Regular readers of Middle Age Miles know that my AAdvantage account is currently locked despite no violations of program terms, causing much frustration and consternation:
- Middle Age Miles: Locked by AA – My Data Point with Details & Thoughts (January 15, 2020)
- Middle Age Miles: Planning & Strategy in the Face of an AA Lockdown (January 23, 2020)
My current situation makes the good customer service experience that’s the subject of this article quite ironic (more like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife than a death row pardon 2 minutes too late, but you know what I mean).
Anyway, back to the point – Despite my current issues with AA, we wanted to give credit where it’s due for a quick and effective customer service response. We also wanted to outline the steps we took to request compensation from AA for a mechanical flight delay and cancellation, in hopes it helps Middle Age Miles readers who find themselves needing to ask for this.
Short Version of What Happened
Philly and I were in Seattle in mid-December. We were scheduled to fly back to DFW, departing SEA at about 7:30 am on Thurs 12/19/19. Our flight was first delayed until 12:00 pm, then until 5:00 pm, then it was eventually cancelled. The problem was a mechanical issue. According to the phone agent, the plane needed a part that had to be flown in. Fortunately, AA announced the delays with enough time in advance that we didn’t leave our hotel, so at least we weren’t stuck at the airport. We were ultimately re-accommodated on the DFW-SEA flight departing at 5:15 am (really, really early!) the next day, Fri 12/20/19.
Later, in January 2020, we filed an online complaint with AA customer service, asking for AA to reimburse the additional expenses we incurred from our forced extra overnight in Seattle. AA responded within 1 day. It didn’t offer money, but it credited each of our AAdvantage accounts with 15,000 AA miles – 30,000 AA miles in total.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a reasonable and quick response that we appreciated as good customer service.
The Complaint Process – How to File a Complaint with AA for a Delayed or Cancelled Flight
We filed our complaint online through the aa.com website. We followed these steps:
At the very bottom of the aa.com home page, under “Help,” there’s a link for “Contact American”:
From there, go to the “Share with us” section, and under “Email us,” click “Contact Customer Relations”:
The next page asks “How can we help you?” and has drop-down menus for Topic, Subject, and Reason. Here’s how we selected from the drop-down menus:
Finally, we filled in our flight information and wrote a message to AA in the interface provided (2,000 characters max):
Unfortunately, I didn’t save the exact message that I sent to AA. The gist of the message was:
- I identified myself, including by AAdvantage number and elite status, and told the short story of our flight delays, cancellation and re-accommodation.
- I mentioned that the cause of the delays & cancellation was mechanical (since I’d been directly told that by an AA agent by phone).
- I also identified that I was traveling with my wife and gave her AAdvantage number and elite status.
- I stated that we incurred additional expenses caused by the delays & cancellation, which resulted in an extra overnight in Seattle.
- I listed and itemized each expense, by vendor, amount and purpose, and I provided a total, which came to about $350.
- Note: For what it’s worth, we kind of splurged on dinner that night.
- I offered to provide receipts for all of the expenses on the list.
- Note: I would have provided the receipts when submitting the complaint, but there is no way to upload attachments. That’s why I offered to provide the receipts instead of just sending them at the outset.
- I asked for AA to reimburse us for the amount of our expenses.
- Note: On this trip, we did not pay with a credit card providing trip delay coverage that would have applied in this situation.
AA’s Response to Our Complaint
To AA’s credit, its customer relations people responded promptly and, in our view, reasonably.
First, we received an email from AA Customer Relations acknowledging our complaint and letting us know that they would respond.
Next, on the very next day after we sent our complaint message, we received a substantive response. Remarkably, the response came on a Sunday night. The responsive email had the subject line “Your Response From American Airlines. It first contained an apology (that didn’t quite match up with what we were asking, but whatever). More importantly, AA credited each of our AAdvantage accounts with 15,000 bonus miles – 30,000 in total – for our inconvenience, “as a tangible expression of [their] regret.” (At our baseline value of 1.25 cents per AA mile, the bonus miles would be worth about $375. Of course, my account is currently locked, so if AA ultimately decides to terminate my account, they’ll be taking my 15,000 AA miles right back – but that’s really beside the main point here.)
Here’s the full text of AA’s responsive email:
We were pleased enough with the response. I suppose that we could have pushed harder for a cash reimbursement, but it didn’t seem worth the effort. As I mentioned above, we kind of splurged on dinner, so I didn’t want to expend any more cycles on this, especially when it might have resulted in AA challenging the amount and reasonableness of our claim.
The AA bonus miles were in our AAdvantage accounts immediately upon our receipt of AA’s responsive email, or very shortly thereafter.
A Few Other Data Points
Earlier this week, we were reading the Reddit Churning Daily Discussion thread, and we came across a few comments that we wanted to share. Generally, the comments report success with receiving bonus miles as compensation when an AA flight is delayed for at least 3-4 hours due to reasons within AA’s control (mechanical or crew-related reasons; not weather-related reasons).
We appreciate the comments from Reddit users crowd79, MikeV___, SgtKetchup and edboysega321 and give them a hat tip for their contributions. Here’s what they had to say:
A Word of Caution
We highly caution readers to use this method only for legitimate cases of expenses caused by reasons within AA’s control (not weather). We are absolutely *not* suggesting that anyone simply submit complaints to try to get AA to award bonus miles or file any false complaints.
There are also other types of situations where people have legitimate complaints. Our approach would be to submit these but not ask for miles as compensation. If you incurred out-of-pocket expenses, say so and volunteer to provide documentation. If not, just state your complaint to let AA know as constructive feedback. If AA wants to offer you miles in response, that’s their choice. We would also be very cautious about going to the well too often with minor complaints. AA certainly tracks these things, and we suspect that none of us want a “too many complaints” note on our AA account.
Using the Online Customer Relations Contact Form for Other Issues
We’d also note that we used this same online Customer Relations contact form to get help from AA with another recent issue on Philly’s account. AA had mistakenly taken one too many Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) from her account. AA’s response to this issue was equally swift and effective as to our delay claim. They re-deposited the SWU into her account next-day. AA didn’t offer her any compensation for the mistake, but we neither asked for nor expected them to do so. Getting the SWU re-deposited without turning further cycles was a very good result in our eyes.
(It’s also notable that we had tried to call in to get this issue resolved first, and that didn’t work. The AA Customer Relations people handling the online complaints were much more effective.)
We hope that this has been a helpful and informative post about the AA online complaint process, as well as providing our recent positive data point. If you have a legitimate complaint, it’s a useful tool to help you get resolution.
Have you had experience with AA delay/cancellation claims that you’re willing to share with us? How about other experiences with the AA online Customer Relations team? Please let us know in the Comments!
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