At the start of the month American Airlines updated its rules to make clear that they would not reimburse hotel stays you book yourself when your flights are severely delayed or cancelled (you have to wait for them to give you a hotel room if you want them to cover it) and to say they don’t have any obligation to get you to your destination – they can just refund your ticket if they prefer.
This was largely an exercising in making their Contract of Carriage (the adhesion contract you agree to when buying a ticket) match what they were doing in practice.
Cranky Flier argued they should be applauded for cleaning this up. I argued they should be called out first for treating customers in ways not even supported by their contract of carriage before this update, and for imposing consumer-unfriendly rules in the first place.
Besides American Airlines has trouble actually delivering hotels when passengers are entitled to rooms so they don’t have their act together to support the policy they want to enforce.
Regardless of what you think of recent changes to the airline’s Contract of Carriage it’s worth noting that they’re at it again because they weren’t consumer-unfriendly enough.
They’ve just added new wording to caveat your ability to get a refund even more. I’ve bolded the new language:
If we or our airline partner fails to operate or delays your arrival more than 4 hours, our sole obligation is to refund the remaining ticket value and any optional fees according to our involuntary refunds policy, subject to our policy for rebooking your delayed / canceled flight.
When you face a delay of over 4 hours, you’re supposed to be entitled to a refund (the requirement to wait four hours is new during the pandemic, to allow American to keep your money more often).
However even a four hour delay isn’t something they’re willing to say unequivocally gets you a refund because it is now also “subject to [their] policy for rebooking your delayed / cancelled flight.”
In practice this shouldn’t be limiting, because that policy doesn’t appear to prevent refunds, but some lawyer that survived the 30% purge in management employees seems to think this is an important further protection for the airline against refunds a passenger might request.
Furthermore, nowhere does American Airlines announce its changes in rules. They assume, I suppose, that you re-read their Contract of Carriage thoroughly before each booking to understand any changes that they fail to highlight.
American Airlines – please stop. If you’re employing people who spend time updating your rules to find more new ways to limit customer rights, updating your Contract of Carriage multiple times a month, after you’ve been in business nearly 100 years, you’re clearly doing it wrong.