Middle Age Miles

An Unexpected Refund from AA

Introduction

This is a short post about an unexpected refund that we received from American Airlines. It comes with a lesson – don’t be bashful about submitting your canceled AA tickets through the AA Refunds site and seeing what happens. You might just get lucky!

Executive Summary

The short version of our story is this: We received a full refund on a round-trip AA ticket, presumably due to a schedule change of >4 hours on our “return” flight – even though the schedule change didn’t occur until after we had canceled our ticket and after our “outbound” flight had flown.

Details

As readers of some of our earlier posts know, we had round-trip tickets originating in Europe consisting of the following segments:

  • “Outbound” leg: 7/4/2020 – Paris (CDG) to DFW
  • “Return” leg: 8/28/2020 – DFW to Dublin (DUB)

We kept waiting and hoping for a cancellation or schedule change to this itinerary that would allow us to receive a full refund on these tickets (rather than a time-limited AA voucher). But, AA continued to doggedly fly a plane between DFW and CDG each day beginning in early June (despite load factors around 10% as best we could tell), and there were no changes to either leg of our flight as we approached our original July 4 departure date. With a few hours left before our flight, we canceled our tickets online.

At that point, we simply assumed that we’d have an AA voucher in the amount we paid for our tickets, under AA’s coronavirus policy. The voucher would be good through 12/31/2021.

However, after our “outbound” leg had already flown, AA made a schedule change of about 6 hours to our “return” DFW-DUB flight.

At this point, we decided to take a flyer – we’d submit our tickets to the AA Refunds site and see if we’d receive a refund based on the DFW-DUB schedule change. We weren’t optimistic, but we figured we had nothing to lose.

But lo and behold … a few days later we received an email from AA that we would receive a full refund!

This was great news. The tickets were paid fare business class tickets for about $2,800 each. We were very happy to not have this amount tied up in an AA voucher that would have to be used by the end of 2021!

There’s one more twist to the story, which also worked out well. We had booked the tickets through the Chase Travel Portal and paid with Ultimate Rewards (UR) points (at 1.5 cents per UR point since we hold a Chase Sapphire Reserve card). We received the UR points back into our Ultimate Rewards account within a few days, automatically and without any additional effort on our part.

In summary, our timeline looked like this:

  • July 3 – We canceled our round-trip AA ticket online
  • July 4 – Our “Outbound” CDG-DFW leg actually flew, on time and without incident
  • July 5 – AA loaded a schedule change of 6 hours to our “return” DFW-DUB flight
  • July 8 – We submitted the ticket to the AA Refunds site
  • July 17 – We received an email from AA letting us know that we would receive a full refund
  • July 22 – The Chase UR points for the refunded ticket were automatically re-deposited into our Ultimate Rewards account

Wrap-Up

We were very happy to get a full refund – unexpectedly – on this pricey ticket. For those who have had to cancel travel on AA because of the coronavirus, it’s worth a shot to submit your ticket to the AA Refunds site – especially if you know that there has been a schedule change or cancellation on one or more of your flights.

Have any Middle Age Miles readers had similar experiences? Please share your data points with us and other readers in the Comments!


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12 thoughts on “An Unexpected Refund from AA

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi WR2 – Reasonable question. One, these tickets were booked before my account was shut down. Two, we live in the DFW area and AA will almost always be the most convenient option. Three, Philly is still Exec Plat so I can get some benefits as a companion. Four, I can still credit to another program like Alaska or BA and earn miles and elite credits. Hope you have a great weekend! ~Craig

      1. WR2

        Ok I see. Sucks to be hub captive, it’s much harder to stop flying them out of spite like I am. Looking forward to seeing the next segment on your legal plan.

        1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Hey WR2 – I hear you. I’d be happy to quit flying AA (and giving them money) out of spite, but the practicalities mean I’d be cutting off my nose – and, more importantly, making things more difficult for my dear bride Philly, which wouldn’t be good at all! ~Craig

  1. Steven

    If you paid with UR points, then how does that Master Card shown in the screenshot come into play? Or was that the card you used for taxes, andd they didn’t actually refund you the 2 grand back to that card, but rather just a few hundred for the taxes and the rest came back in the form of UR?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Steven – You have an eagle eye. I didn’t want to bog down the article with this level of detail, but this is a very good question.

