appreciated. Since it was in celebration of engagement we booked a month out...and through Expedia so it was basic economy as that was all that was available.


I believe you are owed the maximum amount for being bumped according to the DOT - 400% up to $1350. From the DOT Passenger Rights Bill-

If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).
So, I suppose since we were given checks for 970 it is 400% since our total flight cost was alittle over $500.
I wasn't sure if since the next option was 4+ days later...AA would kindly take it to the max of $1350?


https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

They aren’t required to reimburse you for the hotel. And thank you for confirming...wish this was not the case...

I just don’t understand why you didn’t have seat assignments when you booked unless you booked basic economy. Did you request to be out on another airline? In some cases they might put you on another airline.
We did request other airlines...and the AA airport supervisor told us that every option was overbooked for that day (and Friday, and Saturday...and Sunday...) which seemed slightly strange but given it is peak season maybe not? However, when we returned home and called (and spoke to several different AA reservation agents,) we were told "we could 100% not be booked on another airline, nor could we be booked to a different destination, etc. One rep flat out said, "I can't do anything and besides you got a check and hung up."

I know there were two JetBlue options for the following day and Saturday - the ticket value must have been ~1k so I wonder if they deliberately did not want to put us on these flights since our initial tickets were basic economy.

Did you know that sometimes one of the factors taken into account in who gets bumped is who is the last to check in? That’s why it’s important to do online check in 24 hours before.
And yes, looking back i wish we checked in 24 hours before but as I mentioned, i travel frequently and many times i check-in while en route to airport or @ airport upon arrival. We were there plenty early and they only seemingly began asking for volunteers to not board about 10 mins before boarding.

Go back to AA and reiterate the DOT rules. If they still won’t budge, file a DOT complaint.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mar 19, 2019
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#6
Unfortunately, none of the airlines will accept liability for any cost that results from a flight cancelation, delay or overbooking that isn't booked directly with them. In the US, unless their Conditions of Carriage provides otherwise, they are only required to either rebooked the bumped passenger(s) on the next available flight with open seats or provide a refund of the ticket. If the passenger(s) are bumped involuntarily, then they are required to pay compensation for this under Department of Transportation regulations. This information can be found on the USDOT website that Neil linked.
Thank you Dwayne - very much appreciate you taking the time to write me!
As Christina kindly noted above, my one way portion of the ticket was valued at ~$242 so they did compensate accordingly, per DOT. Do you think it is still worth continuing to ask for max possible $1350 since we were not given an alternate option that was less than 4 days?? Or no use because this has nothing to do w/the value of ticket?

It appears based on you checking in separately, that your reservations were not booked together and that only you were provided a seat but not your fiancé. This sounds as if your fiancé was involuntarily bumped, but not you. If this is true, then only your fiancé would be due compensation for the overbooking and a refund. If your booking was not on the same reservation and you were not bumped, the airline may not have to provide you a refund or compensation. We would need more details on this to be able to advise further.
Ugh, you're correct on this! And perhaps if we were flying to Miami or Chicago I would have hopped on...but imagine if I had and then my fiancé could not get there until the day we were scheduled to depart?! I know this point is personal and AA does not need to care. The two women at airport, including the unfriendly supervisor both said I would be refunded for the flight since we did not (I mean could not) accept the Monday flight out. One of the agents on the phone said I would be refunded as well. When I logged to apply for refund (after we exhausted all options & wrapped numerous calls,) i was prompted to call AA again because my flight was still active. Whoever I spoke with on the phone last, to cancel the ticket so I could apply for refund did not seem to understand why I was canceling despite me relaying several times. I hope this is not why my refund is still pending nearly a week later?!?

On receiving additional compensation for your experience, you can appeal to the company executives, detailing your experience. In some cases, they may provide a small voucher or miles as a goodwill gesture. The following forum post will explain how to best do this using our company contacts.
Last night, before scoping out this forum, I had emailed one of the senior executives a polite letter attaching the response I received from customer relations yesterday afternoon. I suppose I am still hopeful that perhaps the airline will provide goodwill gesture but given all of your replies I have a feeling my case is closed....

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mar 19, 2019
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#7
Ugh how horrible.

AA has the most flights to Antigua and the Caribbean and Jet Blue has a few — otherwise it is dreadful long routings.

