One Mile at a Time relays a passenger’s story about being denied boarding on American Airlines.
- The passenger, Spencer, was booked to fly Philadelphia – Phoenix – Palm Springs on August 17.
- He flew Philadelphia – Phoenix. He arrived in Phoenix and learned that his plane was swapped for a smaller aircraft and about 20 people would have to take a later flight.
- American offered him a $600 voucher to voluntarily take a later flight. He accepted.
- The original flight was delayed by several hours. Bumped passengers were rebooked onto that original flights.
The passenger complained about the bad experience. Personally I wouldn’t have, thinking I already had $600 in hand. American offered him 3000 miles. He complained further, and American responded with 7500 miles and to let him know his $600 voucher was cancelled because he traveled on his original flight number.
Please let me clarify about the $600 voucher. This is part of the DOT as denied boarding when we cannot get our passengers accommodated on a flight. I see the airport issued one but then had to void it since we were able to get you on flight AA3085.
First of all, American’s reference to the Department of Transportation (DOT) is inapposite. Under this circumstance American was never required to offer any compensation.
Department of Transportation involuntary denied boarding compensation rules contain an exception for aircraft swaps to a plane with fewer seats. That’s why JetBlue, which doesn’t intentionally overbook flights, has had so many involuntary denied boardings — aircraft swaps can be a bigger cause than overbooking.
American offered compensation so that the rebooking would be listed as voluntary rather than involuntary, not because DOT requirements were at play here at all.
Second of all, the passenger agreed to give up their seat for compensation and American agreed to book the passenger onto the next available flight. Due to the delay the next available flight happened to be the original one.
At the point this agreement was reached, he gave up his seat voluntarily and American gave him compensation. Whatever flight was first available — same flight number hours later, different flight number — is immaterial.
This isn’t the same thing as soliciting for volunteers in case they are needed, American gave a voucher and then chose to inform the passenger when he complained further that they had cancelled the voucher. It is not clear if they did this in retribution for the complaint, although if you take American’s message at their word the voucher was voided by the airport which is even worse because it means he was given a voucher and then the airline never even bothered to tell him it was invalid, something he would only have otherwise learned when he went to spend it.
It appears to me that the airline reneged on its contract. The appropriate venue for recourse is the Department of Transportation. Serial complainer Ben Edelman outlines how to do this.
Perhaps you disagree — maybe you feel the voucher should be cancelled for all of his complaints? Or perhaps that since he traveled on the flight he was originally supposed to take (albeit several hours later) he shouldn’t also receive a denied boarding (bump) voucher?