Avios Award Ticket: Flight Cancellation

Last weekend I was supposed to attend the Chicago Seminars near ORD. I got a last minute event ticket for free so I booked flights there and back with British Airways Avios on American Airlines. I was only able to stay for the Saturday sessions so I booked a hotel room with points as well since cash prices were through the roof. I was all set to get there late Friday night and depart Saturday evening.

On that Friday I went to the airport as usual for my flight. Everything was fine until boarding was supposed to start. I knew something was up but the agents were on the phone a lot and not making any announcements. We certainly were not going to depart on time. I checked the flight status on my phone with no updates there either. With the Admiral’s Club already closed all I could do is sit and wait.

Finally they announce a gate change–to a gate with no plane. I could quickly see where this was going so I was waiting on the official word. The agent finally announced that a crew member was missing so we could not fly. They gave our plane to a heavily delayed (7+ hours) flight to New York. We were not going to Chicago tonight. There were no alternate flights on any airline going that night. My quick Chicago trip plans had fallen to pieces.

There was a long line of people at the gate trying to get hotels for the night and re-booked. I lived in Atlanta so a hotel did not interest me. I called AA as a last ditch effort to see what my options were. The only flight I could get on would only give me 6 hours on the ground in ORD. Not even close to worth my time to travel there and back!

The British Airways USA Avios phone line was closed by the time I figured out I needed to cancel my travel plans. I left the airport and went back home and would call them in the morning to see if I could get my points back. I spent 18,000 Avios for the trip so I definitely wanted to get them back!

Saturday morning I called British Airways. I quickly got connected to a very helpful agent who took my request and put me on a brief hold to get supervisor approval for the cancellation. He came back and said everything had been cancelled and refunded! I checked my Avios account and saw the 18,000 miles had come back. I was happy with the result.

Unfortunately I was not so lucky with my hotel points. They became non-refundable at 6PM on Friday which is about 3.5 hours before my scheduled flight departure. I wrote AA customer service and got a canned email saying they would not compensate me at all for their missing crew or the hotel points. At the very least they could have offered a voucher for my time spent at the airport when their crew member didn’t show up and they had no backup to send.

In this process I learned that getting refunded British Airways Avios is not difficult in a flight cancellation situation. I also learned that American Airlines doesn’t compensate you when they are at obvious fault for the cancellation. Knowing the rules of award tickets helps a lot in these stressful situations. Always wait until you are less upset then get it sorted out.