Q: I recently flew from Tucson, Ariz., to Philadelphia on American Airlines. When I booked the trip, I inadvertently paid $56 for priority boarding instead of two checked bags.
When I got to the airport, a check-in person told me I should contact the company and it would refund the $56. I sent American Airlines a letter but have not heard anything. I did not need priority boarding because I am handicapped and always am allowed to board during preboarding. Could you help me get the refund that I feel I am due?
— Mary Lou Hartline, Tucson, Ariz.
A: I’m sorry you were confused when you were making your flight arrangements. Buying these extras should be easy and intuitive, so even if you didn’t have a case, I needed to be sure to share your frustrations with American Airlines. If you pushed the wrong button, chances are there are others who have done the same thing.
American is clear about the refundability of these fees. You can get your money back only if you can’t use the service. Unfortunately, even though you didn’t need the service, you were able to use it. Therefore, no refund is due.
Or is there?
You spoke with a representative who said you could get a refund, and based on that promise, you sent American Airlines a letter. It should have responded, even if to say “No.” (Next time this happens — and I hope there isn’t a next time for you — try sending an email through American’s website: www.aa.com/i18n/customer-service/contact-american/american-customer-service.jsp.
A promise made by an employee should be sufficient. Always ask for the person’s name. You should have received the money without question or delay.
Of course, American shouldn’t be charging for “priority” boarding or checked bags. The ability to board the plane in a timely manner, select a seat, and check a bag ought to be included in the ticket price. Charging for them is just a deceptive way of raising the ticket price, and there ought to be a law against it. But I digress.
I contacted American Airlines, and, as a gesture of goodwill, it refunded your $56. I don’t think this is a question of goodwill as much as the company doing what it said it would do. You may want to consider using a travel agent for your next airline booking. A competent travel adviser will ensure that you don’t buy a service you don’t need.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.