Flights are in truth, diaphanous entities. Anything from a slight visa delay, an unexpected emergency, or a full blown pandemic can disrupt your sweet plans to fly away for holiday, or make you put off that critical business trip. On average, 6% of American Airlines flights are delayed, and whether or not the delay comes from the airline end or from unforeseen problems on your end, to have any chance at a refund you need to be armed with the relevant information.
The early bird
Airlines’ refund policies can be hard to navigate in the best of times, less so in the midst of cancelled-flight-rage or plans-ruined-panic. But you should know that in the event of cancelling your booking within 24 hours of purchase, American Airlines will process and apply the refund for your flight to your debit/credit card automatically, no action required. This applies to the “Basic Economy” tickets as well, so fret not about the specifics of your flight class. What you should fret about instead is your departure date. The automatic refunds will only be applied if you manage to request a cancellation at least 48 hours before your flight departure time. Some more bad news – the sum repaid to you will not include any service charge or sales tax that was charged for booking your flight, so expect the refund to be a couple dollars short of the original amount paid.
A day too late?
On the other hand, if it has been more than 24 hours since you bought a non-refundable ticket, or your flight is less than two days away you have no choice but to lay down and mourn your lost money. To avoid this, ensure you have purchased a refundable ticket if you are feeling shaky in your travel plans or feeling unwell. American Airlines usually offer the option of refundable tickets as an add-on during the booking process, so be on the look-out for the “Make it refundable” button when you are checking out.
If you want to check if your ticket is refundable or not, read the fine print in your confirmation email. Press command+F in iOS, or Ctrl+F in Windows computers to find specific words(such as refund or refundable) in the fine print in your email or webpage. You can also call your local American Airlines reservations desk to check the status of your ticket. Alternatively, if you have an American Airlines account you can log in and view your booking details.
This scenario applies if you are unable to attend your flight for personal reasons. If American Airlines are responsible for your inability to board your flight, it is a different matter entirely and you will likely be able to get a refund.
It wasn’t me!
If you have a refundable ticket skip ahead to the next section “Requesting a Refund”. If the cancellation of your flight was involuntary i.e. American Airlines have cancelled their flight, keep on reading for what to do next.
Stay on top of your flight status if your ticket is non-refundable. Sometimes you are not notified of a flight cancellation until one day before departure. If you see your flight has been cancelled by American Airlines, and it is still two days until departure (albeit more than 24 hours after your ticket purchase), you may still be able to get a refund. Other circumstances that constitute a breach of their “Conditions of Carriage terms”, for example a 4hrs+ flight delay, should be eligible for refunds irrespective of whether or not your ticket is refundable. You can find the “Conditions of Carriage terms” in your booking email, or on their website. Now to get your money back.
Requesting a refund
To get your flight refunded, go to the American Airlines refund page. A pop up box will appear here. Click on the “Refunds” button on the bottom right. Now you will need to fill in a form with the name of the passenger, and the ticket number. You will have to fill in a new form for each cancelled ticket individually. After you submit the form, the details of your cancelled flight should be available on the screen. Click continue if the details are correct.
If you are eligible for a refund due to a refundable ticket, you should be able to click continue once more and move on to filling out your contact details. If you are not eligible for a refund, click on the “Options” button and follow the steps from there. After this you will need to fill in your contact details including your name, address, phone number and email. The website will now provide you with a summary of your refund request. Make sure all your details are correct. Now you will be asked to select your “Reason for Refund” from a drop-down menu. There will be a comment box below where you can further describe your reasons such as flight delays, cancellations etc. after ticking the option that applies to your situation. A refund confirmation number should be generated now. Note this down for following up later if you do not hear from them within seven working days. You can check for updates to your request here.
With all this in mind, you can decide whether or not you want to purchase a refundable ticket, and how much leeway you should leave for unpredictable events. American Airlines will likely try their best to help you in most cases where you are unsure of what to do, so do not hesitate to email or call them (800-433-7300 – within US and Canada) for nitty-gritty details about your flight. Even if things do not go according to plan, you now know how to get your money back.