      I assume that the Mastercard shown in the refund email is something used by Chase to pay AA when a customer uses UR points for the payment. We got the full amount of UR deposited back into our account.

      Hope that helps – have a great weekend! ~Craig

  2. HS

    Congrats! All goes to show that you never know; also a reminder to me to keep pushing on the following:

    Had (have?) a couple of return seats CDG-JFK that were finally officially canceled out about a month ago. Both were cheap economy tickets. I’m pretty sure my wife’s was mostly rolled-over from an earlier cancellation, and the original thinking was mostly to use the outbound with a couple of SWUs (which we did) and then figure out what (if anything) to do with the return legs later.

    Anyhow, called in to Executive Platinum line and got a helpful fellow who said that he would put them through for a refund, and I believe that he did do something, because later that day I could see something about at least my ticket through the AA Refunds website. That disappeared the next day, but I still waited a couple of weeks before calling back in again. The agent I spoke to then said that the best thing is to go through the web site, as you did. So I did. Alas, a couple of more weeks later no sign of anything anywhere (and we actually have a third “peanuts” ticket pending, so I know that the site can work, even for us). When I went through again to make a claim, I noticed some red writing in response, telling me to call in to have my miles deposited. Not promising, because neither ticket involved miles.

    Is there a point here? On my end, reminding myself I got to keep at this… For you guys, savor the unexpected “win”!

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi HS – Thanks! I’ve been amazed at how well the AA refunds website has worked. It takes a few days, but eventually they get to everything. And they seem to be generous with the refunds.

      In a different case, they have been a little too generous with the refunds. I booked a couple of tickets at the end of June where I purchased seats using Amex airfare credits. (You and other readers may recall that I wrote about this.) When I canceled per the AA coronavirus policy, I was supposed to get travel vouchers for the seat selection fees. That’s what happened with the first ticket. But after that, AA has been issuing outright refunds to my Amex card instead of the travel vouchers. Ordinarily, this would be a good thing – but given that I used the Amex travel credit, I’d rather have the vouchers. I haven’t received any clawbacks yet from Amex but I expect them to come at some point. If so, oh well.

      Weird situation on your refund but hopefully you’re re-motivated to run it to ground and will get the refund soon. ~Craig

  3. Mark

    Awesome tip! I was able to get unexpected refunds for 6 flights between AA and United.

    How long did it take to get the UR points back? I got the same Mastercard on my refund email but have not seen the actual UR points yet.

  4. AC in CLT

    I had an interesting unexpected refund from AA a couple of months ago. I had booked 2 domestic first class tickets (around $1000 total) for my wife and me to go to a concert out of town in June. Well the concert was obviously cancelled and I held off until a week before the flight to cancel hoping AA would cancel themselves and trigger a refund. Understand I am lifetime Platinum so if I got the $1000 in flight credits (change fees were waived) I would have been fine and used it well before it expired so wasn’t pressing a refund that hard.

    The flight didn’t cancel but had 2 changes impacted both the outbound and return flights. The total change was under 2 hours each (my understanding was that at the time AA considered 2 hours a significant change and would trigger the refund). Anyway I called the Platinum line, explained I needed to cancel the flights and would prefer a refund if possible due to the cumulative impact of the changes (kind of BS I knew but hoped it worked). I was told that their records indicated I had called before (I had when I got a “your flight has changed check back later” message on the itinerary) and told the agent I accepted the changes but if I had requested a refund then I would have gotten it. I explained I never was given that option and was instructed by their agent to wait to see if it would be cancelled (which I did). I was escalated to a manager and they couldn’t help me either but suggested I request a refund on the website and explain the situation.

    I didn’t hold out much hope a generic request on the AA website would result in a better response than escalating it through the Platinum desk but that was my only option so I did it. Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail a few days later saying my refund was being processed but could take 30-45 days. Within 5 days after that the full refund hit my Amex Platinum account.

    For all the complaints about airlines not issuing refunds I was surprised (pleasantly) that AA gave me one on a flight they legitimately could have simply issued a credit.

  5. Joe Mama

    You should take note of this: it seems that the AA RAT team is on a new mission: tracking down, and extorting money from, people who have used “hidden city ticketing” in the past. Take a look at DoC. I think you will find it…interesting.

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