American is one of the only US airlines I know of that still issues physical ticket credit vouchers. For example, if you need to cancel a ticket, you can call in and apply that value to a ticket just by mentioning the ticket number. However, if there’s any residual value after that, you’re issued a paper voucher. Even American’s bump vouchers are still issued as paper vouchers.
This is clearly intended to cause breakage, since they know people may lose them, and that some people may be discouraged by having to mail them in or visit an airport to ticket. That’s the only reason to issue paper vouchers for anything in 2017.
Over the weekend I noticed that I had a voucher from a previously canceled ticket that was nearing expiration, so I decided to use it to ticket a reservation I needed to make. The catch is that the ticket was for travel within a week. Usually I’d hold a ticket online and then go to the airport to ticket, but you can’t hold a ticket within a week.
I phoned up American to ask what my options were.
“Well, you can go to the airport to ticket it.”
“Okay, but I can’t hold it first?”
“No, you can’t hold it within a week, but they should be able to issue it at the airport.”
I had a flight out of LAX Monday morning, and arrived early and headed to the Admirals Club. I stopped at the customer service desk.
“Hi! Would you be able to help me with issuing a ticket using a residual ticket voucher that I have?”
“Do you already have a ticket on hold?”
“Nope, they wouldn’t let me put it on hold since it’s for travel within a week of departure.”
“Okay, you’re gonna have to be patient, but I’m happy to try.”
What followed was literally 75 minutes of the Admirals Club agents trying to teach themselves the system. It started off with one agent, and then eventually that agent called over another agent. “Hey, can you try to help me with something?”
Then when that agent couldn’t help, they called over another person.
Within about 30 minutes, there were five agents huddled around a computer. I wish I could have taken a picture without being weird, because it was sort of hilarious.
All the agents were extremely well intentioned and friendly, and did everything they could, but the fact that this is the system in place is so ridiculous. I felt like it was 20 years ago, where you’d walk into a travel agent’s office to book a ticket.
As they called over more people, they said “hey, do you know how to issue a ticket from scratch?”
“It has probably been 20 years.”
Sure enough, 75 minutes later, my ticket was finally issued. I thanked the agents profusely, and they said “thanks for letting us play with this, we learned something new.” They were all delightful, but it’s insane that this had to happen to begin with. Furthermore, what a horrible waste of American’s resources.
C’mon, American, most other airlines let you do this stuff online. Get with the times and start letting people apply ticket credits through the website, rather than having to mail in a voucher or go to the airport.
It reminds me of how much I love Alaska Mileage Plan. MVP Gold members can even cancel revenue tickets for free, and then the value of the ticket is just placed in the online “travel bank,” and can be applied towards a future ticket.
But alas, Alaska Mileage Plan is a one of a kind program…