American Airlines Delay Compensation: What To Expect

American Airlines Delay Compensation: What To Expect

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People often ask what kind of compensation they can expect in the event of a delayed or canceled flight. I thought that would be an interesting topic to discuss. I’ll address this situation specifically for American Airlines, especially as I have a recent data point to share.

American doesn’t owe you compensation for delays

The first thing to understand is that the United States has very little regulation when it comes to what airlines owe you in the event of delayed or canceled flights. Europe has its EU261 policy, whereby you can get up to 600 Euro cash compensation in the event that your flight is delayed, in addition to having essential expenses covered.

But here in the United States, an airline could cancel your flight and then rebook you a week later, and not owe you a dime in compensation. Now, a couple of things to note:

  • When an airline delays or cancels a flight and it’s within their control, they do have a duty to provide you with food and accommodation; on top of that, many credit cards offer great travel protection
  • EU261 would apply when flying with a US airline, but only if you’re originating in an eligible country in Europe; meanwhile if you’re traveling from the United States to Europe, you’d have to be flying a European airline for EU261 to apply

So yeah, that’s kind of screwed up, eh? If you need to change your flight by a few hours, you may be on the hook for a $1,000 fare difference. Meanwhile an airline could cancel your flight for any reason and rebook you hours later, and not owe you anything.

American doesn’t owe you compensation for delays

American may offer a gesture of goodwill, though

While airlines don’t owe you compensation in the event of a delay or cancelation, that’s not to say that they won’t offer you some sort of a “gesture of goodwill” for the inconvenience. The distinction here is that compensation would mean the airline is accepting some sort of wrongdoing and is making up for it, while a “gesture of goodwill” is intended to be a customer service recovery effort.

This will typically come in the form of some bonus miles or a travel credit, but will almost never come in the form of cash or a refund. What you’re offered will probably depend on the class of service you were traveling in, if you have elite status, and how significant the inconvenience was.

You may receive some bonus miles as a customer service recovery effort

Where & how to contact American customer relations

You’re best off contacting American customer relations by email, at this link. You first have to select the reason you’re contacting the airline (“Compliments and complaints”), then you can select the subject (“Complaint”), and then you can select the reason (Delayed / canceled flight).

You’ll be asked for relevant details about your reservation, and then there’s a space where you can write your feedback. When people contact customer relations, they have a tendency to ramble and write a novel. That really isn’t necessary. Personally I’d recommend taking the opposite approach, and keeping it short and sweet:

  • People working in customer relations read complaints all day, and probably appreciate brevity, not to mention they’ve heard just about everything
  • Generally what you’re offered is based on some standardized matrix, and you’re not getting compensated by the word
  • When you write, stick to the core of what was wrong, and don’t overshare
You can reach customer relations by email

My experience contacting American customer relations

As I recently wrote about, over the weekend I traveled from Puerto Vallarta to Miami via Dallas. The Puerto Vallarta to Dallas flight was delayed by over two hours due to a maintenance issue, causing me to miss the connection in Dallas, and have to spend the night there.

Now, there were some other issues beyond the general inconvenience — the communication around the delay in Puerto Vallarta was awful (unsurprisingly), I was proactively removed from the connecting flight (even though I would have made it in the end, had I not been rebooked), and I was downgraded on the connection due to lack of available seats (when I had paid for business class).

Just to be clear, I don’t think I was wronged in any horrible way, but in these situations I think it’s appropriate to reach out to the airline and request something. After all, the experience didn’t meet my expectations. In a similar way, if you’re at a restaurant and it takes two hours for your main course to arrive, I also think it’s reasonable to express your displeasure, and to receive something.

For the record, I hadn’t previously contacted American customer relations since mid-2021, so this isn’t something I do often. Here’s the email I sent to American:

I booked a paid business class ticket from Puerto Vallarta to Miami via Dallas. Despite leaving sufficient connecting time, I ended up misconnecting in Dallas due to a mechanical issue that had to be fixed prior to boarding, as there was a departure delay of over two hours.

