American Airlines Responds to DoT Complaints Regarding Cancelled Beijing Tickets - 7 Months Later

img_0116-imp

As you may recall, American Airlines offered a nice mistake fare from Washington D.C. to China in late March. Tickets went for $450~, earned AAdvantage miles, the premium cabin bonus, and were upgradable with a systemwide or miles & co-pay. This was an excellent deal, though clearly a mistake, so there was a lot of speculation that American would cancel all reservations. They didn't, but they did void all tickets that had been held with their complimentary 24-hour hold, prompting many, myself included, to file complaints with the Department of Transportation.

Here's a small timeline of events that led

  • March 17th: I booked one ticket for myself and held another for a family member. In less than an hour, I received confirmation that my ticket had been processed and
  • March 18th: With another 12 hours until the hold expired, I attempted to purchase the ticket online. It still appeared on AA.com under 'My Trips', but when opening the reservation, I was greeted with this friendly message "Your reservation details cannot be retrieved at this time. This may be caused by changes made to the reservation outside of AA.com. Please contact AA Reservations". 
    • Reports began pouring into FlyerTalk and other online sources that indicated AA was going to honor the tickets already booked, but cancel those that had been held.
  • March 18th: With one ticket canceled, I, like many, turned to a DoT complaint. Receipt of the complaint was immediate, though I never would've guessed that it would take so long for American to reply. 
  • March 19th: DoT representative replies that my complaint appears to be valid and says that American will be informed of my complaint and is required to acknowledge it within 30 days (April 18th) and then provide a substantive response within 60 days (May 18th).
  • March 21st: The ticket that had been on hold appeared as canceled on AA.com

screen-shot-2015-10-26-at-10.53.10-am

  • May 18th: An email arrived from US Airways. It obviously didn't offer much in the way of information and I was a bit surprised to be hearing from a US Airways representative.

screen-shot-2015-10-26-at-11.05.35-am  

  • May 19th-October 25th: No response from American or DoT

At this point, I really began to wonder if we would ever hear from American. In my mind, I pictured two scenarios. One saw American issuing a single email that said everybody who held a ticket was SOL while the other saw American honoring the original deal and allowing the tickets to be used within one year of reticketing.

  • October 26th: Imagine my surprise to receive a reply from American Airlines this morning with two offers. I was glad to see the email.......and then I saw the fine print.

October 26, 2015


Dear Mr. Palen:

Thank you for your patience in our responding to your complaint regarding the cancellation of a reservation for travel to China which you placed on hold earlier this year.

The reservation you placed on hold was for an extremely low fare offered by American in error, and the mistaken fare was offered for only a few hours. Because the fare was offered in error, we cancelled those reservations, such as yours, that had been made but not ticketed.

In our view, given the fact that the fares American offered for China travel in those few hours were so low that it was obvious they were offered in error (a fact widely acknowledged in the social media posts which prompted many of those who reserved the fares to do so), we were justified in cancelling those reservations that were made but not ticketed, and accordingly will not honor the fare associated with your cancelled reservation. However, we will offer to you two options for reduced rate travel to China, one for business class and one for coach class. The two options are as follows:

Option A – Business Class: We offer you a $1,500 discount on any roundtrip business cabin fare to Shanghai or Beijing.

· Reservation must be booked by AA and operated entirely by AA (including AA's regional partners).

· Travel may not be upgraded, by upgrade certificate, AAdvantage status, or any other means, to a higher class of service.

· Travel will not be eligible to earn AAdvantage miles or Elite Qualifying Miles or points, and will not count as Elite Qualifying segments in the AAdvantage program.

· Travel may be ticketed immediately and must be completed within one year of the date of this letter.

· Travel to PEK or PVG should originate and end in the same U.S. airport(s) as in the original PNR with the same passenger(s) (or subset of passengers) traveling as were listed in the cancelled PNR.

· Must be ticketed within six weeks of the date of this letter.

Option B – Main Cabin: We offer you the opportunity to receive a $0 fare basis main cabin fare to Shanghai or Beijing, subject to taxes and fees of approximately $450 (varies slightly by routing)..

· Reservation must be booked by AA for any Q or O class fare to PEK or PVG, and operated entirely by AA (including AA's regional partners).

· Travel may not be upgraded, by upgrade certificate, AAdvantage status, or any other means, to a higher class of service.

· Travel will not be eligible to earn AAdvantage miles or Elite Qualifying Miles or points, and will not count as Elite Qualifying segments in the AAdvantage program.

· This offer is subject to Q or O class inventory availability for travel outbound starting November 15, 2015.

· Travel must be completed within one year of the date of this letter.

· Travel to PEK or PVG should originate and end in the same U.S. airport(s) as in the original PNR with the same passenger(s) (or subset of passengers) traveling as were listed in the cancelled PNR.

· Must be ticketed within six weeks of the date of this letter.

If you would like to accept one of these offers, please contact American Airlines at the following number to make your flight reservation. Please note the operating hours of this special reservations desk.

800-xxx-xxxx Seven Days Week 0600-Midnight Central Time

Please let the American Airlines agent know that you have received a letter authorizing a special discount on fares from the USA to China and provide the following information:

Reference Number:

Origin: DCA

Destination: PEK

Passenger Name:

This offer is non-transferable, applies only to passengers identified in the original reservation, and only in the origin and destination of the original booking. Please note the reservation process may take up to 72 hours for confirmation of your itinerary. After your eligibility for this special discount has been confirmed, a reservation agent will contact you to complete ticketing of your travel itinerary.

Once your travel itinerary is confirmed and ticketed, all applicable fare rules (including change fees and penalties) apply for voluntary changes.

Sincerely,

B. B.
Customer Relations
American Airlines


To recap, neither offer from American is eligible to be upgraded, earn any type of AAdvantage miles and must be flown on American Airlines- no partner flights allowed. Though they do allow for travel one year from date of issue, the fact that you can't earn miles or upgrade makes this offer fairly unattractive, though I suppose it is better than nothing.

As this ticket must be booked through the special desk noted above, it is unclear whether the ticket could be credited to Alaska Airlines or one of the oneworld partner airlines.

Did you hold one of the Beijing tickets and receive this letter? What are your plans?

Comments

#1
Karung99 October 26, 2015 at 04:02 pm

Great post, unfortunately AA will not honor their 24 hrs hold in this matter.

#2
Victor October 26, 2015 at 05:52 pm

Well I think u could try crediting it to another program because technically doing so would not fall foul of this condition "Travel will not be eligible to earn AAdvantage miles or Elite Qualifying Miles or points, and will not count as Elite Qualifying segments in the AAdvantage program."