Lesson Learned: Trying To Redeem An American Airlines Voucher

by joeheg

When a flight is oversold, airlines start looking for passengers willing to take a different (usually later) flight. The airlines typically use a voucher good for a future flight as an incentive to get passengers to accept the offer. I’d been reluctant to volunteer for these offers because I remember back when a friend of ours was given a voucher (good for a round-trip flight) years ago, that was capacity limited. He was unable to use it to fly anywhere, and it eventually expired.

After hearing several offers at the airport for flights we were on, I decided to do more research. I know that Delta now gives out Delta Choice gift cards, which is great if you get paid $4,500 to take a later flight.

I convinced myself that the next time the opportunity arose and the situation was right, I’d try to take the bump (and the money). It wasn’t long before we were proactively called by American Airlines about one of our flights that was oversold. They said if we moved from our connecting itinerary to a non-stop flight later in the day, they’d pay us $400 each in American e-Vouchers. I was told the only restriction was that I had to book a flight using the vouchers within a year.

When I started looking for trips to use the vouchers before they expired, I found a suitable flight.

The seemingly straightforward process wasn’t as easy as I imagined. Here are some of the hiccups I discovered when trying to use my vouchers to book a simple one-way flight.

Choosing a flight

Since I was spending someone else’s money, I could afford to shop for the flights that best fit our schedule, even if they were a bit more expensive. Limiting myself to American flights increased the cost of the flights, as I could have booked on Delta or Southwest and paid significantly less. As it turned out, American had a well-timed flight that connected through Dallas.

Booking a flight using American e-Vouchers

The process seems straightforward enough. This is the only information provided in the email with the vouchers.

Here is the transportation voucher you were promised. This voucher may be used toward the purchase of a ticket on American for yourself, or anyone you choose.  **This voucher cannot be reissued after expiration**

When clicking through to American’s website, here’s their info on how to use your voucher.

American Airlines eVouchers are easy to redeem on AA.com. You may retrieve your eVoucher # and PIN # by clicking on the link sent to you via email.

On the payment screen, enter both the eVoucher # and PIN # exactly as they appear on the retrieval page. You may use up to eight eVouchers at one time. If the total price of the ticket exceeds the value of your eVoucher(s), you may use a credit card for any remaining balance.

So just go to book the ticket and enter the voucher amount on the payment screen. How hard can that be?

I selected a flight and the airfare for both of us was $610. I still had $190 left. What should I spend the rest of the money on?

I know that flying in an economy seat on American is not comfortable for longer flights and if I want to get any work done, I have to type like a T-Rex.


I selected Main Cabin Extra seats for our flights, which came to a little over $100 each. When I went to check out, there was one problem. Nowhere on the payment page did I find a place to enter an eVoucher.

American allowed me to put the reservation on hold for 24 hours (actually until midnight the following day). It was already late, so I decided to call after work the next night and find out what the problem was.

The Call

I called the American Airlines help desk. I was connected to a representative to whom I explained my problem and she looked up my reservation.

She immediately noted that I selected seats that require additional payment and that the website could not handle using an eVoucher with such a reservation. They (American) are aware of the problem and are working on a fix. She could ticket it for me and charge me for the amount not covered by the vouchers. I wouldn’t need to pay the phone ticket fee since I could not complete the reservation online.

Sounded good. I provided the voucher numbers and she said that all I needed to do was provide a credit card to pay the $200 for the seat fees.

She told me that the eVouchers could only be used to pay for airfare, not seat assignments. Great. I had no intention to pay over $200 in fees for seats on what was supposed to be a free flight. I asked if we could just cancel out what we’d done so far and I’d go back on the website to select seats myself.

What kind of BS is this, that a voucher can’t be used for seats?

I found a blurb on the website that stated the restrictions on the vouchers. Let me know if you think this means seat assignments aren’t covered.

eVouchers may not be used for upgrades, Admirals Club memberships enrollments, Admirals Club One-Day passes, AAdvantage Award Travel or other non-flight products and/or services sold on AA.com. eVouchers cannot be reissued after the expiration date.

I guess a seat assignment is considered an “upgrade” which is crazy since American charges for almost half the seats on the plane as either Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seating.

Booking The Flight (Part 2)

I went back to check the reservation and everything was the same as I left it. I went to the seat map and picked seats for our flights. I was “lucky” to snag the last two free economy seats for one of our flights, two middle seats located 5 rows apart.

When I went to the payment page, amazingly, the eVoucher payment option appeared. I was able to enter our numbers and book the flight.

Now that the flight was ticketed, I could go back and “upgrade” our seats by paying for seat assignments. On one segment, preferred seats cost $17-$19 and MCE $37-$39 and the other segment preferred was $31-$37 and MCE costs $67. I was stuck paying at least $35 to get us out of our two middle seats on the first flight.

Final Thoughts

While this may be common knowledge to people who get eVouchers often, I was shocked to find out that seat assignment fees are not covered. I still have not found anywhere where this is explicitly spelled out in the terms and conditions. Saying vouchers are good for purchasing a ticket is a bit misleading because people consider seat assignments (and baggage fees) as part of their ticket costs.

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that American’s website can’t handle booking a ticket with seat fees when using an eVoucher. I wonder if the fix that the rep talked about will ever happen. Maybe they shouldn’t fix the problem. This way, you still get to speak to a person to have them explain what should be spelled out on the initial email with the voucher.

