DENVER — Bound for the Caribbean in just a few days, Denver resident Sam Taussig thought he was just being overly cautious.
“I’m a frequent traveler, and this almost got me. On July 4th, I was being meticulous, and I logged into the American Airlines app to check our seating arrangements,” Taussig said of his family trip. “I wanted to ensure we were all sitting together.”
The nine of them were traveling as a big family and not sitting together, and they weren’t even on the same American Airlines return flight they had booked way back in January.
“I noticed we were flying out of a different country,” Taussig said. “We were flying out of St. Lucia instead of St. Vincent, and I thought that was really strange. It must have been a mistake. The customer service agent said, ‘Yes, I’m sorry, sir. You’re in an overbooked situation, and we have moved your flight from St. Vincent to St. Lucia,’ which is about 100 miles away as the crow flies and five islands north. And I said, ‘Well, that’s insane. We have to change this back. This is not acceptable.’”
Taussig said it got worse from there when he tried to rebook.
“Then, they’re going to charge us exorbitant change fees and reticketing fees and split reservation fees totaling almost $30,000 to bring us home a week later,” he said.
Travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights based in Denver said there are things airline passengers should know.
“You’re entitled to a full cash refund if the airline cancels or significantly changes your flight,” said Scott Keyes with Scott’s Cheap Flights. “I would say departing from a different country would constitute a significant change.”
American Airlines responded that it sent Taussig an e-mail back in April. The email notified Taussig of the schedule change resulting in a shift in his itinerary. American Airlines said in those instances, customers do have the option of seeking a full refund, or they can make additional changes to their flights. In this case, the airline said the customer took no action until July.
Taussig has filed a 19-page complaint with American Airlines and rebooked out of a third country, Barbados. He booked a private island hopper plane to get the group from St. Vincent to Barbados, which comes at an additional expense to the family.
“I found a private charter, basically $2,000 for all of us to get out the following day, which is still expensive,” Taussig said.
Taussig said American Airlines would charge $3,000 in change fees for the flight out of Barbados.
“I went back and forth with the supervisor, and she finally, finally agreed to waive the change fees, but she told me I should be so lucky that these fees are being waived because ‘We’re putting American Airlines out $3,000 in revenue,’ which I just think is a fantastical thing to say because the entire reason we’re here is because American overbooked us to maximize their profit in the first place.”
Taussig and his group will fly out this Friday, July 15.
“I think it’s shameful for American Airlines to obfuscate a country change,” Taussig said. “To bury it in an opaque e-mail. American Airlines should really not put this burden on American families that just want to get out of town. Delta offered passengers $10,000 to change their flight, and American Airlines tried to charge me almost $30,000 to change mine. I didn’t expect in the world of possibilities that my departure country would be changed.”
This article was written by Russell Haythorn for KMGH.