Three years ago I experienced frustration with American Airlines travel vouchers. Earlier this year I got another one when I had to cancel a ticket and received a refund as a result. However, American Airlines does not post the refund back to my credit card like any other vendor or retailer of goods or services. American Airlines also does not implement a user-friendly online credit like Southwest, where I can use the credit to pay for my next ticket. No, American Airlines issues a travel voucher – see below:
Note that the voucher is for $140.40, and it’s good for a year after the date of issue of 15FEB11. American Airlines had to print this thing in a little ticket booklet and mail it to me.
I had forgotten about this in my drawer. When I came across it, I decided that I would use it the next time I bought a ticket. Today I booked a flight, put it on hold, and wanted to use the voucher as part of the payment. Normally I pay online. But with vouchers, the American Airlines system is clunky enough that they can’t handle this online and I had to call.
The agent asked for my reservation confirmation number and figured out that I was flying on November 1st. She informed me that the system needed 12 days for me to mail the voucher back to American Airlines to be received and posted to my ticket. Since my flight was sooner than 12 days from now, there was not enough time.
She said that next time I booked a ticket 21 days out I should use the voucher. I responded that I never booked tickets 21 days out, that I was a business traveler, and all my trips were usually short notice, never more than two weeks in the future.
At first she didn’t have a good answer. Then she said that I could take the voucher to an airport and use it for payment. I reminded her that the voucher was for only $140. I was not about to spend several hours of my workday to drive to the airport, park, go to a counter, just to pay for part of a ticket with a piece of paper that they should never have mailed to me in the first place anyway – all for $140.
American Airlines obviously has no incentive to fix this problem. The barriers to using travel vouchers are so impossibly high, people probably just trash them routinely, and American Airlines posts a profit. Show me a business traveler who can book 21 days in advance, then pay by a clunky system of first calling, then mailing a voucher to some office, over 12 days before the flight.
To put this into perspective: I am not just some occasional traveler. I am an American Airlines Platinum member. I travel around 100,000 miles a year. I have almost 2 million lifetime miles with American Airlines. Yet, the loyalty desk can’t figure out a better way to give me a refund when I, very occasionally, have to cancel a flight.
American Airlines – Are You Listening?