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Cover Photo “AA * American Airlines” by Thank You (21 Millions+) views is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Christian January 1, 2020 - 4:59 pm

Really good information. I’d wondered about situations like this.

Jan Mardis January 1, 2020 - 11:23 pm

I always pay for seat assignments when I am flying on a reward point flight. I just like picking my own seat, so I don’t mind paying extra for it.

joeheg January 2, 2020 - 1:18 pm

Don’t mind for an award ticket but being told I couldn’t use what essentially is a gift card to pay the fees is just crazy IMHO.

Arlington Traveler (@ArlingtonTravel) August 19, 2021 - 8:15 pm

The thing is Delta has similar restrictions on gift cards. You cannot use them to pay taxes and fees on award tickets (which can sometimes be in the hundreds of dollars). Another annoying thing with American Airlines is that if you hold one of their cobranded credit cards with the free bag benefit, it only works for domestic tickets. If you leave the USA, you get pay for bags.

Jason January 2, 2020 - 9:32 am

Could you have purchased in a higher fare bucket (ie something uogradeable), and then selected seats for free?

joeheg January 2, 2020 - 1:10 pm

Possibly but which American tickets lets you choose an MCE ticket for free?

KTCube February 8, 2020 - 2:52 pm

I just bought a roundtrip flight on the American Airlines website, using an eVoucher from 2019. It was no big deal, no extra charges. The ticket was basic economy, and I had to enter the voucher info on the payment screen. Now just wondering if they’re going to issue a new voucher with the remaining balance that is still good for a year from now, or if that policy has changed.

Danny Cobb October 29, 2020 - 9:13 pm

I called an AA agent to change a flight. She told me that the transaction was an even exchange. I moved my return flight ahead 24hrs. This was 48hrs ahead of the original flight. I do repair work and have to make a guess how long it will take me to get the job done. I got the diagnosis and repair done in half of the first day. There was a hurricane headed toward my home with my wife there alone. Needless to say, I arrived at 11:30 the same night the hurricane was hitting my area in north Louisiana. Eight days later my wife sees a $75.00 charge from AA. Naturally, I made a call and got the run-around about how a “Same-Day” flight change is $75.00. I appealed to this lady about first, It wasn’t changed the same day and, if there was a charge which I originally expected, why didn’t the lady who changed the flight, charge me at the time? She informed me that she could not explain that. At this point the conversation became pointless. Moral of the story, they don’t realize what $75.00 will actually cost them in the long run. I was not trying to cheat the airline. I just wanted a reasonable explanation of why the charge was there.

DOROTHY GREEN November 9, 2020 - 10:13 pm

I purchased upgraded seats. I was in my seat.. the stewardess allowed a man come from the back of the plane to come up & sit in a seat that cost me money. I filed a complaint, they didn’t care. I will not fly American again. They don’t care about there customers.

My husband, after his ordeal today, he will never fly American again. His plane had trouble getting started, was delayed over 45 minutes. Reached Phoenix, ran to the next plane, they were closing the door. Wouldn’t allow me on. That is crap. It was the airlines fault, didn’t hold the plane 1 min. Went to customer service,, they don’t care, they don’t even try to help.. Had to sit in the airport 7 hours to next flight. Customers in line had worse situations then mine, they don’t take care of there customers. It was a terrible day.

We both have had American Airline credit cards for 20 years. They don’t care about there customers either. I put my card in the drawer. WE ARE DONE.

Paul November 11, 2020 - 1:26 pm

I had a evoucher from a previous change in flights and tried to use it when I had to make a different change in a booked reservation and did not see an option to use it to pay for the difference on the website. After 40 minutes waiting for a customer rep, they informed me that an evoucher can only be used for making new reservations. Really disappointed in that.

David Buckley December 8, 2020 - 6:39 am

I just used a voucher (it expired this past July). I contacted them through their website with my AA# and they reassigned a new voucher good thru dec 2021. I upgraded my seats to ones with more room and it accepted the voucher for payment. I had a small balance that was put on a credit card. I did find the process easy and they were very accommodating by reassigning my $650 voucher.

Alan April 12, 2021 - 6:39 pm

Unreal. I am going through the same issue now with American. Got no help from customer service. Can’t use to upgrade seats, which is what my voucher was originally for, and couldn’t combine the voucher with the credit for my original flight.

Nancy May 17, 2021 - 6:03 pm

Another problem with vouchers – can not use on a flight that originates outside the country! I booked 2 one way tickets from US to Grand Cayman with a fantastic flight deal – 10K miles each for one way. Then planned to book 2 one way tickets home from GCM to US with vouchers (mileage home was very high). No option at time of payment for vouchers. Waited 3 hours for call back to be told that vouchers can only be used on flights originating in the US so my one way home would not qualify. They are trying every trick in the book to keep people from using their money!

Liberty and Freedom August 19, 2021 - 5:03 pm

Wait until you find out that when you book a $200 ticket using a $400 voucher, AA will keep the residual.

Corbett Kroehler August 20, 2021 - 11:52 am

It requires an impressive leap of cognitive dissonance to treat Economy Plus seats as upgrades since, as you rightly mention, the airline charges for most seat assignments in coach. Even so, given that the airline sets all of its own rules with regard to redeeming courtesy vouchers, we are at the mercy of the parsimony and perfidy of such vouchers.

Michael March 7, 2022 - 1:55 pm

Your first mistake was flying American


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