As I wrote about in January, I flew American Airlines to Buenos Aires on an old 777-200 aircraft - choosing to upgrade to business class at the last second. I did this, in part, because of AA's long-standing policy that upgrading an award ticket does not result in a change fee. I made sure to confirm the policy with the phone rep before triggering the upgrade.
Well, low and behold I received the below email on the day of the flight, January 21, 2015. $175 was charged to my Citi AA Platinum card, a violation of the aforementioned policy.
I've been wrongly charged by airlines on a fairly consistent basis. So that wasn't a huge issue - just email them, get the refund and go on about my day, right?
Wrong. What followed that $175 charge were eight emails (three unanswered), seven phone calls, two fraud complaints to Citi, one DOT complaint and...five months in wait time!
After the first few emails and phone calls went nowhere, this quest was about more than $175. Airlines tend to operate on their own standards, with 22 hour delays, ridiculous enforcement of rules and downright rude behavior sometimes being the norm. As a customer, you'd like to believe you have rights and a means of expressing them.
After discouraging efforts with AA and Citi, what finally did the trick was filing a DOT complaint. This was the first time I've had to do this and I was surprised with how professional the process was handled and the expediency of the issue being resolved. I made my complaint on May 26, AA acknowledged the complaint on June 4 and I received the refund notice on June 27.
I'm not sure how I feel at this point. AA was/is going through a lot with the US Airways merger and it is telling that the US Airways online refund system notified me. That may be good news for refund requests (and tracking those requests) in the future with AA.
At the same time, having a customer jump through that many hoops to receive a refund is a little absurd - no matter the circumstances. On multiple occasions I was told by a phone manager that my refund was being processed. They may have thought that was the case, but it wasn't true.
In conclusion, if AA isn't getting back to you and your complaint is valid, file with the DOT. There is a government mandate to resolve the complaint within 60 days, a mandate that is far more effective than any company policy or helpful agent. Do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes.