Home & Leisure



It's not safe for me to fly. Can I get a refund for my American Airlines ticket?

Christopher Elliott on

Betty Barrett cancels her flight from Fort Myers, Fla., to Birmingham, Ala. at the start of the pandemic. Why won't American Airlines refund her ticket?

Q: I recently used part of a $721 ticket credit on American Airlines to book a flight from Fort Myers, Fla., to Birmingham, Ala., to see my grandson perform with the Alabama Ballet. I used $616 in credit and paid a $200 change fee.

Unfortunately, that was one of the first weekends of the pandemic, so the Alabama Ballet canceled its performances. I canceled the flight, fearful of the virus. This left me with a credit of $616, which is good until early 2021.

I am turning 86 in a couple of weeks. The pandemic has grown since then, and since I am in the most vulnerable age group, I am not going anywhere, and am unlikely to travel for a long time, if at all. That is a lot of money to throw away and not be able to use. I am therefore requesting a refund, or an alternative, if there is one, to receive a credit I can allow someone else to use.

American Airlines won't offer a refund or a voucher that I can let someone else use. Can you help me? -- Betty Barrett, Huntington, W.Va.

A: American Airlines should help you use your credit -- but technically, it doesn't have to.

The terms of your ticket purchase were clear. You had a nonrefundable ticket, which allowed you to cancel your flight and receive a credit. Back then, American also charged a $200 change fee (it has since stopped the practice for most tickets).

Your case is a little complicated. You canceled your first ticket and received a $721 credit. Then you rebooked a new flight, paying a change fee, and canceled your second ticket. That left you with another credit. But you can't use that credit now because of the pandemic.


Airlines are not in a good place. They insist that flying is safe, but the risks of travel during the pandemic are undeniable. If you're in an at-risk group, staying home is a sensible move, even if you lose the value of your ticket credit.

American Airlines should have shown some compassion since you are in a high-risk age group. But as I already mentioned, it didn't have to. It was following the rules of your original ticket purchase. And you agreed to those rules when you booked your original flight.

In a situation like this, you're better off sending a direct appeal to a manager at the airline. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the American Airlines customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

You reached out to American by email. A representative responded quickly, granting your request for a transferable voucher. You'll be able to give the voucher to another family member, so the money won't go to waste.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help

© 2021 Christopher Elliott.




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