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Voiding and repurchasing tickets ends with double charges

Question: On Oct. 27, I bought two American Airlines tickets — one for me and one for my mom — for a trip from Burbank to Dallas on Nov. 24. I used my Citi card. The next day, I learned the fare had dropped by $75 per ticket. When I called American, they said I should call my credit card company. If the charges had not gone through, the credit card company could void them and I could repurchase the tickets. That’s what I did after Citi assured me the transaction would be voided. The day before my flight, American called me to tell me we were double-booked and that I was responsible for the error. I again called my credit card company and was again reassured I would not be responsible for the double charges. All that changed, of course. American won’t refund my money, and Citi won’t either. What should I do?

Angela Heller

Valley Village

Answer: You should plan another trip on American, which has promised $950 in vouchers for future travel. Then you should serve Citi with divorce papers. It may be time for that relationship to end.

Change fees being what they are, voiding and repurchasing was the more financially feasible route. But, Heller said, even though it was American’s idea, American told Citi she was trying to manipulate the system. People who double-book may be doing that, said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, but “she was not trying to game the system or anything like that.”

So Heller is not guilty on any count. I can’t say the same for Citi.

Although Heller had disputed the charge, she received no help from Citi. When I called on her behalf, I was told, “She should call us.” I said she had called several times and also had written a letter. I was then told that I could not intercede on her behalf and “it says that on the back of her card.” (I just looked at the back of my Citi card, and mine doesn’t say that. Maybe yours does.) I finally broke through that barrier and spoke with spokesman Samuel Wang, who said he would get back to me. I am still awaiting that call.

So is it time to break up with your credit card? “If you don’t feel valued — and that includes all sorts of things, such as service or respect or decent customer service — vote with your feet and leave,” said Scott Crawford, chief executive of DebtGoal.com, which he describes as “Weight Watchers for debt.” But, he noted, “be thoughtful about the impact on your credit.” Switching card companies continually can hurt your score, he said.

If you can’t bring yourself to ditch the card, Crawford offers this great tip: Escalate your problem to “executive customer service.” Remember, this isn’t for garden-variety disputes but for the “my head is going to burst into flames” problems. To find the number, Crawford said, Google that phrase and the name of your card. He used that technique to solve a nettlesome problem with a card company (not Citi), and he said it worked like a charm, a phrase that from Heller’s experience and mine is not in Citi’s vocabulary.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com We regret we cannot answer every query.


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