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Travel Editor Gets A Refund—And A Comeuppance

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Sometimes an airline does things right. Not often, true, but every once in a great while. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I rarely have anything good to say about the airline industry. New regulations announced this month by the Department of Transportation are just the latest evidence that the airlines aren't able to offer good customer service on their own, and have to rely on the government to step in and force them to be good corporate citizens. But here's a quick little story that shows maybe, just maybe, things are improving and that at least one airline is doing things better.

I'll be traveling to Minneapolis-St. Paul in a few weeks and needed to buy airfare from New York. The best price I found was $407.40 (including taxes and fees) on the American Airlines website. American allows you to hold a reservation for 24 hours (mandatory for all airlines beginning August 23) if you book on its website, so I did. But when I attempted to complete the purchase the next day I was notified that the price had changed. "Hey wait a minute," I thought. "The price was supposed to be guaranteed once I placed the hold." As I proceeded in the purchase process I discovered that the price had indeed changed--it had dropped 10% to $367.40. That decrease was thanks to American's Lowest Fare Guarantee, which promises to refund the difference if a lower fare is posted on a U.S. point-of-sale website for the exact same flight. Apparently, without my knowledge, that's precisely what happened.

Have I been too harsh on the airlines in the past? Probably not. Nevertheless, let me just say kudos to American. Now if I could just persuade them to bring back free cocktails in coach...

2010-hs-mark-orwoll.jpgSmart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.

Image courtesy of the Port Authority of NY & NJ.

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