Man Sweet Talks American Airlines Into Waiving $200 Fee

A New York man wrote a clever letter that persuaded American Airlines to refund a $200 change fee he paid after cancelling a flight last minute due to illness.

american airlines waive fee for sick traveler

A New York man used his nice words to receive a $200 refund for a fee he had to pay after cancelling a flight.

Alex Hamberger was scheduled to fly to Kansas City to visit relatives back in March, but he fell seriously ill just before he was set to leave.

He was left with no choice but to cancel his non-refundable American Airlines flight which resulted in a $200 change fee to rebook for another time.

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Hamberger followed the airline's policy and paid the fee, but he took a leap of faith and decided to submit a letter explaining his unfortunate circumstance and asking the airline to refund the change fee back to him.

In an interview with CNN, Hamberger said he thought an email would just get “lost in the shuffle” so he submitted a handwritten letter and included photos of him and his niece for veracity.

"I hoped that if they saw that someone had taken the time to write it with their own hand, they might read it. That it might make a difference," Hamberger reportedly said.

Sure enough, his plan worked like a charm and the airline dropped the charge. The letter, albeit quite lengthy, thoroughly detailed Hamberger’s unexpected illness that infringed upon his plans to celebrate his niece turning 6 months old.

First of all, the man’s name is “Hamberger,” so that is an automatic incentive to read anything he sends because, one must have something worthwhile to say with a name like that.

Aside from his intriguing name, the letter itself was filled with humorous anecdotes, words written in all caps, exclamation points galore, and a pictorial to illustrate the entire ordeal.

The kind of effort this man put into pleading for his refund is surely worth $200.

He was very apologetic for any inconvenience he may have caused the airline and he vowed to be understanding if they could not acquiesce to his request.

Hamberger is living proof that the saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is true!

Read Hamberger’s letter in full below: 

American Airlines Customer Relations

4000 E. Sky Harbor Boulevard

Phoenix, AZ 85034

Dear Most Kind and Benevolent American Airlines Customer Service Staff Member,

I write to you with the hopes that you may take mercy on me and afford a little sympathy for this flyer who was taken quite ill and had to postpone his trip to see his beloved niece.

Picture it. No, not Sicily 1922 (But I appreciate you are a Golden Girls fan, much like myself! And in case you didn't get that reference, no worries; read on!), but February 29, 2016. It was a Monday night and I was getting so excited for my upcoming trip to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and niece who was about to turn 6 months old that Thursday! I started to feel a little sinus pressure that night, nothing major but enough to give me pause. As I woke up that next day on Tuesday, March 1st, I felt OK, but things quickly went downhill. It was a cold, I thought; nothing major.

By Wednesday, March 2nd, things were escalating. My cold symptoms had intensified. I consulted with a virtual doctor-on-call using my computer (very fancy!), and she recommended I head right in and see an actual physician. "Uh oh," I thought. "That's not a great sign."

I visited the doctor that evening and he was sufficiently concerned with my symptoms that he suggested I cancel my planned trip to Kansas City the following day. "WHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY," I wondered silently to myself. It seemed like a little cold, but alas, he concluded travel was unreasonable and issued me the enclosed note. Always a rule follower, I abided by his advice.

And BOY am I glad I did! You'll see the doctor's note references an infectious disease. It was just two days later on March 4th, that I learned this infectious disease was not a household cold or flu: it was a Haemophilus Influenzae bacterial infection. Yes, the same infection that can cause conditions such as epiglottitis (a fatal respiratory disease), pneumonia, and notably, meningitis in children under 5. Remember when I mentioned I was going to visit my 6 month old niece?! Thank heavens I didn't!

Suffice to say, after 2 long weeks of illness, which prompted a formal medical leave from work, I didn't suffer any of the severe complications (though I did have a sinus infection, ear infection including a ruptured eardrum, pink eye, throat infection, full-body rash, among others). But most of all, canceling my trip to visit my infant niece was the best thing that could have happened; had I visited her and she gotten sick, it literally could have killed her.

All that said, I'm hoping you may be able, or at least willing, to take pity on me and this woeful tale (as pitiful as it is), and forgo the $200 change fee normally imposed on tickets such as this. I know, I know, I purchased a nonrefundable ticket and that I took the risk that my I may face this fee if my trip were canceled. But I'm hoping you can see that this trip was canceled for very significant reasons, and that in addition to the pain and suffering I endured as a result of my illness, I was even more so upset that I couldn't see my family members whom I hadn't visited since November! A niece needs her uncle (that's a saying, right?)!

Now, I don't know if this will be problematic or not, but I just recently rebooked my trip and I've already paid the $200 change fee. So I now realize there may be 356 reasons you can't refund this to me, but I figure it's always worth a shot! If it's possible in any way to recoup this $200 I'd be forever grateful.

I know you must deal with testy and ornery travelers all the time, and I assure you I am not one of those. If I'm not able to recoup this cost, I'm most understanding. I thank you for all you do to make the travel dreams of flyers such as myself a reality.

And in case this letter was too long or unclear, I've also included a photo-story of the whole ideal attached.

Thank you again for your kind consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and also to my next flight!

With gratitude,

Alex Hamberger

Frequent Flyer



Formerly sick person

Currently healthy person

Grateful flyer


Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @airlinegossip

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