Calendar wise it is a busy time as it is Spring break for a lot of colleges and that means peak travel time especially to the Caribbean. I am not sure that it would have helped to just end up anywhere in the Caribbean nearby like Nevis — then how to get to Antigua? More flights? A charter?
You're totally right Christina. We asked them about nearby destinations as an alternative so that we could still fly out and celebrate our engagement. This was until our hotel assured us there was no way to possibly cancel our reservation without paying the full amount. I am however wondering if there was any loophole in this because they forwarded us an email saying that even if a flight was canceled the reservation still had to be paid for in full...however, do they view flight cancelation and involuntary bumping as the same?!?! OR since we booked a month out, we could not have possibly honored the cancelation 60 days in advance (this seems like a way too hopeful thought on my part, ha!)

AA owes you for the involuntary denied boarding? Did the airline even try for volunteers? Since it was more that 4 hours it is the 400 percent up to 1350.

I do not think airline will pay for hotel costs. They may give goodwill vouchers but may not after paying the denied boarding.

Since you got around 970 — is that each? How much was the round trip fare — if that is each then the one way fare was around 242 each.
You're correct here as the total was ~$500....so I'm assuming I should not continue to ask for max amount ($1350), as I've hit my max amount, correct?

So no travel insurance either personal or on the credit card correct?
This is the most frustrating part. It was the one time my fiancé reserved using one of his lesser used credit cards - a Chase Freedom Unlimited. Chase told him that if he had used one of their more superior cards they would have been able to help despite that he has been a loyal Chase user (savings account, etc.) for years. And to add to this, when using Expedia (ugh, I know!) I almost always purchase the travel insurance but did not in this case....


Again, thank you for your kind reply - so very much appreciate it!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,794
15,414
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
So then the $940 does represent the 400%. They have reimbursed you properly according to the DOT. And with basic economy, you are the highest on the list for bumping because you’ve paid the least for your seats.

And if you only buy insurance to cover your flight, it doesn’t cover the land portion either if your flight is canceled.

I’m sorry this happened but please take a few things out of the situation:

1. Book directly with the airline and pay a little more for assigned seats. In an overbooking situation, those who have paid the least for seats are among the first bumped. Saving a few dollars isn’t worth losing your entire trip.

2. Always check in the night before. You might have had seats assigned to you if you had done that.

3. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers your land portion of your trip if your flights are canceled. Plus your health insurance usually doesn’t cover you outside the US. https://forum.elliott.org/threads/the-right-travel-insurance.1283/
 
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weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,319
1,283
113
Maui Hawaii
#9
It is likely that had you booked directly with AA on their web site you would have been given the option of main cabin seats with advanced seat assignment. Trying this booking now for Mar 28-Apr 2 there are ample main cabin seats on the AA web site. Expedia offers basic econ without seat assignment (same price as AA web site for basic econ).
If you have an important personal trip you need to book as early as possible directly on the main airline web site and secure the seats you need in advance. You also need to check in online 23 hr 59 min prior to the flight to ensure your seating. The problems you encountered are most likely entirely due to the booking through Expedia which saves no money and led to what you encountered.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
Despite the strict cancellation policy do you think the hotel may extend the credit a little longer? It sounds as if the hotel is trying to be reasonable—

I am just thinking of ways to salvage some of the expenses paid.

Some of the credit cards have been reducing the travel insurance benefits so yes there can be surprises.

I do want to wish you the best with getting engaged — and sorry that this happened to you.
 
Mar 19, 2019
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#11
Despite the strict cancellation policy do you think the hotel may extend the credit a little longer? It sounds as if the hotel is trying to be reasonable—

I am just thinking of ways to salvage some of the expenses paid.

Some of the credit cards have been reducing the travel insurance benefits so yes there can be surprises.

I do want to wish you the best with getting engaged — and sorry that this happened to you.
Thank you so, so much for the warm wishes Christina! We tried the hotel yesterday and they said unless we could come in the next week there was nothing the could do. We just got off the phone with Chase where it seems a few people were exploring the idea but ultimately said there was nothing that could be done. It's wild because my fiance has a chase sapphire card which def would have salvaged this expense but the hotel was booked on his chase unlimited.
Unfortunately, I think we've exhausted all options :(