Web specials/fares hold different rules than normal American Airlines Advantage award redemptions. But when the carrier cancels them, do they have a duty to re-book them?
American Airlines Cancelled Our Trip
By far my best redemption ever was a trip to Hong Kong on American Airlines 777-300ER in business class for 90,000 points roundtrip. We were set to fly in August. The fare was a web special and it made a case for picking up a new American Airlines credit card given that the normal rate (and nearly unbookable on the rate due to the popularity of the route) is 140,000 miles roundtrip in business class.
American Airlines won’t be flying the route during the period and called to cancel the tickets.
No Options Given
When the American Airlines number came up on my phone I was anxious as I had just written a post on the carrier and it’s not the first time American PR has reached out over the weekend to “clarify” a position. The Executive Platinum desk informed me that the flight was not offered and they were cancelling the tickets. I asked if there were re-booking options and the rep indicated the only procedure would be to refund the points and taxes as it was a web special.
We were a few weeks out from the trip but given the state of world affairs, we hadn’t secured additional transportation beyond Hong Kong. In the past, we have flown many different carriers (often purchased for cash) out of Hong Kong to nearby destinations. In most situations, we would have added on flights to Bangkok, Sanya, China, or Laos. Some of those carriers may not have been so understanding about our change of plans.
***UPDATE*** Several readers have pointed out that passengers are only permitted to transit Hong Kong on the same PNR. However, that would not have changed our issue had we tagged on flights from Hong Kong to the same ticket. The issue wouldn’t be different.
Should They Have Offered to Re-Book?
Everything is fluid in the time of COVID-19. That’s understandable. However, it’s not as if the route is no longer offered or couldn’t have been honored by another carrier. Cancelling the flight, even a web special in the current environment does not free the airline from honoring their obligations. The airline has/had options to honor the same origin and destination on the same date through routing on American Airlines and partners.
While Executive Platinum members can cancel and refund web fares without fees, what about all those that booked that didn’t hold status? What about those that would have had to pay American a fee to cancel and redeposit just an hour before the call went out, while American can cancel at will with no similar repercussions from the customer? And what if I had booked onward travel from Hong Kong or a non-refundable accommodation? Wouldn’t American have to offer me either reimbursement for those expenses or accommodate my family on other flights to fulfill the rest of the trip?
I’m fortunate to be an Executive Platinum member and had the ability to cancel penalty-free at any point in time, but many others don’t share the same privilege. I was also careful not to book anything we couldn’t cancel, but others may have done so. When American cancels a flight and offers a refund for their portion, that’s in line with their legal obligations and they did so. However, the carrier should also be obligated to cover non-refundable elements, re-book for the future or on another carrier without any additional remuneration from the inconvenienced customer.
What do you think? Should American Airlines have re-booked my family or offered options? What would you do if you found yourself in a similar situation?