American Airlines Loosens Rules For Refunds When You’re Forced To Fly To An Alternate Airport

When your flights are cancelled or substantially delayed, and the airline can’t get you where you’re going, sometimes you’re willing to… fly somewhere else. If you’re flying cross-country, you might even take something hundreds of miles away from your destination, if the trip is important enough. Maybe you’d fly to Los Angeles instead of San Francisco and drive.

An interesting question is, what if anything does an airline owe you if you do actually fly – but don’t fly where you were trying to go?

American Airlines has changed its policy. They used to provide a refund if they had to fly somewhere that was more than 300 miles from their ticketed destination.

Now, American will actually provide a partial refund even within 300 miles, as long as the passenger didn’t fly to a co-terminal (e.g. New York LaGuardia instead of JFK). The value of the partial refund will be calculated based on the cost of flying between the city of arrival and the city of intended arrival.

Here’s the internal memo updating on this change:

What’s striking to me is that American Airlines employees are instructed not to tell customers about this policy unless they ask. A passenger may be entitled to a partial refund under American’s rules but they won’t tell you this and if you don’t ask for it, American won’t provide the refund.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A couple of weeks ago my wife was stranded in Miami as the flight from Santo Domingo was delayed due to thunderstorms in Florida. She couldn’t get a rebooked connection to Minneapolis for two days, so bought a next day Delta ticket and came home. We were sure to immediately cancel her ticket. (There was confusion here because the service person we spoke with said she did canceled it for us, but it was still showing as active and rebooked. So that’s a good lesson in following up on what an agent says, which we did.) Anyway, we requested flight credit for MIA-MSP and to our surprise received a full refund for that segment (which almost exactly matched the Delta fare). I guess their “friendlier” policy is already in effect.

  2. I had a trip booked from IAD – KRK through AA on BA. The flight to LHR tonight was cancelled. I called AA this morning and they’re issuing me a full refund. Does anyone know if I would still be eligible for compensation from BA? This is super annoying because I also had a couple of hotels booked and a bus from Charlottesville to Dulles which was non-refundable. Not to mention missing out on seeing my parents for two weeks.


  3. @Mr G It depends on the reason for the cancelation. Reach out to BA and outline your expenses and losses and request reimbursement under the Montreal Conversation. They will see if you are eligible.

  4. What happens if there are no flights between the two airports, or if flying between the two requires a connection at a faraway hub that makes the ticket unreasonably expensive? I can see this being the case for airport pairs that are too far apart to be coterminals but just too close by for any airline to reasonably operate flights between them (obviously something like DC to NYC would not count, but if both were less major cities I could see it being the case).

  5. @mikey Is AA considering a merger? Isom hired an old buddy from America West that led the UsAir/AA merger and the pilot window has closed even though their is a great need for pilots.

  6. No because BA is flying as AA it’s a codeshare so your AA reimbursement from AA covers all legs

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