Reader Question: Missed American Airlines Flight & Rebooking Difficulties


A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about missing American Airlines flight to MBJ (Montego Bay – Jamaica).


Remember that you can always email me, send a message via Facebook or use Twitter and include photos too. I’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

Here’s the email from the reader:

Hey John, maybe you can tell me how I can make the best of this issue… This is the email I sent through but just as a complaint, I can’t reach any other way, and it had a character limit, I’ll finish it here.

Here’s the complaint to AA:

Confirmation REMOVED 20 December 2016- your agent, Portia P made us late then denied us boarding PHL-MBJ because we were then late. All along chastising us, that is, myself and my 8 year old son. Then she partially looked for another flight  on AA only, via Charlotte, NC. I asked her to stop chastising us, she walked away- leaving us with no recourse.

I called American Express because they have a travel service and I am a platinum member, they put us on a Delta connection, it cost more than twice as much.  I can’t get a signal to call AA platinum elite to reach you, this is all I can do.

A nice AA agent named Francis booked us on the next available AA flight, standby, which is tomorrow. I am faced with not only the $4200 cost of the Delta tickets, but also the loss of $900 for the non-refundable tickets, but also $400 in change fees to not have a total loss.  I understood the rules but this is not fair because your agent caused us to be late.

How this happened: we arrived at 9am for a 10am flight, there was unusual traffic due to an accident. I had tried on December 19 to check in online, but the site said there was a problem that I needed to check in at the airport, so we had to go to the ticket counter where 4 AA agents were standing chatting to each other.

I went directly to them and said I am platinum elite and my son is gold elite, out flight leaves in an hour, can you help us? Portia P said “you should have come earlier…” As she went on I said I was aware of that but could she tell me where we should check in for priority? She said there are counters all over the airport.

We went to a business class lane, and waited. I asked an agent if we were waiting in the right place, she didn’t answer. I asked for a supervisor, she said one was coming. We continued to wait. About 10 minutes later we had our turn and that agent said it was too late. It was something like 913am. Then the supervisor showed up, it was the same Portia P. I asked her for help and she continued to tell us how we were at fault, my son started getting upset. He has Aspergers. 

Another of the chatting agents came to Portia to let her know another family was showing up late for the same flight, he said to her “I want you to tell them the same thing, they can’t get on the flight.” Portia was intermittently looking for another way to get us to MBJ, but only on AA, and the only options were to stay over in Charlotte or fly tomorrow nonstop. She said she got us through Charlotte, I said I don’t want to sleep in Charlotte.  She said, in the same continuous chastising tone, I TOLD YOU YOU WERENT LISTENING TO ME- and so on , I saw my son starting to get upset and asked Portia to please just help us find a flight, and Portia “dropped the mike”. She just turned away and said something like well I am not going to help you at all.” She left us at the counter with our bags and my son crying.

I called American Express, and while I was talking to them, Francis, an agent for a nearby counter, came to help us as much as he could. The connection via Charlotte was some sort of late night connection, like arrive at midnight in Charlotte and leave at 5am … Something like that.  meanwhile the Amex agent found us the last 2 first class seats PHLMBJ via ATLANTA, for $2100 each. Our coach American tickets were $420 each, and to change them will cost $200 each.

Francis kindly put us on standby for tomorrow’s 8am nonstop, giving me a little breathing room to figure out what I am going to do. I write to you now from the gate in PHL, waiting for our flight to Atlanta.

What’s my best move?

Pay to change the flights to a future date, and even so, if I don’t know the right date, I guess I’d have to pay $200 again to change them again, that’s the same as the cost of the tickets.

No show the standby, complain to my credit card company (it’s a Marriott Chase card, and I am platinum for life with Marriott).  They usually help me but since I paid for the replacement ticket with Amex, had to, because I needed their travel service.  I don’t have a smartphone capable of booking flights and such, I was stuck.

If American would just let me use the value of the tickets for future flights, like a voucher, I’d be happy with that.

One more twist, tomorrow I will be in Jamaica, it’s difficult and expensive for me to be making calls until I get back to the US on Jan 3, 2017.

When complaining to an airline or hotel it is utmost important to be as concise and clear as possible. Main points should be differentiated using bullet points.

Seems that from the email above that the passengers arrived to the airport late. It is irrelevant to the airline what the reason for the delay is. US airlines often have “flat tire” rules in place where late passengers are accommodated on later flights on standby basis.

The passengers couldn’t check in online. They should have proceeded to the Platinum check in and not to the service desk.

Airlines often have clear cut off times. If the flight is closed 60 minutes before scheduled departure time and you show up at the desk 59 minutes before, you are basically lost. Many airlines outside of the United States have rules in place that there is no value left on non-refundable tickets if you don’t show up to your flight.

There is no point trying to do a chargeback on the American Airlines tickets if they were not at fault as it appears to be from the email above.

American Airlines offered to rebook the passengers on the connecting service requiring an overnight in Charlotte or on direct service the following morning.

Buying an alternative ticket on Delta is probably a wise move if passengers really have to be in Jamaica on the same date and cannot arrive day late on American Airlines service. It is unclear what the fare rules are on the first class Delta tickets. They could be refundable or then not.


It is unfortunate to miss flights around the holidays when the planes are mostly full and everyone could be stressed (both the pax and the employees).

It is also difficult to change flights in case of missing flights or airline caused delays. I missed a flight on Saturday last week and had to buy alternate one (read more here) using miles. I don’t blame Malaysia Airlines for me sleeping late.

I would have taken the AA’s offer via Charlotte and booked a night at some hotel near the airport or the direct one day later IF I could arrive day later to the Jamaica. Not sure if that was the case here.

I hope that the reader got to Jamaica and has been able to work with American Airlines to keep some credit live from the tickets purchased.

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  • Danny

    I think he should be able to get credit for the AA flight minus the change fee. He wasn’t a “no show.” His best offer was to stay overnight in Charolette but sometimes we don’t realize that until many days afterward upon reflection.

    • SeattleGuy

      From what I understand, when he came to the counter later than their cutoff time, he forfeited his tix, period. There is no reason to expect any airline to change their rules for non-refundable tix just because someone was caught in traffic or whatever.

      • Danny

        The “no show” time starts at departure time according to the contract of carriage:

        Non-refundable ticket validity

        “If the ticketed reservations are canceled prior to the ticketed departure time, the ticket will be valid as follows:

        Wholly unused tickets: Travel must commence with one year from the original ticket issue date. For example; if a ticket is issued on June 1, 2012, the new ticket travel must commence no later than June 1, 2013.

        Any fare difference and applicable change fees must be paid and tickets must be reissued when the itinerary is rebooked.

        • Richard

          The issue is check in time / arrival at gate time. The noted non-refundable ticket validity applied to cancellation by the passenger prior to departure. The passenger did not cancel the ticket, the passenger did not meet the requirements of the check in time (60 minutes for international flight) / arrival at gate time (30 minutes for international flight). The passenger is fully at fault.

        • SeattleGuy

          The reason most airlines allow this buffer is to board flights. Sometimes that takes 45 minutes. In addition, they need to fill the seats of late pax with standbys if they can. Most budget carriers overseas will announce last call even before passengers have disembarked from the arriving flight so everyone is lined up and ready to board.

          It’s all about bottom line profit and they have a right to close the flight which is spelled out in the T&Cs of your ticket.

  • Joe

    I am thinking he did not have a seat and that is why online check-in did not work. Since he was not checked in on time, they did not even need to offer credits for voluntary bumps. Probably hard on the time since it was an international flight.

