American Airlines policy questioned as misleading customers to pay more

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19 2012 11:13 a.m. MST

In this Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 file photo, American Airlines airplanes are parked at their gates at JFK International airport in New York. According to The Consumerist, booking your American Airlines ticket the day before your flight could actually save you money.

Mary Altaffer, AP

Enlarge photo»

If you're flying with American Airlines, booking the day before might actually save you money, according to a recent article by The Consumerist.

American Airlines holds seats for "elite customers" up until the day before flying. This means that when booking a seat a few days before, all that may be available are the more expensive premium seats.

Dan Cohen, who was interviewed in an article by Los Angeles Times, discovered this tactic the hard way. He had to buy a last-minute ticket to Maryland. When he bought his flight back there were only five seats left — all premium seats — and each one required a $42 "upgrade fee."

"I figured, holy smokes, I better buy my seat right away or I'm not going to get one," Cohen said to L.A. Times. "They obviously were selling out or were overbooking the flight."

But when he checked the site the morning of his flight home, there were 20 open seats, half of which didn't require an extra fee. He asked the airline for a refund of the upgrade and was denied it.

A spokesman for American Airlines explained why this happened.

"The reason seats appeared unavailable two days prior to the flight and then became available on the day of departure is due to the elite seat blocking/reservation process," said Jim Faulkner, an American Airlines spokesman.

The Consumerist recommends holding off on buying tickets if only premium options are available when trying to fly with American Airlines.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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