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What Can You Do If an Airline Agent Misinforms You?

American Airlines employees at MIA, Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Photo by Brandon Wade

FlyerTalkers are debating the curious case of an individual who claims they were “misinformed” about their flight options with American Airlines. The passenger says they spent over $3,000 on tickets to attend a wedding, accusing American’s customer service agents of giving him bad information. But as forum members pointed out, the devil may have been in the details.

Spending over $3,000 on a non-premium, domestic ticket would be enough to send anyone into a fit of rage. But one flyer is trying to accuse American Airlines of deliberately forcing him to pay that amount in airfare, alleging a campaign of “misinformation.”

The original post detailing the accusations was written by Panama Jackson of The Root and subsequently commented on by One Mile At A Time. According to Jackson’s post, his troubles began after booking a basic economy flight for him and his wife on Orbitz from the Washington, DC area to Dallas for a wedding. But after purchasing tickets, he discovered the ceremony would start within minutes of the original flight’s scheduled touchdown.

After one phone call with American, Jackson claims a customer service agent agreed with his assessment that he needed “to buy a new ticket to get there earlier.” He did just that, purchasing a second one-way ticket to arrive in time for the wedding, with the understanding that they could get home on the return leg of the original flight.

Post arrival on the one-way flight and one hour before the wedding reception, Jackson writes he received an e-mail from Orbitz informing him their original itinerary was canceled. This is where the writer claimed to be “a victim of the ‘no-show’ policy that American Airlines, and many other airlines, employ that states if you miss the first leg of your flight, the rest of your ticket is canceled.” After speaking to American on a profanity-laced phone call, he states there were no other avenues of recourse – he would have to purchase a new flight home, putting the total amount spent on flights at over $3,000.

Was Jackson a victim of misinformation from American agents? Or did he misunderstand the terms and conditions of his ticket? In American’s conditions of carriage, the rules are clear: “Tickets are valid for travel only when used with all terms and conditions of sale. Your ticket is valid only when: Travel is to/from the cities on your ticket and in your trip record, [and] You meet all the fare requirements.” In addition, American’s conditions of carriage prohibit any ticket that exploits fare rules, including: “[Purchasing] a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden cities),” or a ticket to “Combine 2 or more roundtrip excursion fares end-to-end to circumvent minimum stay requirements (back-to-back ticketing).” If the rules are broken, American may “Cancel any unused part of the ticket,” or “Charge you for what the ticket would have cost if you hadn’t booked it fraudulently.”

While Jackson did not intend to defraud American, the rules clearly state that if he intentionally misses the first leg of the flight, the airline can cancel the entire ticket without refund. In this situation, American – and the alleged comments of the customer service agents – would be correct.

FlyerTalkers agree that while Jackson’s situation was unfortunate, the problem may be due to a lack of understanding of the details. On the forums, AAdamE writes: “Seems like it all boils down to what the phone rep actually told him which we do not know. Did they tell him you need to book a new “flight” OR “trip/itinerary?” Sounds like he isn’t really detail oriented so I wouldn’t be surprised if he misunderstood what was being told to him.”

FlyerTalker freeagent agrees that not understanding details did not play into his case: “I’d be willing to bet that the victim was unclear of the differences between ticket and flight.” Meanwhile, mvoight is more sympathetic to the customer service agents than the writer: “I do not think it is up to the phone agent to answer every question not asked. He bought a ‘ticket’ for his entire trip. He was told he needed to buy a new ticket. The assumption should be to buy a whole new ticket.”

And AA100k, who books over $25,000 in American airfare annually, offers this advice to future flyers: “When you spend a lot of money on an unchangeable ticket you’re playing with fire. The [American agent] probably neglected to tell him that he would forfeit the whole itinerary if he skipped the first part and I can see how that could happen but I don’t believe the [American agent] was trying to screw him over.”

The lesson to be learned here is clear: before booking any ticket, double check your travel dates, the event dates and any other pertinent details. Otherwise, trying to change it all may come with frustration and unanticipated change fees.

What’s your take on the entire story? Let us know on the FlyerTalk forums!


[Featured Image: American Airlines]

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