    Reminds me on one flight I overheard a girl talking. She was standby on our flight due to “missing her flight”. She lost a day of vacation in the same manner (was going LAX to MBJ, but had to go via DFW and overnight). She didn’t want to wait in the long boarding line so she went and got/drank a coffee. About 10 minutes before flight she went to board. Not sure if they gave away her seat or had “closed the door”.
    I guess in Australia they can just walk onboard a the last minute. Anyway a long day(s) for her when coming from SYD.

  • Chris

    Just goes to show, make sure you arrive at the airport early. Particularly if you have special needs such as a disabled child.

    • Xavier

      Wikipedia: “is a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests” I don’t see any disabilities here.

      • Richard

        Autism spectrum disorder, a.k.a. Aspergers, is in fact a disability from a legal perspective. You do not not necessarily need to see a disability for the disability to exist. I have Aspergers.

      • CV3V

        Are the words ‘developmental disorder’ not a big enough clue that it’s a disability??

  • Jason

    You need to ensure you have plenty of time especially when traveling with a retarded child. Many airlines will be flexible with non ref tickets but you can not expect them to be. I find it really frustrating that people leave no contingency in there airport travel time then run around like idiots.
    In future you and your retarded son should get to the airport with extra time in hand!

    • cscasi

      I agree that they needed to get there a lot earlier than they did, especially since he was alerted when he could not check in online the day before; that he needed to check in at the airport. That means get to the airport with an extra hour or so more than normal to get whatever needs to be resolved, resolved. He said he was held up in traffic; well, another reason why one needs to allow “extra” time above and beyond; especially right before Christmas and other peak travel periods!
      Of course, as usual, we only have one side of the story as to how things unfolded. It could be that the agent was not as sweet as she could have been or perhaps when she told him that he was late and…. he could have said something to her that caused he not to help him; just like he did when he went to the Business line and asked if he was in the right line and wanted a supervisor. (should have waited his turn and he probably would have gotten the help he needed; not start off asking for a supervisor. Again, I was not there, so what I say here is only supposition.
      The crux of the problem is that he was late; too late to catch the flight after getting something corrected, check bags, go through security and walk who knows how far to his gate.
      Sorry he lost all or most of the value of his original tickets. He could have waited until the next day or taken the flight to CLT and waited. The best he could get back would be $220 per ticket after the $200 change fees and that would just be a credit good for a year from the original purchase date of the tickets. That’s life.

      By the way: By definition, the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome excludes Mental Retardation as the diagnostic criteria quite clearly state that there is no significant delay in cognitive development and the development in self help skills, in-fact people with AS generally have higher intellectual ability than the normal population, it’s legally classified as a social disability, but it’s NOT a form of Mental Retardation nor is it a Mental illness, it is in-fact a neurological difference.
      So, perhaps you are in error when you spoke to his “retarded child” in you above comment?

    • I wish that you had used a different word.

      • Really!!!

        Agreed – in all honesty John, this posting / comment needs to be removed.
        The use of “retarded”, especially its misuse, is up there with any racist term.

        • Sometimes the word used could be acceptable in one language but not in other and LoyaltyLobby has worldwide audience. I just hope that we could be respectful of each other even when we might disagree.

  • Richard

    I read “arrived at 9am for a 10am flight” and stopped reading. Bad planning.

    • Danny

      Maybe next time you can read the whole story and help someone who is asking. It is Christmas after all. Have you ever make a mistake and needed advice? If you fall down and break your leg because of a misstep should we all look down upon you and say “you shouldn’t have stepped there!” and walk away without helping you? Help your neighbor and make this world a better place.

      • Richard

        The bible study class awaits you. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? The customer service representatives do not read beyond the first 25 words of the complaint. Zero planning.

        • CV3V

          Not necessarily bible class, all religions encourage being a decent human being and helping each other in a time of need. It’s quite common.

  • Flyboy

    Passenger arrived late for check in. He was probably anxious and he might have probably been too harsh with his words to the check in. Once you are perceived ‘rude’ to the check in staff, they can just stop right away.. irrespective of who is right. Being nice is all is required at times.