American Airlines Refuses To Refund Ticket After Death

Our site may contain affiliate links. Read Advertiser Disclosure policy here.

Did you think American Airlines would let you cancel your ticket if you had a family emergency like a death in your family, think again. Here’s an interesting account of what happened to one family who lost their daughter and how American Airlines handled it.

American Airlines Refuses To Refund Ticket After Death

American Airlines Refuses To Refund Ticket After Death

Per the Economist,

“AFTER losing their nine year old daughter suddenly to an asthma attack, the Cantrell family from Illinois decided that they could not face going on the holiday they had booked. So they explained to American Airlines their tragic change of circumstance and asked whether they could cancel their tickets. American requested to see the death certificate, and then responded in the way that one would expect of any compassionate, customer-focused company: it refunded the ticket.

Eventually. In fact before it came to its senses, the story followed a well-worn and thoroughly depressing path. First the airline sent a letter to the family, saying it had no intention of returning the cost of the ticket:

After reviewing the documentation submitted, it has been determined the request does not meet our exception requirements. The ticket purchased is non-refundable so we cannot offer a refund, issue a travel voucher, or transfer this ticket to another person. The ticket will remain valid in our system for one year from the original date of issue, at which time it will expire and all value will be lost. […] As a one-time courtesy, authorization was documented in your reservation to waive the change fee assessed when a non-refundable ticket is changed. […] Your new ticket will be subject to any additional collection, if necessary, as governed by the applicable fares and fare rules in effect at that time.

The mother posted the letter on Facebook, social media poured opprobrium on the airline for its heartlessness, and the carrier swiftly backtracked. As soon it started to feel the heat, American announced that it had apologised and would refund the Cantrells. But not before its reputation, such as it is, had already taken a shoeing.

Bottom Line

Shame on American Airlines for this, and for not doing the right thing the first time around. Consumers shouldn’t have to resort to social media to get action, but sadly it seems like this is becoming more commonplace these days.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About Points, Miles & Martinis

Here at Points, Miles and Martinis, we love all things travel. We focus on topics relating to travel including destinations, airline, hotel, car rental and credit card reward programs. Our goal is to help people travel better. - See more at our About Us page.

Sign up for Email || Twitter || Facebook |Tips & Tricks
Hotel Offers || Airline Offers || Bank Offers || Cash Back Offers


  1. This is where Delta really shines…at least for Diamonds. As a Diamond, Delta has made numerous free changes for me and my partner, regardless of the reason. They have helped us out of a bind, like mis-connecting to/from another airline, more than once, and that is why we stick with Delta!

  2. Is there more to the story? “After reviewing the documentation submitted”
    Did they fail to provide the death certificate?

  3. Its a pity that American Airlines invests so much in marketing and on the hard product while having such a horrible land staff. We are Swiss frequent flyers so we are probably spoiled by Swiss Service but here are our recent two experiences with AA in less than six months.
    a) I was flying on a flight from Dallas to Mexico City and after waiting more than 4hours for a late departure (American Express lounge had already closed) AA finally boarded us on an older than me MD-11. They told us that the plane would be further delayed and those who wanted to leave the plane could do so. Some left. 10 minutes later they told us the plane had no crew available so we all had to disembark. (I guess it was their strategy to relocate passengers in batches). At the gate police was standing to make everybody feel that they could not complain since the AA staff was rerouting all passengers for the next day without any kind of compensation, re-routing options, or evan an we are sorry, all in an extremely rude manner. I got a via Chicago connection for next day from the manager which told me it was the ONLY option. (I later spoke to a kinder AA staff woman who could reroute me on a direct flight and American Express Centurion booked me a free hotel).
    B) My mother was having cancer chemotherapy sessions in Scottsdale Arizona. After it she had to take a flight to Los Angeles on US Airways and take LX Swiss flight to Zurich. We queued on the US Airways line for one hour (the tickets were US Airways but operated by AA) and when we got there they told us we had to redo the line at AA, told them about our situation but no compassion whatsoever. We finally got into the AA counter and a woman that didn’t even have eye contact with us told us we couldn’t board that plane because of the bags, etc, etc, etc, so we had to wait for next plane. On the way to security control my mother got very tired so we had to sit her and go for a wheel chair. Coming back to the counter the same woman told me that my mother had to come to the counter if she wanted the wheel chair with that same condescending, no eye contact AA service. After hours and finally taking the flight to LAX (which the plane was actually US Airways with AA crew) we finally boarded Swiss LX 41and it was son nice to heard the heavenly Gruetzi (Hi) of the Swiss immaculate smiling crew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *