Sometimes flying can be the worst thing in the world. Getting bumped, delays, incompetent airline employees, crying children, or sitting on the tarmac for hours. All of these situations you might find yourself sending angry tweets, yelling on the phone to customer service, or just getting incredibly upset and irritated.
Though sometimes…it’s worth it.
If you’re smart, and you know your rights, these awful situations can come out to be a good thing.
That’s how my fiancé and I made $2,170 in straight cash from getting bumped by American Airlines.
So Here’s What Happened
1. We purchased tickets for a flight that was set to board at 5:15pm and leave at 5:40pm. This flight was going from Wilmington, NC to Charlotte, NC. Our connecting flight was heading out that evening going from Charlotte, NC to Minneapolis, MN.
2. The flight to Charlotte was delayed about 6 times until it was delayed to 8:36pm.
3. The announcer advised us to switch our flight as they predicted it was going to continue delaying until the flight would be most likely have to be canceled.
4. We switched our flight to a different one that was scheduled to leave at 8:02pm instead.
5. It was announced later that our original flight was then projected to come in earlier around 8:00pm after all.
6. Then, we found out the new flight we switched to was delayed to 10:20pm! Our connecting flight to Minneapolis was leaving Charlotte at 10:15pm so this means we wouldn’t even make our connection.
7. We called American to quickly switch our flight BACK to the original one since that was now boarding and we would be able to make it.
8. American Airlines successfully switched our flight tickets back and we were super happy. He said to go up to the desk and get our boarding passes printed.
9. When we got up to the desk, they said that the flight was full… EVEN though we had confirmed our 2 tickets on that flight on the phone. There were actually no seats available it turns out.
10. Now understandably, we were upset because we were lied to essentially, and they had oversold the flight.
11. Customer service told us the only option was to switch our flight to the next day.
12. When asked for a refund or compensation (anything), customer service told us that there was nothing that she could do at the desk and that we would have to contact customer relations.
13. We contacted customer relations.
14. We were on the phone with them for an hour and he was no help. The best he could do was direct us to a “Contact Us” form on their website with no promise of a refund (or anything), just the promise that we would get a response in 2 business days.
15. The person on the phone said that he was not authorized/it wasn’t his department to help with us and we asked how we could get on the phone with someone who COULD help us. This is now the 2nd time we’ve been directed in a different direction for who we should be talking to.
16. He told us we could either submit our request online or go in the morning (at like 4 am) to talk to customer relations to resolve the issue (again, with only the promise that we would get a response, nothing else).
17. We filled out the online form, and got a simple “Thanks for contacting us!” So we asked the customer service rep on the phone, would it help if we also go in at 4am to talk to someone in person?
18. He said that since we already filled out the form they would not be able to help us in person. Because apparently, submitting a form online overrules having a conversation in person since your inquiry has already been submitted…
19. Now we’re stuck with this and we were told we’d be waiting till Tuesday for a “response” from submitting the online form.
Admitting Defeat And Suffering More Delays
So, we ended up staying the night in Wilmington, NC and taking the next flight out the following day.
Our first flight to (now Philadelphia) was on time, however, when we got there…there were no gates. There was a storm the night before, which was reeking havoc on the Philly airport. All the delayed flights were now taking up the gates, leaving the on-time flights to suffer. We waited on the tarmac for an hour and a half…which made us miss our connecting flight to Minnesota.
We got bumped…AGAIN.
The next flight available was at 3pm, so Robbie and I had a…wonderful day spent at the Philly airport.
We finally made it to Minnesota that evening. Groggy and irritated. This part of the story doesn’t relate to our end compensation since this was due to a weather scenario, but just another painful experience of our travel.
3 Days Later, American Airlines Responds
So remember when we filled out that online form with a promised response?
Well, we got that response…
I won’t share the entire email, but here’s the paragraph explaining what they were going to provide for us in compensation.
“Your continued business means a great deal to us and I’d like to be sure that we get another chance to provide you with the kind of trip you should expect when flying with American Airlines. With that in mind, I have made arrangements for a $300 eVoucher (via a separate email) for each of you to use toward the purchase of a ticket to travel with us. We respectfully decline your request for a refund of your tickets.”
This was infuriating. $300 voucher?! That didn’t even cover the cost of our flight, we had at least expected a full refund.
This is where “everything happens for a reason” comes into play…
How We Made $2,170 From American Airlines
The next day we were eating breakfast with Robbie’s parents. Robbie’s mom notices an article in the Star Tribune about knowing your rights as a passenger. It was called “Know your rights as a passenger — and brace yourself for overbooked flights this summer”. Click here to read the article.
It was kinda crazy that she saw this article at this specific time because this is what made this story happen.
We looked up the specifics of the law from the U.S. Department of Transportation after reading the article.
Here’s what it says under “Involuntary Bumping”
- If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
- If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.
- If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).
We fell into #3!!
So, we shot back this response to American Airlines.
“Dear American Airlines,
If the above situation was the case, I would gladly accept the $300 voucher. However, we did not miss our flight due to mechanical issues. We missed our flight because we were overbooked for the earlier flight leaving for Charlotte. Being overbooked we were then bumped and as a result made it to our final destination almost 24 hours past our original travel time.
In accordance with DOT regulations, we are entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of cash or check which, is a 400% refund of the one-way value of our booked ticket because we arrived over 4 hours past our original arrival time.
If you have any questions please visit DOT’s fly rights brochure https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights
A little salty…but effective.
What happened next?
We get an apology email and we were offered a check for $1,085, EACH!
Despite all the anger we had felt towards American Airlines, they certainly came through in the end. Well, I mean…they had to…it’s the law 🙂
Moral of the story: Know your rights. Don’t accept defeat. Be a little salty from time to time.