American Airlines Charges $15 to Send an E-mail!

I booked a flight for myself and family to visit my mother and sister during the holidays. The tickets were pretty expensive so we elected to use miles. The day before the flight, while I was making a car service reservation, I discovered that my outbound flight was no longer listed. I logged onto aa.com to check my reservation and sure enough, they had changed the flight number and departure time for later that day.

I didn’t recall getting any communication from American on this change, so I called. They indicted they had sent my wife an e-mail with the change information a couple of weeks back. She didn’t remember getting that e-mail, and a search through her Outlook revealed a number of communications from American for vacation packages and fare sales, but nothing about our flight change. When I asked the agent to resend the confirmation she indicated that it was American’s policy to charge $15 for sending a second confirmation e-mail, once they ascertained the correct e-mail address was on file and the message had been successfully sent. Of course it’s entirely possible that my wife missed the message, or there was some other glitch, but I wasn’t asking them to do a lot of heavy lifting.

I was aghast! As someone who has been in the digital space since 1994, has been responsible for service and marketing e-mail programs, and works in a service heavy industry, I know that it costs less than one penny to send an e-mail. E-mail is a great service tool that firms can employ that is significantly less costly than a phone call, and provides the consumer with a record and peace of mind. I can’t imagine how American or anyone else for that matter could justify this policy based on actual cost to the company. The e-mail may deflect a call later down the life-cycle of the purchase. As a customer, it felt like yet another way for desperate carriers to seize any opportunity to collect revenue.

I very clearly expressed my displeasure to the agent and informed her of my professional experience in this area—sending an e-mail doesn’t cost $15. She then offered to send it without the fee. That supports my belief that they are preying on consumers who would not know better. American should be ashamed. Do they really know why we fly?

2 comments

  1. So, it really is a “what have you done for me lately” culture we’re living in, huh. Less than one year before you ranted against American Airlines for charging $15 to send an e-mail, you wrote about a “free” upgrade to first class for your son (https://expedientmeans.wordpress.com/2007/12/30/american-airlines-finds-a-way/).

    News Flash: nothing in life is free.

    My suggestion to you would be to call it a wash and chalk up the e-mail and its associated $15 to the free upgrade you got year ago.

    Why? Because any business that gives away its product won’t be in business for long. And the fairest way to charge for a service is to only charge those who use the service.

    So if you don’t want to pay, say, for a checked bag, don’t check a bag. If you don’t want to pay a service fee for calling the reservations department, don’t call and, instead, communicate “digitially” as you say. Access AA.com and click the Contact AA link in the top right corner and ask for a duplicate itinerary. I’m sure there’s no charge for that (and, it goes without saying, if you had booked your AAdvantage ticket on AA.com then you could have pulled the itinerary yourself).

    The charge isn’t for the e-mail. That’s trivial. The charge is for speaking to a real, live human being (who gets paid real, live money) and asking them to do something you could/should do yourself.

    1. Welcome to the discussion “not Bob Crandall.” I can appreciate AA’s frustration due to pressures from oil prices and the economic environment. I am fine with consumers being responsible for researching a brand’s products and services then being sure they understand associated fees. Up to them to decide to if they want that service, then pay the fee (checking a bag). The best brands understand that customers give more weight to their last interaction with a company and therefore strive to make every moment a great experience. It’s difficult, but it’s how lasting loyalty is created. If you work for American (no idea if you do, but your whois reveals it’s in the right state), then your comment on this blog qualifies as the last interaction I had with the brand, and it’s not a particularly good one. I have learned nothing I don’t already know, and have been made to feel like my consumer voice has no value.

      As far as the free upgrade from last year is concerned, I didn’t ask for it, simply wanted the coach seat I paid for. That extra effort was a benefit that made such a positive impact on me that I wrote about it on my blog. I try to be objective and cover great experiences as well as challenging ones. I rewarded American by booking several personal flights with them since that time. Living in Chicago allows me the luxury of choosing my carrier most of the time. Interactions with a choice made, informs who I will choose in the future. I would like to see both those big commercial carriers succeed. Happy New Year.

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