Ridiculous: It Took 75 Minutes & 5 People To Issue My American Ticket

Filed Under: American

American is one of the only US airlines I know of that still issues physical ticket credit vouchers. For example, if you need to cancel a ticket, you can call in and apply that value to a ticket just by mentioning the ticket number. However, if there’s any residual value after that, you’re issued a paper voucher. Even American’s bump vouchers are still issued as paper vouchers.

This is clearly intended to cause breakage, since they know people may lose them, and that some people may be discouraged by having to mail them in or visit an airport to ticket. That’s the only reason to issue paper vouchers for anything in 2017.

Over the weekend I noticed that I had a voucher from a previously canceled ticket that was nearing expiration, so I decided to use it to ticket a reservation I needed to make. The catch is that the ticket was for travel within a week. Usually I’d hold a ticket online and then go to the airport to ticket, but you can’t hold a ticket within a week.

I phoned up American to ask what my options were.

“Well, you can go to the airport to ticket it.”

“Okay, but I can’t hold it first?”

“No, you can’t hold it within a week, but they should be able to issue it at the airport.”

I had a flight out of LAX Monday morning, and arrived early and headed to the Admirals Club. I stopped at the customer service desk.

“Hi! Would you be able to help me with issuing a ticket using a residual ticket voucher that I have?”

“Do you already have a ticket on hold?”

“Nope, they wouldn’t let me put it on hold since it’s for travel within a week of departure.”

“Okay, you’re gonna have to be patient, but I’m happy to try.”

What followed was literally 75 minutes of the Admirals Club agents trying to teach themselves the system. It started off with one agent, and then eventually that agent called over another agent. “Hey, can you try to help me with something?”

Then when that agent couldn’t help, they called over another person.

Within about 30 minutes, there were five agents huddled around a computer. I wish I could have taken a picture without being weird, because it was sort of hilarious.

All the agents were extremely well intentioned and friendly, and did everything they could, but the fact that this is the system in place is so ridiculous. I felt like it was 20 years ago, where you’d walk into a travel agent’s office to book a ticket.

As they called over more people, they said “hey, do you know how to issue a ticket from scratch?”

“It has probably been 20 years.”

Sure enough, 75 minutes later, my ticket was finally issued. I thanked the agents profusely, and they said “thanks for letting us play with this, we learned something new.” They were all delightful, but it’s insane that this had to happen to begin with. Furthermore, what a horrible waste of American’s resources.

C’mon, American, most other airlines let you do this stuff online. Get with the times and start letting people apply ticket credits through the website, rather than having to mail in a voucher or go to the airport.

It reminds me of how much I love Alaska Mileage Plan. MVP Gold members can even cancel revenue tickets for free, and then the value of the ticket is just placed in the online “travel bank,” and can be applied towards a future ticket.

But alas, Alaska Mileage Plan is a one of a kind program…

  1. Credit where credit is due – Southwest is amazing in this regard. Very easy to cancel and reuse tickets, and you don’t even need to be elite.

  2. DL shows your vouchers on the wallet section, and can be applied towards new tickets. All done online. It’s 2017!!!

  3. You need a PHD to understand any of AA’s rules and regulations. It’s only that way to screw over customers with their Byzantine procedures and you spend all your time hanging up and calling again because their own employees don’t understand.

  4. It is silly but many airlines are using outdated systems. Even up to date systems can be bad. Just try to use the Android app on Turkish, yikes it’s bad.

  5. Had the exact same experience only difference was I had already a reservation but it took a while for them to figure out how to issue the ticket with a voucher

    On the other hand I had once an American agent at the gate while boarding issue me a ticket from scratch the agent was so quick it took her around 30 seconds

  6. Wait, what? Friendly AA staff? That should have been title of the post!

    I kid, I kid. The lounge staff is generally pretty good 🙂

  7. I think k you are losing all of your credibility by flying the worse of the US legacy 3s. Those guys have been going down the toilet for the last decade and a half, with the exception of a few years in the late 10s, and are continuing to go so.

    They’re sucking the business dry, they know it, and they don’t care, as management is cashing in their stock options and they will be on a beach somewhere when all breaks apart financially due to the sever underinvestment in … everything (IT, product, training, managing people out, and so on).

    Do us a favor and start writing about real airlines we would want to fly. You started with JetBlue mint, but you need to expand (Delta is a great example).

  8. That’s been the experience 2 of 3 times I’ve tried this. Counter agent tries, unable to do it, calls friend who has worked for a while, tries, can’t complete it, calls over supervisor, eventually finished in 45 minutes. Luckily the last time I got the same agent as before, and it took less than 5 minutes. Most of them don’t see these very often, so it’s a learning experience.

  9. I have never had a residual voucher actually process properly, even sending it in 2-3 months beforehand. It always requires agent intervention at the airport on day of travel.

    Meanwhile, got an inconvenience voucher from UA last year and it was pretty painless to process, as are the electronic vouchers you get from complaining to AA. Not quite Alaska travel bank easy, but definitely easy enough and the reservation was ticketed in seconds. Just another reason you know they are hoping people won’t turn them in – AA has the technology and chooses to use it selectively.

  10. Yep American Airlines sucks, they haven’t update their dinosaur computers from the 1980s. I have a paper voucher from the cancelled flights last month due to the storm in the northeast. After reading of how to redeem it, I might not even try to. Why are they still giving out paper voucher in 2017? These voucher has to be mail in or go to the ticket counter to redeem and from your post, doesn’t look like the people at the airport know how to redeem it either. I might just throw this voucher away and don’t bother with it. It’s only $80 voucher that I have, might just save myself a headache not using it.

