In 2019 I earned a $99 companion certificate on American Airlines by spending over $20,000 on my Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard. My real goal for the spending was help towards elite status – qualifying miles and qualifying dollars – but the ability to bring two people with me on a trip for $99 plus tax each was an extra perk.
That certificate was going to expire during the pandemic (travel complete by January 31, 2021) but got extended to June 30, 2021 so I just applied it to a reservation.
Recently I haven’t been able to use it because flights have been available for less than $99. However I’ve got an upcoming trip that,
- Met the 14 day advance purchase requirements
- Met the fare class requirements (L, M, N, Q, S V, G or O classes)
- Avoided published blackout dates
- Was running about $289 per person
And I was going to be flying with my wife and daughter, so why not use it?
These are paper certificates that you have to mail in. American doesn’t actually issue the tickets until they receive and process the certificate, though new certificates have a more electronic process. You still will have to call Meeting Services (800-433-1790) but they will be able to find the certificate in your account and get the tickets issued.
I found the flights I wanted, and called in. The agent had no problem setting up the reservation. But we ran into several problems with pricing.
First she set up pricing for a single companion (two people at regular price, one companion) because she looked up the wrong STAR File. She said she doesn’t get many of these two-companion certificates.
Then she quoted the price of the companions as $99 plus $54 in taxes ($153 per person). But the certificate is clear that,
The certificate entitles the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard cardmember named on the reverse to pay $99 for the ticketing fee, plus $21.60 to $43.20 in government taxes and fees based on itinerary for each round trip qualifying economy fare ticket for up to two companions when an individual roundtrip qualifying fare ticket is purchased by and for the primary cardmember, using the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard.
The certificate discloses maximum taxes of $43.20. So it seemed to me that American was overcharging me by $10.80 per ticket or $21.60.
The agent spoke to her support desk, who agreed that this publish tax maximum applied, but they couldn’t do anything about it. We involved another desk who was unwilling to adjust the taxes ‘because that requires a higher level of authorization than we have available.’ I went back on hold for a third department, which didn’t answer.
At this point I’d been on the phone for an hour. I had been avoiding booking this reservation because I knew it would take a good bit of time. I can be productive while I’m on hold, but I can’t take calls or be quite as productive while listening in the background.
Five minutes before a commitment I made to record a podcast, the agent came on and I agreed to pay the fully quoted taxes. I knew that if I left the line I’d have to start all over with another agent, and I decided not to fight the $21.
I’ll fight even a small amount on principle but this time American had beaten me because I didn’t have the time to spare.
In fairness when doing my own tax calculation I think they should have charged me $53.33 per passenger, though not $54.
- US Transportation Tax (US) $6.93 (7% of $99)
- United States Flight Segment Tax Domestic (ZP) $17.20
- United States Passenger Civil Aviation Security Service Fee (AY) $11.20
- US Passenger Facility Charge (XF) $18.00
However American should have honored its credit card benefit as advertised and disclosed, perhaps reducing the $99 by $10.80 on each ticket to match. But they wore me out and took me for $20 instead.