This caused two issues:
– I was rebooked on a flight the following day, so I got home a day later than planned
– I ended up being downgraded from my business class seat to economy class on the Dallas to Miami flight, which was roughly half of my journey, as there were no flights available with business class

While I realize that airline operations are complicated and that stuff happens, I’m sure you can appreciate that I didn’t get what I paid for or expected. I’d appreciate a partial refund or credit reflecting that I was downgraded on the Dallas to Miami flight (roughly half my journey), as well as some sort of compensation that reflects the delay I incurred, and the impact this had on my schedule. Thanks for your help!

Here was the response:

Thank you for reaching out to Customer Relations. As an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member, you are among our most valued customers, so it is particularly troubling to learn your recent flight disruption traveling to Miami caused you to be delayed in Dallas overnight and lose your business class seat on your newly accommodated flight. I recognize how frustrating this must have been and am happy to assist. 

Based on the information you provided me, I have submitted a request to have the difference in fare related to your downgrade refunded to your original form of payment. Once the request is reviewed by our Refunds team they will reach out to you directly. In the meantime, you can track the status by visiting prefunds.aa.com and using ticket number XXXXXXXXXXXX.

Additionally, I recognize your delayed flight was inconvenient and would like to make amends. With this in mind,  I have added 12,500 bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. The miles will be reflected in your account shortly. 

Mr. Schlappig, thank you for your loyalty to American Airlines since 1999. We greatly appreciate our AAdvantage Executive Platinum members and look forward to providing you with the first class service you expect and deserve on a future flight.

Sure enough, I was immediately issued 12,500 AAdvantage miles as a customer service bonus.

American Airlines delay compensation

I was curious to see how much the cash refund would be for the downgrade from business class to economy class. Airlines often have a tough time calculating this and sometimes get stingy. After all, they don’t have a snapshot of how much an economy ticket would have cost at the time that you booked your ticket.

When logging in, I saw that the refund was $182.42, which was roughly 25% of the fare. That seemed fair, all things considered, and was more than I was expecting (given some of the stories I’ve heard of airlines basically offering a refund of $50 for a downgrade).

American Airlines downgrade refund

I was pleased with how American handled this. This response met my expectations, and I think it was a fair outcome.

Bottom line

US airlines don’t generally owe you any compensation for a flight delay, unless you’re traveling from select countries in Europe. However, airlines will often issue a gesture of goodwill, in the form of bonus miles or some sort of travel credit.

I had an American flight with a maintenance issue, which caused a departure delay of over two hours. That caused me to misconnect, get home a day later than planned, and be downgraded. While stuff like this happens, I also think it’s reasonable for the airline to do something to recognize the inconvenience caused.

I contacted American customer relations after the fact, and was offered 12,500 miles (for the delay and inconvenience), plus a refund of $182.42 (for the downgrade), which I thought was fair.

If you’ve contacted American customer relations over a delay or canceled flight, what was your experience like?

Conversations (35)
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  1. ROBERT B ROSE Guest

    I'll bet the airlines wishes all Passengers were like you. But how would you have reacted to this scenario:. 30 minutes before leaving for airport received email LAX - MIA delayed, would miss MIA - GIG. Called and rerouted SNA - DFW - GRU - GIG. All but DFW - GRU changed from business to economy.
    SNA - DFW learned DFW - GRU delayed, check with agent.

    After an hour at AA customer service,...

    I'll bet the airlines wishes all Passengers were like you. But how would you have reacted to this scenario:. 30 minutes before leaving for airport received email LAX - MIA delayed, would miss MIA - GIG. Called and rerouted SNA - DFW - GRU - GIG. All but DFW - GRU changed from business to economy.
    SNA - DFW learned DFW - GRU delayed, check with agent.

    After an hour at AA customer service, accepted DFW - FLL, overnight, and MIA - GIG arriving exactly one day late. Promised, and faithfully assured luggage would be in FLL.
    Arrived FLL no luggage.

    No help from FLL baggage agents other than phone number that I called at least 50 times with no answer. Even reservations managers said nothing they could do. Same from MIA counter. File claim at GIG.

