American Airlines Changed Their Itinerary, Demanded Family Pay $30,000 To Fix It

A family of 9 passengers says that American Airlines ran a schedule change, and rebooked their return flight from a different country without telling them. They checked their seat assignments online – it’s always important to garden your reservations and check that nothing has changed – and found that their return trip was all wrong (and they weren’t sitting together on the wrong flights, either!).

Their trip was to St. Vincent. Currently American Airlines operates a twice-weekly Airbus A319 between Miami and Argyle International Airport. American was still flying them to St. Vincent, but had booked their return from St. Lucia. The family relays that an American agent told them the rebooking was due to an oversale of the A319.

The customer service agent said, ‘Yes, I’m sorry, sir – you’re in an overbooked situation and we have moved your flight from St. Vincent to St. Lucia,’ which is about 100 miles away as the crow flies and five islands north. And I said, ‘Well that’s insane. We have to change this back. This is not acceptable.’”

They tried to get American to rebook them. And the airline said it was possible – for an extra $30,000 to cover all 9 passengers.

American says they sent an email regarding the schedule change in April. I assume this had to do with the limited St. Vincent service rather than overselling that flight. And the family was faulted for “[taking] no action until July.”

The group rebooked themselves from Barbados, booked a flight there for $2000, and that reduced the fee American demanded to $3000 in total. American eventually moved their flights without cost, but reportedly told them they were “lucky” and were costing the airline $3000 in revenue.

Watch your email for schedule changes, and check your itineraries more frequently! American had reissued the tickets and treated the schedule change as accepted, so additional changes now were being treated as voluntary – rather than subject to a waiver that resulted from their schedule change.

The situation isn’t entirely unique. This week a former boss of mine reached out for help with her vacation itinerary. Her Delta ticket began with an Air France flight to Paris that was cancelled. Delta told her she could either be rebooked next week for free, or pay $1000 to be rebooked the next day. She paid it, not wanting to lose her trip which involved prepaid accommodations and flights in Africa on separate tickets.

That’s not how this is supposed to work. The airline needs to rebook her, had seats to do so, and she shouldn’t incur extra costs for those available seats when the rebooking is due to the fault of the airline. Some European carriers have been known to only rebook into the same fare class, however. She’ll get her money back, and she’ll also pursue EU261 compensation for the delay of her trip. Consumers believe what airlines tell them but they really really shouldn’t.

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