Challenges Using American Airlines Transportation Vouchers

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?

9 thoughts on “Challenges Using American Airlines Transportation Vouchers

  1. Seth

    Norbert, I feel your pain. I saw your note and wanted to chime in that I had a similar, negative experience with American Airlines, which I use sparingly since I am not in a market well served by that airline, on this same issue. After overcharging me more than $21 for a flight, they sent me this voucher. When I went to use it, I was given bad information from American first stating that I could fax it in and then stating that I had to send it in but it was not ever made clear to me that I had to get it in before one week before the flight or else the ticket would never be issued–I figured that worse case scenario, if I didn’t get it in in time, I would be out the $21 that the voucher was worth but that it would not affect the ticket.

    In trying to address this with their reservations department, I was essentially berated by a supervisor for waiting so long on sending it in. She claimed that this was the first time she had ever heard of someone failing to mail in the voucher two weeks after the reservation was booked (again, my fault for not sending it in but I never thought that this would endanger the reservation and that they were waiting on the voucher to ticket it–this information was never made clear to me).

    In sum, I agree that American needs to update its voucher system to get in line with the 21st century, that if it overcharges customers, that amount should be placed back on credit cards, not given as a voucher for another American flight.

    I hope my flight with them is better than this experience and despite the fact that American is the only airline that serves Doctor Pepper, I hope I can keep my involvement with them to a minimum.

    1. It’s really a systems problem. I recently had to cancel a Southwest Airlines flight. The full amount was posted to my account, and I was able to use those funds fully when booking the next ticket online. So silly calling in, paying the difference with an agent, having to mail the hardcopy voucher to a physical address – one that they dictate to you on the phone, painfully, one letter at a time, and then having to do it weeks before, just so it gets there on time for the ticket to be valid. Crazy.

    2. Leah

      Hi Seth. I also received a voucher, and now I am worried after reading your post. Online it says that I have been ticketed even though I haven’t sent in my voucher. Did you not realize you had not been issued a ticket until you got to the airport for you flight? Or did you call after seeing that you had not been ticketed yet?

  2. Anonymous

    Obviously, they are absolutely not listening. They are enjoying the profit. The only solution is for consumers to switch to other airlines that have better customer service (most have better prices as well).

  3. Anonymous

    I have attempted to use my voucher 3 times and all of them have been unsuccessful. It is going to expire in 1 month and I was just denied using it for a trip that is 4 weeks away. I guess they just got out of that $400 voucher. I am very unimpressed with the customer service at

  4. Nolongerflyin AmericanAirlines

    I just got done dealing with AA on this very same issue today!!!! And here I am looking to find forums where similar folks have been shafted by American Airlines.


    Booked flight for son to visit VA hospital bound Grandmother after medical complications a year ago. Unfortunately she died before he was to leave. Other arrangements were made for funeral etc. and so American Airlines, in their customer unfriendly manner, would do nothing but issue a voucher.

    Fast forward a year later….son finally had a chance to use the $191 voucher. He booked a flight but couldn’t use the voucher directly in the online booking process. So he spent 2 days trying to get through to the number on the voucher (much like yours above). Obviously American was swamped by calls due to all the weather cancellations along the East Coast due to the recent winter snows because he NEVER got through.

    I finally was forced to submit an online request for Customer Service ON THE DAY the voucher was to expire. I even called Investor Relations as I am a shareholder(not for long after this) and couldn’t believe all the road blocks to a) getting Customer Service, and b) applying this voucher to a fight booked before the expiration.

    I just can’t imagine what an older population mired in the old ways must go through dealing with this company. I can imagine my mom saying, “just give me a damn phone number with a real person that will answer, speak understandable English, and give real Customer SERVICE”!

    So what do I get days later, ….an email, and then a phone call telling me my voucher is expired; telling me that all travel was suppose to be completed by the date on the voucher (which is bull, it is only suppose to be APPLIED by that date). Basically, sorry bub….we win you lose.

    It is no wonder that Southwest and Virgin America are taking so much market share from the likes of American and United.

    So, what does American get….my $191, one less shareholder of AAL, one less family willing to fly them, and….more social media participants willing to tell this story over and over and over.

    Good luck CEO Doug Parker; merging with US Airways and
    “becoming the largest” isn’t the path to being the best and most profitable. It takes a Customer Centric organization…. and after dealing with four people in different parts of your organization I can clearly tell…you don’t have it. As a shareholder I ignored your Union problems but I now see they are indicative of a top down attitude that will never change.

    Southwest….pass the peanuts.

  5. Anonymous

    does anyone know if travel needs to be done within the year or do you just need to buy your ticket within that years time

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