Why are airlines exempt when they make a mistake and I’m not?

wait, I thought I booked that for toda….oh crap” -me, a few hours ago

So I’m a dummy sometimes.  One of those times was a few days ago when I was sitting in a chair at my uncle’s lakehouse in Conroe, Texas.  I was booking a flight for what I thought was today on American’s mobile site (which is in desperate need of an overhaul).  I found the price for a last-minute one-way nonstop from JFK-DFW to be pretty competitive so I booked it.

AA 737

Fast forward to today.  I pulled up my friendly American Airlines app and tried to check in for my flight, which is when I realized that I had actually booked a ticket for JFK-DFW on May 30 instead of May 23, which is today.

Now, airlines have all sorts of rules about stuff like this, and I knew I was most likely out the cost of that May 30th ticket ($170ish), but I decided to call in anyway.  I put on my nicest Guy Who Just Made A Widdle Mistake voice and asked if there was any way to change me to the flight today without a change fee as a customer service gesture.  The response, as you can predict, was a bolded all-caps NO.  The agent also scoffed at the suggestion, just to lock in how much like an idiot I should feel.

Wait are you just whining?

Yep.  I made a mistake.  But the whining is a little justified, in my opinion.  Every single time an airline posts a fare by mistake, FlyerTalkers and bloggers typically pounce on it.  Airlines whine about customers booking these fares that “they absolutely knew were mistakes” and claim they do not have to honor them, and they’ll typically cancel the tickets and refund the money, but not before holding onto the money for a week or two usually.  Heck, American CEO Doug Parker even whined about a mistake fare from two years ago in a recent interview with Unaccompanied Flyer (American was forced to honor them in the end).

So I’ll admit that I’m whining and I’m a little sour that I’m out $170.  But I’ll also ask the question: why do airlines get to make a mistake and get out of it for free but when I make a mistake I have to pay?

Rant over.  Also, #doublecheckyourdates


  1. Andy, I had a similar issue a few months ago. I booked a great Spring Break deal for my family to Rome, only to discover that I had somehow clicked on February, instead of March. The days of the week and the numeric dates were the same. It was just over a day later when I realized my error, and there was plenty of inventory left on the flights I’d intended to book (though granted, not remotely at my booking fare), but I was SOL. I was fortunate that my daughter’s school would rather she spend a week in Rome than a week in 1st grade, and worked with me when I explained the situation to them. They were far more accommodating and gracious than the airline was.

    • Also, your daughter is in 1st grade. We’ve pulled our kids out of school to take them to Hawaii, and are also having them skip the last week of school next week (3rd and 5th grades currently) to take them to S Korea. They aren’t missing anything substantive, and your daughter likely didn’t either.

  2. Lobbyists & Political donations

    • Ain’t that the truth.

  3. It’s stuff like this that makes me be very, very vigilant about checking dates and stuff, before and after booking. Especially if I’m booking for someone else.

    I feel like they should have helped you out here, given that you’re an elite member and they may have some way to see that you dont do this often or something.



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