Cancelling Amex Travel Flight: A Frustrating Experience

I recently had a crAAppy experience cancelling an AA flight booked through Amex Travel. American Airlines has had a long standing policy that you could cancel your flight and receive a refund if your flight schedule changed by greater than 60 minutes. AA recently changed the time to 240 minutes for new flights booked after April (eye roll.) I booked the flight through Amex Travel with AA for mid July back in March. The original schedule was from JFK-LAX, departing at 10 am and arriving at 1:18 pm. About a month after I’d booked the ticket, I got a notification that the schedule had changed and it was now departing at 9 am and arriving at 11:54 pm. Of course due to Covid, I could get a voucher to use at a later date but I’d much rather a refund in cash.
NOTE: This story does have a happy ending but both AA and Amex gave me bad info and completely wasted my time. Here’s what happened and a few tips to help you if you have a similar situation.

RELATED: How to Use Amex Airline Credits Without Travel During Quarantine (2020)

Cancelling an AA flight booked through Amex travel (Paid with Points)

Since I booked through Amex travel I first checked with the current policies on the Amex travel website .

“For American Express Travel Bookings using Membership Rewards® points (Pay with Points)

If you cancel a flight directly with your airline that was booked with Membership Rewards® points (Pay with Points), your cancellation will be handled by the airline in accordance with their policies.

If your flight is not refunded or you are issued a credit with the airline, you will not receive the points back in your Membership Rewards® account, nor will you receive a credit on your Card statement in dollars.

If your flight is refunded by the airline, then you will receive a credit on your Card statement (in dollars) in the amount equivalent to the refund issued by the airline. You may be able to convert it back into points by contacting Membership Rewards® at 1-800-AXP-EARN (297-3276).”

Contacting American Airlines Directly

First I tried to contact AA directly through Twitter since I tend to have good luck with them.  Not this time, the rep said the flight time had only changed by 6 minutes. HUH? Okay, maybe I’m better off going through Amex. Read on to see how that went. Amex Travel Flight Cancellation

What happens to flights booked with Amex Travel when you pay with Membership Rewards points?

To cancel your flight booked on AmexTravel.com, you can do so from your My Trips page. Login to your account, go to the My Trips page and click on the “Cancel this reservation” button for your relevant booking. A chat box will appear to “help” with your cancellation. The chat option is automated and doesn’t take into account schedule changes, so I selected contact an agent, which prompted me to call. Here’s the full chat transcript in case you’re curious.

Full Chat Transcript with Amex Travel

Amex Chat Automated Assistant:
I see you have this booking. (Here it showed my flight details.)
One moment while I look into this.
If you cancel this flight now, you’ll get a total credit of $774.01 to use with us for future flights on American Airlines.
If there is more than one traveler, the amount is divided among each traveler on your itinerary and each traveler will receive their own credit.
Should I cancel your flight?
So I selected the “Contact an agent” option
Amex Chat Automated Assistant:
The quickest way to get your question answered is to give us a call. Agents can be reached for further assistance at: 1-800-297-2977 (or outside the US at: 1-312-980-7807).

Amex Travel Phone Call Details

There was pretty much no wait, the rep answered after about a minute wait. After confirming my account details, I explained that my flight was changed by an hour departure time and over an hour for the arrival time and I wanted to get a complete refund for the cancellation rather than the AA travel credit. He asked to put me on hold so that he could call AA and find out what my options were. He came back to let me know that AA had a bit of wait and he’d have to put me on hold for 10 minutes. After about a 15 minute wait came back on to let me know that AA’s policy was that regularly only flights with a 90 minute delay or more were eligible and that even the applicable Covid 19 Policy which applied here was for flights OVER an hour- so the one hour change from 10-9 am would not qualify since it was only one hour- not more than an hour. I asked if he asked about the arrival time since it changed from 1:18 pm to 11:54 am. Now, I’m no mathematical genius but I’m pretty sure that’s 84 minutes.
This is where the call gets pretty obnoxious, he says I’m sorry but it doesn’t qualify, the agent was absolutely sure. I insisted that he go back to the agent and check that to make sure they knew. Well, I guess he hung up with them since he took a minute and then in his most exasperated voice possible let me know he’d have to call them back.
I waited for about 12-13 minutes for him to come back on the line and immediately apologize for the miscommunication since this agent was able to confirm that the 84 minute schedule change did in fact qualify my ticket for a complete refund.

Thoughts

Look, I understand that people are exhausted and confused and that things are changing by the minute, but what I can’t excuse is the fact that AA and Amex both found it easier to inconvenience a customer than do a little work to confirm the policies and try to help a girl out. This anti-customer mentality is disappointing but I’ve gotten used to it with both companies. So my advice to you? Read the policies (link here) in depth before you call and don’t be afraid to be a pain in the butt if you don’t like the answer you get. Last, since the waiver would be available until the flight date, I would have waited until right before my flight to see if the airline changed anything to give myself a better chance at a cancellation.
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