American Airlines Took Full Ticket Rules Off Its Website. The DOT May Investigate Why

A formal Department of Transportation complaint has been filed (.pdf) against American Airlines by Mike Borsetti over the removal of their general tariff from their website in June.

American used to have its full ‘terms and conditions’ available online. They’ve removed the legalese entirely from their website and now offer a plain language FAQ-style conditions of carriage page.

However there’s still a general tariff, the contract of carriage incorporates it by reference, and customers effectively agree to it when they buy a ticket. They just can’t see it.

While the conditions of carriage say it is “the entire agreement” between the airline and customer, the full general tariff is filed with foreign governments and with the U.S. federal government. DOT rules – and basic fairness – require that it also be made available to customers.

And the general tariff includes more detail that the ‘conditions of carriage’ page on proper handling during irregular operations, as well as when refunds are due to customers (including how downgrade compensation should be paid).

The full tariff is 285 pages (a copy is included in the complaint). It used to be available to customers, was taken away over the summer, but seems like it should simply be posted back online. It will be fascinating to read American’s explanation for its removal, and for why it’s not obligated to provide full detail to its customers on what policies they’re agreeing to.

An American Airlines spokesperson shares, “We’re aware of the complaint filed with the Department of Transportation and will be responding to it in a timely manner.” They promise to flag for me once they’ve responded.

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. I was just recently curious what compensation is paid out for an involuntary downgrade domestic first to coach.

  2. What do other U.S. carriers provide?

    Also, presumably before the internet this wasn’t readily available to consumers.

  3. @Boston I can’t speak for y’all but in the UK ( well to be more accurate if you live there or in the EU)then irrelevant of your originating or end point ( as long as one of them is within the UK or EU / EEC them IROPS payout at 75% fare difference between class booked and class actually flown at time of flight.
    My general understanding, I’m not claiming to be an expert on it, is that we tend to have stronger protections than our American cousins.

    Just as a data point for anyone. If you, as an American, were to fly say Boston – London then you could still make a claim under our rules and they can be quite substantial as it happens. Payouts start at +04:00 hrs late ARRIVING at your destination and quickly escalate.

    Have to say AA were excellent in both being able to call them from the UK and the speed of refund claims on a number of claims I’ve had to make spanning the last few months.

  4. I am old enough to have bough (handwritten!) airline tickets from airline city ticket offices (CTOs), and at those offices they had a binder with the tariff rules you could use. Even helped me save a lot of money once. I guess it makes sense that as the tickets are now sold online, the “binder” is online too.

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