American Airlines changed my flight. Can I get my money back? - The Boston Globe

Q. We are taking a cruise next month from Miami. I booked an 11:30 a.m. return flight from Miami to Chicago on American Airlines.

A few months before our cruise, American Airlines canceled our 11:30 a.m. flight and moved us to a 9 a.m. flight. We will still be on the ship at 9 a.m.

I called the airline and asked for a flight later in the afternoon. An agent advised me that all flights were full and they could not move my party to any other flights, even out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

I waited a few weeks and called again, hoping availability would open up, but it did not. An agent told me to cancel my tickets and that I would get a refund. So I did.

I have had an e-mail conversation spanning weeks with American Airlines. They only process refunds via e-mail and give no phone option. They keep denying my refund. So, I asked for an extension on my ticket credit. American Airlines denied that, too. Can you help?


A. American Airlines shouldn’t have canceled your flight, but I understand why it did. The airline, like many others, had scheduled more flights than it could reasonably operate, so it was downsizing its flight plans, which is the responsible thing to do.

What’s not responsible is telling you to take it or leave it. After all, American Airlines created this problem by moving your flight. It should show some flexibility — something the agent who promised you a refund understood.

Too bad you didn’t get that promise in writing. If you had, then this case would be easy to resolve. You just show the airline the e-mail, and it issues the refund. Case closed.

American Airlines saw it differently. It has a four-hour rule when it comes to ticket changes. Its policy says that if it cancels or changes your flight, but reschedules you to arrive within four hours of your original arrival, it would not be required to refund your ticket. You were well within that window.

But your circumstances were special because you were coming off a cruise. Someone at the airline should have seen that and either offered you a later flight or extended your ticket credit. If you ever get stuck in a situation like this again (and I hope you don’t), try reaching out to one of the American Airlines executives, whose names I publish on my consumer advocacy site, They may be able to review the problem and figure out a solution.

You ended up booking a flight home on a different airline. I contacted American Airlines on your behalf. It offered to convert the $1,462 you spent on your flight into credits you can use any time next year. You are happy with that resolution.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. E-mail him at or get help by contacting him at

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