One of the easiest ways I’ve ever gotten “free travel” was by offering to get bumped off my flight to Chicago last year in exchange for a travel voucher. I was flying American Airlines out of San Francisco and the flight was oversold, so the gate agent made several announcements before I decided I was ok with departing several hours later in exchange for a $500 travel voucher. The agent also threw in a $15 meal voucher to be redeemed at the airport and offered me “a very nice seat” on the next flight (i.e. an aisle seat with the middle blocked off). I was a happy camper.
Five months later, I was heading to Cabo and saw it as the perfect opportunity to put the voucher to use for my parents’ tickets. Turns out redeeming an American Airlines travel voucher was easier said than done. I’ve put up with my share of hassles in this hobby, but nothing tops redeeming an American Airlines travel voucher.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how to redeem an American Airlines voucher, get into a time machine and go back to 1985. That’s how backwards the process is. The voucher I received wasn’t redeemable online and when I called AAdvantage to inquire about redemptions, I was told I had to do it at an airport AAdvantage desk since I was booking the flight two days before departure. There are three airports within a 60 mile radius of where I live, but I decided on Sacramento International since it’s the least crowded and I could hit up a few Walmarts on the way over there.
Driving out there was quick and there’s a parking garage conveniently located across from the terminal. I parked on the first floor, crossed the street, and headed to the AAdvantage desk. There was a bit of a line, but I got through after about 10 minutes and that’s where the fun began.
The rep was confused about how the AAdvantage vouchers worked and got at least two other people involved before someone was able to figure it out. This is where putting your itinerary on hold really saves time. I gave the rep the hold number and she pulled it up and then proceeded to redeem the voucher. It took an excruciatingly long time – I had already provided all of my parents’ travel information and brought their passports along just in case there was a problem. Even with all of this, it took over 40 minutes before the booking was complete and I received two old-fashioned paper tickets.
If any of you are in possession of one of these vouchers and need help redeeming them, here are some common questions you might have. Hopefully the answers will save you a bit of time and frustration:
What is an American Airlines travel voucher?
American Airlines travel vouchers are as good as cash towards a variety of purchases made with the airline. While travel vouchers are best when redeemed towards flights, they can be applied to the following purchases:
- Airfare on American Airlines/Eagle/Connection, codeshares, and Oneworld itineraries where AA is the international/”governing” carrier.
- 500-mile domestic upgrade stickers (at the airport only).
- Co-payments for upgrades or reduced mileage awards.
- Excess baggage fees.
- Special handling fees (e.g., checked pets), with a traveling passenger (i.e., not cargo).
- Change fees, provided an additional collection of the fare is also being made.
How soon after it’s issued does an American Airlines travel voucher expire?
One year from the date of issue.
How do you redeem an American Airlines travel voucher?
American Airlines travel vouchers can be redeemed either via mail or an airport ticketing desk. The safest method is to do it at an airport ticketing desk, especially if you need to book a ticket within 2 weeks. However, if you have to mail it in, be sure to get a tracking number and take a photo of the voucher in case it gets lost in the mail. Vouchers will usually get processed within 1-3 days by mail.
Can you book flights for someone else using the American Airlines travel voucher?
You can book tickets for other people using a travel voucher, as long as you are the one presenting the voucher.
That pretty much sums it up. If you have a travel voucher from American Airlines, be sure to use it before one year passes from the issue date, redeem your voucher at the airport if you can, and dedicate at least 1-2 hours of your day to this activity. In my case, it took about 45 minutes for the ticketing agent to apply the voucher to my reservation…which I had placed on hold, with all the personal information entered in advance! Also, if you’re booking a flight for someone else, bring their passport just in case. You never know when it might be needed.
Have you ever redeemed an American Airlines travel voucher? What was your experience like?
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