    Arrived GIG NYE with TUX sitting in DFW. Spent most of the day shopping and tracking luggage which ultimately went DFW - FLL - PHL - MIA - GIG, and finally delivered 5 days later in Iguazu Falls.

    Lost one night in GIG, as well as two scheduled tours and most of NYE.

    Is "We are so terribly sorry for your unfortunate experience." adequate compensation?

  2. Dave Guest

    I was on an AA flight from EYW to GRR via CLT. The CLT layover was almost 3 hours. There was an aircraft at the departure gate in CLT, but no sign of a crew. About 10 minutes prior to the posted boarding time, the gate agent announces that the departure was delayed due to severe weather in GRR…until the next morning. They also say that because it was a weather related delay, and not...

    I was on an AA flight from EYW to GRR via CLT. The CLT layover was almost 3 hours. There was an aircraft at the departure gate in CLT, but no sign of a crew. About 10 minutes prior to the posted boarding time, the gate agent announces that the departure was delayed due to severe weather in GRR…until the next morning. They also say that because it was a weather related delay, and not in American’s control, passengers were on their own for food, accommodation and incidentals (though they generously offered to assist with locating accommodation, and provided one agent to do so. One.).

    I’m a commercial pilot, so I pull up the METAR and TAF for GRR. Winds are [email protected], 9 miles, and 4000 overcast. The forecast is the same. Not only not severe, it’s VFR. Runway conditions? Excellent. SIGMETs? Nope. In other words, the “severe weather” story is…well, let’s call it a “distorted interpretation of the facts.” So after somehow getting a flight to DTW and a rental car to drive to GRR, I corner the agent. I explain the weather, and ask about the lack of any evidence of a crew. She looks uncomfortable, then says “I hate lying to people. The truth is, we didn’t have a crew, and they told me to say it was weather.” Now, I am not happy about driving all night and spending an extra $150. But I’m pretty savvy at all this. The sweet older couple next to me, from rural Michigan? They are bereft. They have no idea what to do. They’re on their own to find a hotel, leave the airport, get back for a 7 am flight…them, and about a hundred other people.

    This was just a cynical outright lie. This really is incredibly dishonest. Why should we trust, say, the maintenance and training records of a company that will tell this sort of lie to save a few thousand dollars? This is the sort of thing that really requires enforcement action. But there’s no way for us schlumps to get the attention of anyone important. So I got my 2500 miles after contacting American, and I guess that’s it. No way to do anything more, but this isn’t about the money or the inconvenience. It’s about the outright lie. Shame on American, yes…but what else are they lying about, and will they only be accountable when something real happens?

  3. Kelley P Gold

    But what about your hotel and meals overnight - did American take care of those expenses too?

  4. John Guest

    Do those 12,500 points count as LP? Asking for a friend.

    1. Brian Gasser Guest

      They count as bonus points

  5. 41PC Guest

    "After all, they don’t have a snapshot of how much an economy ticket would have cost at the time that you booked your ticket."

    Yes, they do! Ask any qualified Rate Desk agent.

  6. Christian Guest

    When AA cancelled the last leg of my flight home in December due to mechanical issues, they got me a night at the local Hyatt Place in CLT and a couple of meal vouchers. I had to stand in line to get these but it was a lot easier than trying to submit receipts to Chase after the fact.

  7. rrapynot Guest

    I had a flight from VCE-JFK cancelled by AA due to mechanical problems and I was booked on the same flight the next day.

    I went to the airport anyway and the staff at the airport endorsed my ticket over to DL who got me home about 4 hours late.

    AA refused to provide EU261 compensation since they claimed it was my choice to fly Delta.

    They also didn’t offer any goodwill compensation.

    They...

    I had a flight from VCE-JFK cancelled by AA due to mechanical problems and I was booked on the same flight the next day.

    I went to the airport anyway and the staff at the airport endorsed my ticket over to DL who got me home about 4 hours late.

    AA refused to provide EU261 compensation since they claimed it was my choice to fly Delta.