  11. It took over an hour to issue AA ticket when applying paper vouchers, even though I put it on hold before going to the airport. It was at YVR, took multiple agents making calls and trying to figure it out.

  12. Crap I have a AA voucher close to expiration also. Better get on it to avoid this mess at the airport.

  13. i had to do the AA paper ticket shuffle a few months back as well, i ended up paying for my immediate flight (and choosing United instead) then booking a different flight two months out, just to get it done and avoid losing my $800 credit voucher. AA has really lost it in the last year 🙁

  14. Didn’t AA invent the SAABRE system that most airlines use for ticketing or am I getting it mixed up?

  15. @Ron

    “Why are they still giving out paper vouchers in 2017”

    “…I might not even try to (redeem it)”

    You answers your own question.

  16. @Ben, almost similar thing happened to me at Boston few months back, i had to go to Hong Kong on last minute notice, i called up AA EXP desk at around midnight and the agent was helpful placing the Ticket as (waiting to be ticked) i don’t know how that exactly works. but agent said, i can go to airport in the morning and give my Credit Vouchers and they should be able to issue the ticket. So i went to the airport and it took 3 agents and almost 50 mins to apply 2 credit vouchers and issue a ticket, and they said the same thing.. that they learned something new that day, and the system switch-overs form US to AA ( or vice versa) is still confusing sometimes. The agents were very helpful and were trying their best. at one point i told them i am ready to pay the fare with out the vouchers , but they insisted they would get it done. and finally they were able to.

  17. Do you think you would of had the same issues at the main ticketing counter? It sounds like the Admirals Club agents try to do this for you and they went above and beyond to try and assist you.

  18. @Lucky Once again, you say “one of the only…” THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. It’s either “the only” or “one of the few”. I love your reviews but this is driving me up the wall as you do this all the time.

  19. Yup, I’ve had nightmarish experiences with vouchers too. First I put a ticket on hold (or so I thought) and mailed the voucher to AA to be processed. They never actually put the ticket on hold, and it took AA several months to send the voucher back to me. When they finally did, I went to the airport to have a ticket issued (after calling and putting another one on hold). The agent at the airport had never done it before, and she took out an enormous binder and referred to it throughout the process. She was so nice and pleasant, and I realized that the complexity of it wasn’t her fault. But I totally agree that this is a ridiculous system.

  20. “You need a PHD to understand any of AA’s rules and regulations.”

    HAHA, that’s true for UA nowadays, too, particularly when it comes to their mileage program. The complexity of these programs (EQD! EQM! RDM! Fare classes earn anywhere from 0 to 300% of miles flown! Different partners’ fare classes have totally different rules! And you never know the partners’ fare class when you book! And sometimes you have to pay for a seat assignment on a partner! And other times you don’t! And on and on.) These absurd layers on layers of rules are one of the reasons I dropped airline loyalty altogether.

    The ironic thing is I actually have a PhD. I simply choose to use my brain for other pursuits than decoding byzantine airline regulations

  21. Welcome to the world of America West.

    US Air also tanked like this when D.P. took over.

    All money, no brains.

  22. I think you went to the wrong place. Should have gone to the checkin desk man. I have used those same certs and the desk agents are well versed on how to do it, they square me away within 5 minutes(same thing flight within a few days).

    Dont go to the lounge because its not a common request for the lounge dragons to do that so it took you 75 minutes.

  23. @ Ivan Y — That’s not my experience. I’ve ticketed tons of reservations in the past, both at check-in and in the Admirals club, and it’s always quick when the reservation is already on hold. That doesn’t seem to be the issue. It was creating a reservation that took over an hour in this case.

  24. I know it’s crazy but how haven’t any of these airlines created a plan to transition off these old systems over time? I realize I don’t understand the sheer complexity but in the years they’ve decided not to upgrade surely they could have come up with a complex process to transfer to new systems that are more reliable and don’t have the propensity for system-wide outages, etc.

    On another note I remember flying Lufthansa and using a United paper GPU years ago but had to first change my Lufthansa ticket to the proper fare class. I was willing to pay the difference but it must have been over an hour the agent was working on changing me to a new fare class so she could apply the GPU. Literally was scribbling down codes to use, calling the central IT group, calling other higher level managers at Frankfurt, etc. I was so impressed by her persistence though. I wish the average (non-lounge) agent for US airlines had that attitude. The second they don’t know how to do something it becomes “not possible”.

  25. I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to an assumption that this happens out of malice when the more reasonable explanation is ignorance. The fact no-one seems to be able to know how to do it seems to demonstrate that it doesn’t happen very often so it’s not really a surprise that no-one’s bothered to think about improving it!

    Lukas – After a quick google, it seems “one of the only” is in at least one dictionary (Merriam-Webster), so he is perfectly correct to use it. The English language is famous for having grammatical quirks that “don’t make sense”. I think your only option is to just accept it and move on… The American phrase “I could care less” irritates me for making no sense whatsoever, but I don’t demand people stop using it!

  26. Same thing when trying to use business extra certificates to upgrade. Made good use of the lounge chairs at the LAX Flagship Check-in area waiting around for them to hunt down the procedure to process the paper upgrade certificates. It took 4 phone callls and 30 minutes before they managed to get ahold of someone to walk them through the steps. Crazy to imagine in 2017.

  27. Same is true for United. They don’t need your ticket number. Just your original confirmation code works.

  28. I had a reservation on hold (ok it was int’l and it originating in the US) and SRQ airport doesn’t see a lot of traffic but it took close to that, I was seriously annoyed by the whole paper thing that I vented to the really helpful agent since I had to go back to work and she issued me another voucher for the inconvenience ($100) but kindly asked to not redeem it on a day she had the shift (which eventually ended up happening, we bought laughed!).

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