Short answer: annoy the sh** out of them.
Below is the epicly frustrating monologue outlining my story of getting American Airlines to refund my non-refundable ticket. Overall, this process took about a month. I didn’t do anything special, but I took every avenue possible and just didn’t take no for an answer.
A few months ago, my wife decided she wanted to visit a friend in Nashville. So we did our usual shop around and the best rate we ended up finding was a $202 American Airlines round-trip fare on Kayak (best travel search engine, still waiting on the sponsorship). A few weeks go by and long story short, this ended up being the weekend that her friend had to move to her next location because of a rotating job. I was pretty upset. For a while. Mainly because I had enough knowledge from previous encounters with American that I knew this money might as well have been thrown out the car window while driving 80 down the highway. For all intents and purposes (NOT intensive purposes – I need a better editor – LOL – thanks to reader Mara for pointing out), this money was gone and the fare was unuseable.
The first step was a phone call to the amazing AA customer service department (HA! sarcasm much?). The lady on the phone told me that there would be a $200 change fee, no exceptions, blah blah blah. She explained to me a situation where I could still recover some of the fare with a re-booking strategy even with paying the $200 change junk fee. I asked, “so this could save me between $2 – $4, seriously?”. She said yes without laughing. How helpful. Thanks lady. Next.
Next strategy was social media. I tried to keep it respectful, but still get the point across:
About an hour later, I was greeted with this helpful reply:
Are you effin kidding me American? You send me a link that shows that I can get boarding group 1, same-day flight changes, and other misc. crap (for a large fee). Next.
So next, I found a very helpful consumer advocate named Chris Elliot that helps steer consumers in what to do with situations like this. His website can be found here. Basically, the strategy was to write an email explaining my situation and hoping that I catch the right person that day. Here is what I came up with:
Notice, I was intentional in mentioning the words “family emergency”, but kept it very generic. I instead focused the meat & potatoes of my message on the fact that they have competitors (your turn, Southwest) who don’t penalize customers when circumstances come up. I emailed this to the AA customers relations email and also submitted on their cute little customers relations form website. After no response for a week, I forwarded the email to their executive contacts in the order that Chris Elliot suggests.
Also, make sure that you do go ahead and cancel the flight before it takes off (I did this the day before the flight) and request a refund through that method, as well. If you have talked with people on the telephone or have actual humans that have responded to your emails make sure to include these names and a quick synopsis of their response (only if it helps your case) in your next round of emails to AA.
After a couple of more phone calls and another email back to the original customers relations department. I got this and just about stood up and screamed in joy at work:
I couldn’t believe it, my persistence had paid off and I’d been successful in getting American to FULLY refund me on a non-refundable ticket. Persistence. That’s the name of this game. Funny thing, I got an email later that week (YES – after I received said refund) saying they were still looking into my potential refund and explaining their non-refundable policy. HA! Just goes to show you how on top of things they are.
In case you got lost in the story, here is a summary list of resources to help, I’m sure other airlines would follow similar suit:
- Tweet @AmericanAir – I like Twitter better than Facebook, because companies can’t delete your tweets directed at them.
- AA Phone Number List – if you are an AAdvantage member – talk it up!
- AA Customer Relations (12/30/2016 – updated link – thanks to lora b for pointing out) – email, send them a letter, submit the form, all of the above!
- AA Refunds – make sure to cancel the flight (preferably the week of)
- Elliot’s great list of AA contacts
- BE PERSISTENT. This is most important, you can’t just do one of these and expect to get your money back. Don’t take no for an answer.
What other methods have you all been able to deploy to get refunds on airfare or other travel tickets?