    They also didn’t offer any goodwill compensation.

    They also refused to credit points for the original routing.

    They really do not like their customers.

    1. Sel, D. Guest

      It was your choice to not take EU261 comp, not AA’s. You could have asked for additional comp when getting booked on Delta. It was great service for them to book you on a competitor. Everybody wants something for free.

    2. rrapynot Guest

      How was it my choice? I asked for it and was entitled to it since I was delayed by 3+ hours. AA said no. The law says I’m entitled to it. How is that expecting something for free?

    3. _ar Guest

      2 experiences from last year:

      I was on a paid J, AA ticketed LHR-BOS-JFK flight (the latter flight on AA). BA gave us our BOS-JFK boarding pass which didn’t scan on boarding. Apparently, they “took over” the ticket and canceled our second segment (no one knows why – another passenger had the same issue). The doors closed and it was not possible to board. The oneworld desk booked us on DL. I later called AA...

      2 experiences from last year:

      I was on a paid J, AA ticketed LHR-BOS-JFK flight (the latter flight on AA). BA gave us our BOS-JFK boarding pass which didn’t scan on boarding. Apparently, they “took over” the ticket and canceled our second segment (no one knows why – another passenger had the same issue). The doors closed and it was not possible to board. The oneworld desk booked us on DL. I later called AA and did get my BOS-JFK miles posted and so should you. While it was inconvenient to change terminals, etc. I didn’t ask for compensation (the AA flight was on the runway for hours before taking off ) as we got home.

      I flew LX J from BER-ZRH-EWR on a United award ticket. We missed our connection and were offered food and accommodation and booked the following day. Swiss refused EU261 more than once (with different reasons – like literally lying each time) so I wrote a letter to the Swiss CEO and Chairman of the Board. It was escalated to “premium” customer service and approved.

      Don’t take no for an answer.

    4. IrishAlan Member

      You’re actually entitled to EU261 compensation at 50% of the normal rate on any flight originating in the EU EVEN if they endorse you over to another carrier AND you arrive over 4 hours later than your original scheduled arrival time. If you arrived 3:55 after original scheduled arrival, no comp.
      I had this exact scenario with an AC flight this summer where my connection was missed at YYZ and there were no flights...

      You’re actually entitled to EU261 compensation at 50% of the normal rate on any flight originating in the EU EVEN if they endorse you over to another carrier AND you arrive over 4 hours later than your original scheduled arrival time. If you arrived 3:55 after original scheduled arrival, no comp.
      I had this exact scenario with an AC flight this summer where my connection was missed at YYZ and there were no flights on AC for almost a day. They endorsed me over to AA for my connection and it got me in 4:15 late. They paid the EU261 claim based on my providing the exact statute language.

  8. Elon Musk Guest

    You are executive platinum and you got swindled. Customers that are delayed overnight with no status are compensated a $200 voucher. As executive platinum status with an overnight delay, you should have been compensated minimum $600 voucher and up to $1,000 voucher. I have friends that threaten customer relations that they would take their business with another airline if they did not receive a higher compensation amount and then customer relations folds and gives them...

    You are executive platinum and you got swindled. Customers that are delayed overnight with no status are compensated a $200 voucher. As executive platinum status with an overnight delay, you should have been compensated minimum $600 voucher and up to $1,000 voucher. I have friends that threaten customer relations that they would take their business with another airline if they did not receive a higher compensation amount and then customer relations folds and gives them their $600 - $1,000 voucher. Send another email to customer relations and tell them to give you a $600 voucher or you cut up your credit card and leave.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Says the one of the biggest swindlers in the present day, if you are really Elon.

    2. Sel, D. Guest

      Not everyone feels like being a bottom-feeding scumsucker. Lucky’s request was measured and reasonable. Only losers do what you explained, similar to begging for CC retention offers.

    3. Bill c Guest

      And the airlines surely love you as a customer. Congrats!

    4. FlyerDon Guest

      You can’t be the real Elon Musk…he doesn’t have any friends.

