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American Airlines

Angry Father: American Airlines Refused to Waive Change Fees for My 3 Year Old When His Appendix Ruptured

Angry Father: American Airlines Refused to Waive Change Fees for My 3 Year Old When His Appendix Ruptured
Sharon Hsu

Charging fees for any fare changes is a common practice among airlines, which see the fees both as a deterrent for passengers making last-minute adjustments to their itineraries and as a way of increasing the bottom line. Customer service agents can waive the fee at their discretion, but their protocols for doing so vary wildly.

It was the last thing any parent of a sick child needed, but Ryan Austin Dean of Bossier City, LA, found himself in a public fight with American Airlines on October 2nd when the airline refused to waive the change fees on a trip he needed to reschedule.

The reason for the delay? His three-year-old son’s appendix had ruptured, landing the boy in the hospital and the family unable to fly.

View from the Wing, which reported on this story, excerpted American’s policy on fee waivers for travel changes due to bereavement or illness, which states that “In the event of critical illness of an immediate family member or traveling companion, a ticket change fee waiver may be reviewed for consideration of refund with the appropriate documentation and justification.”

So Dean was shocked when American refused to waive his $400 change fees and took to Twitter to complain about their reason for doing so. He reported that they had told him the fee would still apply because his son’s appendix had not ruptured “on the day of the flight.” He further included a screenshot of a direct message from the American Airlines Twitter account that read: “We appreciate you following up with us and wish your son a very speedy recovery. We took a quick look at your reservation and we see you purchased a nonrefundable restricted fare, which does come with a $200 change charge plus any fare difference. Did you have new travel dates in mind?”

Dean answered with a curt “no” and told his Twitter followers that American did not have “a semblance of a heart.”


In a tweet the following day, Dean reported that American had “suddenly decided to make ‘a one time exception,'” perhaps due to the attention the tale had garnered on social media.

[Photo: American Airlines]

View Comments (13)


  1. Boggie Dog

    October 5, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Advertising that other airlines just can’t buy. Good job American Airlines. Winning!

  2. thebigben

    October 5, 2018 at 8:50 am

    This is not news. Get travel insurance or get a flexible ticket. Want to cheap it out? You pay the cost.

  3. drphun

    October 5, 2018 at 10:24 am

    So pay the fee and be glad your child is ok. Don’t you have priorities? Your child just survived a life threatening event and you are going after the airline? It is wrong to think this is the same as the airline saying they don’t want your child to have medical attention.

  4. mvoight

    October 5, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Airlines have fare rules. If you don’t like the fare rules, buy a different fare.
    AA’s discount fares for domestic travel waive fees for death, not illnesses.

  5. amanx

    October 6, 2018 at 1:23 am

    Airlines also have discretion. If they dont use it, go elsewhere. Poor show AA

  6. 6P&E

    October 6, 2018 at 8:20 am

    It may sound heartless, but AA gives you the opportunity to purchase insurance at the point of sale. It is even worded in such a way that if you opt not to buy it, the consequences are pretty clear- you are not protected.

    Many of us like to gamble with trip insurance, thinking it unlikely we will need it. And then if we do have an issue, thinking an exception should be made.

  7. WebTraveler

    October 6, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    Airlines have fare rules, and I get that, but I am all for this guy complaining. AA probably also resold the seat.

  8. Orange County Commuter

    October 7, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Why isn’t this titled “Parent decides not to buy insurance and then whines when he has to face consequences”?

  9. flamingocrazyfl

    October 7, 2018 at 9:29 am

    I am glad his son is ok. I have no sympathy for him in regards to the ticket. This is why the sell travel insurance and fully flexible tickets. Disappointed that AA caved on this. The father should just be glad his son is ok and take this experience as a life lesson. There are trade offs with cheaper tickets and there is a risk involved when waiving trip/travel insurance. We usually skip travel insurance when buying airline tickets, but purchase it when we make reservations for a cruise as we have more to lose on a cruise fare vs an airfare. I avoid basic economy because of the trade offs, this guy should either buy insurance or only purchase fully flexible tickets if he doesn’t like the change fee trade off.

  10. Whodunit68


    October 7, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    this is definitely not news – wasn’t even worth a few minutes read except to point out that the dad is a bozo. I can see why he’s upset but completely disagree with how he handled it. Kudos to AA for handling it but he simply needed to buy travel insurance or a different fare as all except the first poster pointed out.

  11. skidooman

    October 11, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Honestly… insurance. Right.

    In my company, we have sales rules. Which we bend some times in front of special circumstances.

    This is how you win goodwill in the market. By having every right to fall like a ton of bricks on someone and refusing to do so.

    This very legalistic approach is the problem, not the solution.

  12. jrpallante

    October 11, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Yet another passenger expecting something that he did not pay for. He could have bought a refundable ticket, or travel insurance, or simply used one of the many credit cards that offer free insurance. That flight presumably went out with two empty seats. Too bad about the kid, but why should AA be expected to take a financial hit over the father’s failure to prepare? As Peter Parker told the wrestling promoter, “I missed the part where that’s my problem.”

  13. Randeman

    October 11, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    I worked in Consumer Affairs at US Airways for six years. One of my many authorities was the ability to waive these fees, but that was generally a one-time courtesy. The airline is not to blame here, and while I understand that sh*t happens, as a restricted ticket traveler, you agreed to the rules of the fare when you bought the ticket. I am glad American made the exception, although I am sorry it seemed to have done so as a result of bad publicity rather than a goodwill gesture.

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