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Basic Economy, Basic Humanity? American Airlines Faces Backlash as Grieving Mother Denied Ticket Refund After Son’s Tragic Death

Basic Economy, Basic Humanity? American Airlines Faces Backlash as Grieving Mother Denied Ticket Refund After Son’s Tragic Death

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American Airlines refused to refund the cost of a ticket to a grieving mother whose son had just died in tragic circumstances because an automated customer service system didn’t work as intended.

The airline only changed its stance once the distraught mom took to TikTok earlier this week to share her story in a video which quickly went viral.

Identified only as Jackie, the woman explains how she had to send her deceased son’s death certificate to the airline to request a refund, only for American Airlines to respond with a generic email which didn’t even address her loss.

“I’m a mom grieving the loss of our son,” Jackie says in the TikTok video. “I just opened up this email from American Airlines, who I fly all the time”.

Jackie had purchased tickets for her son and his soon-to-be five-year-old daughter to fly from Tampa to Philadelphia on Christmas Eve to visit them for the Holidays. Sadly, tragedy struck the family a few weeks ago.

“My son took his life earlier this month. I’m devastated,” Jackie, who is clearly upset and holding back tears, continues.

“So I email American Airlines with his death certificate requesting refunds for his round trip, his two tickets to and from Tampa and Philly and his one-way daughter’s ticket from Tampa to Philly and, um, what they send me back in response: ‘We’re sorry your travel plans didn’t work out. You purchased a basic economy fare,’ blah blah blah.”

“They’re not going to refund me because my son’s travel plans ‘didn’t work out’. Wow. Do better American Airlines, do better will you.”

As more and more people started to watch Jackie’s upsetting video, one TikTok user reached out to her.

“Someone who works for American Airlines who saw my video responded to me and is going try to help because the email I received was basically a generic robot response which is not supposed to happen in this type of case. Hopefully, um, I’ll receive some good news,” Jackie explains in a follow-up video.

Last year, American Airlines introduced a fully automated customer relations system which auto responds to email complaints and enquiries without any human interaction or oversight.

Codenamed ‘Fast Eve,’ the system is meant to kick in when AA’s customer relations department can’t keep up with the rate of emails being received in order to get the backlog back down to a manageable level.

The system is, however, meant to detect enquiries that would require a human response, such as a bereavement, for example.

Thankfully, the person who reached out to Jackie on TikTok was able to flag her email for review by an actual human employee. On Friday, Jackie shared that American Airlines had finally refunded her the cost of the tickets.

“I woke up to an email from American Airlines: ‘We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused by the incorrect that was sent,” Jackie explains. “I can only assume that the person who reached out to me in TikTok was able to make contact with the correct people to help me get the tickets refunded.”

Although Jackie says she overwhelmingly received a positive response from other TikTok users, she also addressed the people who sent her “nasty messages” claiming it was her fault because she had purchased non-refundable Basic Economy tickets.

It’s okay not to feel okay.  There is always someone you can talk to in times of need, and you don’t have to deal with times of hardship or pain on your own. You can find confidential talking services in your local area by using the free search facility offered by Befrienders Worldwide.

View Comments (5)
    • Your comment is very harsh and insensitive. You call this woman cheap when you know nothing about her financial situation. Not everyone has the money to pay extra for a refundable ticket. I certainly can’t afford them most of the time. It doesn’t matter that they don’t normally refund these tickets. This is a unique situation and they should have responded with kindness and taken a different approach. As you can see, the response didn’t come from an actual person. It was generated by a machine which has no feelings. It saddens me to know that there are people in this world like you that can’t show some basic humanity.

  • I agree with Notwoke. Yes it is a crap situation, but AA warns you like 10 times before the purchase goes through that it is 100% non-refundable. Seems like there are bigger fish to fry other than fighting with AA if her son just died, but I guess that 200 bucks takes priority.

    • You should have some sympathy and show some basic humanity. It doesn’t matter that they normally don’t refund these tickets. Her son is DEAD. You make this harsh comment just like the person you agreed with that implies that she’s cheap. I’m sure the tickets were much more than $200 and that she needed the money for other things but that’s not even the point. The fact that you would say that she has bigger fish to fry than to fight with AA about $200 is just callous and insensitive. Have some basic decency for your fellow man/woman.

  • I don’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. But nonrefundable means no refund period. Lots of things cannot be returned or refunded.

    AA could generate some goodwill by issuing flight credits. But once you open the door everyone and their mother will be seeking one time exceptions.

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