  9. GroeneMichel Member

    So they did not compensate for your hotel? The USA is wild in terms of not protecting flying customers...

    1. Sel, D. Guest

      I’m sure Lucky booked his flight with a CC that has travel protection and was compensated for his stay and other incidentals. Additionally he received stay credit for Hyatt. If he left it to AA they wouldn’t have booked him at the GHDFW, and he wouldn’t have gotten any stay credit at the local Best Western or Hampton Inn.

  10. George Romey Guest

    I've been an elite member on AA since 2001 of which 15 or so of those years I've been EXP. No more than 5 times in 20 plus years I've proactively received compensation from AA, always in the form of miles. Even with massively delayed or cancelled flights nada. My theory is that if someone screamed loud and hard (wrote an email to the CEO) and AA decided to do a massive compensation to all...

    I've been an elite member on AA since 2001 of which 15 or so of those years I've been EXP. No more than 5 times in 20 plus years I've proactively received compensation from AA, always in the form of miles. Even with massively delayed or cancelled flights nada. My theory is that if someone screamed loud and hard (wrote an email to the CEO) and AA decided to do a massive compensation to all passengers of that flight. Otherwise, if you want compensation you'd need to write in.

    I've only done that once. Years ago the Captain and the GA got into a very loud argument at LGA causing the flight to be delayed and I missed my connection at ORD (I saw it firsthand sitting in 1F). I wrote in and was pleasantly told by AA to go pound sand. I was an EXP at the time.

  11. Chris Guest

    Actually, airlines CAN retrieve the price of a ticket in the past (at least on Amadeus, no idea about AA since they use Sabre). So, if the fare differential was material, one could and should push it further.

  12. Optimist Guest

    If you book business class and are downgraded to economy for a reason within the airline’s control, surely a chargeback on the grounds of goods/services not as described would succeed?

  13. D3kingg Guest

    Well done Ben ! I was thought your email came across as a bit docile but it was great. You are for sure a valued customer at American Airlines. Congrats on the $182 and 12,500 miles .

  14. Icarus Guest

    However if within the airlines’s control you can still claim for damages under the Montreal convention. So for example, if you bought a new ticket with another airline which was more expensive they should refund the difference. You can also claim for other losses.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      While this specific trip should be covered, you do know that the Montreal convention only covers "international" travel right?

    2. Icarus Guest

      Yes. You can however still make similar claims for damages as it’s not in the airlines’s interest if within their control and they don’t make a reasonable effort to re accommodate.

  15. Patrick Guest

    "...but will almost never come in the form of cash or a refund." Unless you are SWA and have screwed up royally then they throw everything at you.
    I got:
    25,000 points (x2)
    Reimbursement (cash) for booking alternative travel on AA
    Full refund for SWA flight
    Cash refund for upgraded boarding position
    Credit for missed flight that would have given me A-list status

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Wow Patrick, that's your compensation.

      Imagine how much did Mayor Pete get. And we're not even talking of how much it cost airlines when Pete's NOTAM meltdown a week later.

  16. SubwayNut Guest

    Did American cover your hotel in Dallas since it was mechanical?
    Last May I sent Delta a message that was entirely a commendation to ground crew staff at South Bend, our hometown airport (after the Delta app glitched and said our bags were sent to baggage claim in DTW, they were loaded on our connecting flight) on an itinerary that I changed the morning of after being notified of a delay with our original...

    Did American cover your hotel in Dallas since it was mechanical?
    Last May I sent Delta a message that was entirely a commendation to ground crew staff at South Bend, our hometown airport (after the Delta app glitched and said our bags were sent to baggage claim in DTW, they were loaded on our connecting flight) on an itinerary that I changed the morning of after being notified of a delay with our original flights that would result in us missconnecting. Our new intinerary left slight earlier and was actually a big improvement on what was originally booked, getting us home much early.
    3 Months later I got a series of emails from Delta, that they were giving me and wife $200 travel vouchers each and a link to a $50 gift card each from a veriety of merchants (could have gotten Delta credit, but redeemed it for Starbucks, want 5x the Amex points for airfare purchases).

    Just arrived yesterday in San Juan, Puerto Rico after a mechanical delay in South Bend, made us missconnect with an overnight in Atlanta (Delta provided hotel, Marriot on the SkyTrain and meal vouchers). Sent another email with commendatations for the super helpful staff in South Bend, plus the agent in the SkyClub and entire crew on our final ATL-MIA flight where our FA on our final flight offered us 1,000 SkyMiles as an "Inflight Service Inconvience Bounus" that have already posted (I think because me and my wife were seperated by the gate agent after being assigned seats in the SkyClub togehter since we were on sperate reservations) plus a pass of First Class Snack Basket, and a leftover cheese plate, but am optomistic to get results similar to when I wrote in with my commendation last May. Curious if my wife's $170 one-way Basic Economy ticket (booked 6 weeks ago) gets less compensation than my last minute one-way $478 ticket (I only decided to join her on this trip 48 hours in advance).

  17. MeanMeosh Member

    I would add one thing. If you specifically prefer funny money over miles or vice versa, don't be afraid to ask for exactly what it'll take to make you go away. AA stranded my wife overnight in Chicago a few years ago due to a weather issue at DFW. I ended up paying a little over $200 to get her a room at the Hilton. I knew there was no chance of getting a reimbursement...

    I would add one thing. If you specifically prefer funny money over miles or vice versa, don't be afraid to ask for exactly what it'll take to make you go away. AA stranded my wife overnight in Chicago a few years ago due to a weather issue at DFW. I ended up paying a little over $200 to get her a room at the Hilton. I knew there was no chance of getting a reimbursement for the hotel since it was weather, but I specifically asked for a $250 voucher as a goodwill gesture (we were about to book another trip anyway and she couldn't care less about the miles). They gave her the funny money on the first attempt and everyone went home happy.

    1. Evan Guest

      Also, be reasonable in the request. I see too many requests for lost wages, pain and suffering, blah, blah, blah. Stick to the core of the issue. In this case, you asked for funny money to cover the hotel. Simple and straight to the point.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      Pain and suffering, that's what sets the leeches who practice laws apart.

      Wrongful death, only works if you didn't rig the system and go fight a proxy war that never happen on the wrong side of an imaginary line far far away from your actual border in the name of Freedom?

    3. Stuart in Georgia Guest

      Whaaaaat??

    4. Stuart in Georgia Guest

      This was directed at Eskimo.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

GroeneMichel Member

So they did not compensate for your hotel? The USA is wild in terms of not protecting flying customers...

3
IrishAlan Member

You’re actually entitled to EU261 compensation at 50% of the normal rate on any flight originating in the EU EVEN if they endorse you over to another carrier AND you arrive over 4 hours later than your original scheduled arrival time. If you arrived 3:55 after original scheduled arrival, no comp. I had this exact scenario with an AC flight this summer where my connection was missed at YYZ and there were no flights on AC for almost a day. They endorsed me over to AA for my connection and it got me in 4:15 late. They paid the EU261 claim based on my providing the exact statute language.

2
_ar Guest

2 experiences from last year: I was on a paid J, AA ticketed LHR-BOS-JFK flight (the latter flight on AA). BA gave us our BOS-JFK boarding pass which didn’t scan on boarding. Apparently, they “took over” the ticket and canceled our second segment (no one knows why – another passenger had the same issue). The doors closed and it was not possible to board. The oneworld desk booked us on DL. I later called AA and did get my BOS-JFK miles posted and so should you. While it was inconvenient to change terminals, etc. I didn’t ask for compensation (the AA flight was on the runway for hours before taking off ) as we got home. I flew LX J from BER-ZRH-EWR on a United award ticket. We missed our connection and were offered food and accommodation and booked the following day. Swiss refused EU261 more than once (with different reasons – like literally lying each time) so I wrote a letter to the Swiss CEO and Chairman of the Board. It was escalated to “premium” customer service and approved. Don’t take no for an answer.

2
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