When a flight is oversold, airlines start looking for passengers willing to take a different (usually later) flight. The airlines typically use a voucher good for a future flight as the incentive to get passengers to accept the offer. I’d been reluctant to volunteer for these offers because I remember back when a friend of ours was given a voucher (good for a round-trip flight) years ago that was capacity limited. He was unable to use it to fly anywhere, and it eventually expired.
After hearing several offers at the airport for flights we were on, I decided to do a bit more research. I started by looking into Delta Dollars, since they were the airline offering compensation most often, and found out the vouchers are now the equivalent of a gift card that you can use for any flight operated by the airline.
I convinced myself that the next time the opportunity arose and the situation was right, I’d try to take the bump (and the money). It wasn’t long before we were proactively called by American Airlines about one of our flights that was oversold. They said if we moved from our connecting itinerary to a non-stop flight later in the day, they’d pay us $400 each in American e-Vouchers. I was told the only restriction was that I had to book a flight using the vouchers within a year.
Well, it’s coming up on a year and I still haven’t used the vouchers. Our trips for 2019 were mostly booked and American flights didn’t work well for our other destinations. The clock was ticking louder, so I started looking for upcoming trips to use the vouchers before they expired. I finally found one.
The seemingly straightforward process wasn’t as easy as I imagined. Here are some of the hiccups I discovered when trying to use my vouchers to book a simple one-way flight.
Choosing a flight
Since I was spending someone else’s money, I could afford to shop for the flights that best fit our schedule even if they were a bit more expensive than I’d usually pay. Limiting myself to American flights increased the cost of the flights, as I could have booked on Delta or Southwest and paid significantly less. As it turned out, American did have a flight with the best times that connected through Dallas. This was an important factor as I didn’t want to connect through one of the ex-US Airways hub cities (Charlotte, Philadelphia or Phoenix) because then we’d have no power outlets for the flight.
Booking a flight using American e-Vouchers
The process seems straightforward enough. This is the only information provided on the email with the vouchers.
Here is the transportation voucher you were promised. This voucher may be used toward the purchase of a ticket on American for yourself, or anyone you choose. **This voucher cannot be reissued after expiration**
When clicking through to American’s website, here’s their info on how to use your voucher.
American Airlines eVouchers are easy to redeem on AA.com. You may retrieve your eVoucher # and PIN # by clicking on the link sent to you via email.
On the payment screen, enter both the eVoucher # and PIN # exactly as they appear on the retrieval page. You may use up to eight eVouchers at one time. If the total price of the ticket exceeds the value of your eVoucher(s), you may use a credit card for any remaining balance.
So just go to book the ticket and enter the voucher amount on the payment screen. How hard can that be?
I selected a flight and the airfare for both of us was $610. I still had $190 left. What should I spend the rest of the money on?
I know that flying in an economy seat on American is not comfortable for longer flights and if I want to get any work done, I have to type like a T-Rex.
I selected Main Cabin Extra seats for our flights, which came to a little over $100 for each of us. When I went to check out, there was one problem. Nowhere on the payment page did I find a place to enter in an eVoucher.
American allowed me to put the reservation on hold for 24 hours (actually until midnight the following day). It was already late, so I decided to call after work the next night and find out what the problem was.
I called the American Airlines help desk. After a moderate, yet reasonable wait time, I was connected to a representative. I explained my problem and she looked up my reservation.
She immediately noted that I selected seats that require additional payment and that the website can not handle using an eVoucher with a such a reservation. They (American) are aware of the problem and are working on a fix. She could ticket it for me and charge me for the amount not covered by the vouchers. I wouldn’t need to pay for the phone ticket fee since the reservation could not be completed online.
Sounds good. I provided the voucher numbers and she said that all I needed to do was provide a credit card to pay the $200 for the seat fees.
I was told that the eVouchers can only be used to pay for airfare, not seat assignments. Great. I had no intention to pay over $200 in fees for seats on what was supposed to be a free flight. I asked if we could just cancel out what we’d done so far and I’d go back on the website to select seats myself.
What kind of BS is this that a voucher can’t be used for seats?
I found a blurb on the website that states the restrictions on the vouchers. Let me know if you think this means seat assignments aren’t covered?
eVouchers may not be used for upgrades, Admirals Club memberships enrollments, Admirals Club One-Day passes, AAdvantage Award Travel or other non-flight products and/or services sold on AA.com. eVouchers are valid for one year from date of issue and cannot be reissued after expiration.
I guess a seat assignment is considered an “upgrade” which is crazy since American charges for almost half the seats on the plane as either Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seating.
Booking The Flight (Part 2)
I went back to check the reservation and everything was the same as I left it. I went to the seat map and picked seats for our flights. I was “lucky” to snag the last two free economy seats for one of our flights, two middle seats located 5 rows apart.
When I went to the payment page, amazingly, the eVoucher payment option appeared. I was able to enter our numbers and book the flight.
Now that the flight is ticketed, I can go back and “upgrade” our seats by paying for seat assignments. On one segment, preferred seats are $17-$19 and MCE $37-$39 and the other segment preferred is $31-$37 and MCE costs $67. I’m going to be stuck paying at least $35 to get us out of our two middle seats on the first flight.
While this may be common knowledge to people who get eVouchers often, I was shocked to find out that seat assignment fees are not covered. I still have not found anywhere where this is explicitly spelled out in the terms and conditions. Saying vouchers are good for the purchase of a ticket is a bit misleading because people consider seat assignments (and baggage fees) as part of their ticket cost.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, that American’s website can’t handle booking a ticket with seat fees when using an eVoucher. I wonder if the fix that the rep talked about will ever happen. Maybe they shouldn’t fix the problem. This way, you still get to speak to a person to have them explain what should be spelled out on the initial email with the voucher.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary