Tuesday, April 1, 2014

American Airlines vs Herbalife

I am sick in bed in a hotel in Charlotte.

Very sick. Fever.

I had a flight booked tomorrow from Miami to Boston - but there is not a chance in the world I can make that flight.

So I tried to cancel.

I logged in to American Airlines website. It didn't work.

It turns out that if you booked on an Australian website you need to log into the Australian website even when you are in America.

Logged into the Australian website and found my flight. Got up the ticket but there was no refund option.

So I googled American Airlines refunds. American Airlines has a separate website for refunds (I guess they are hoping that some people can't find it and they can deceive them out of a fare).

Alas I could not log in with my Australian booking number.

So I googled refunds, American Airlines Australia. There is a site and I could find my booking but there was no option to refund.

But they did link a phone number.

Got put through to a voice recognition phone centre that could not recognize me.

After about ten minutes I get an operator who can't do the refund - but they did eventually transfer me to an international operator who could do the refund. Slowly.

It was done.

I assure you that it is harder to get a refund from American Airlines than it is as a Herbalife distributor.

And the process is far more deceptive.

I am waiting until some hedge fund manager comes out with a billion dollar short on American Airlines. Meanwhile I am going to write to the Federal Trade Commission about American Airlines unfair behaviour.

Alas I will have to deal with this rather severe limitation on the FTC's power:

(n) Standard of proof; public policy considerations 
The Commission shall have no authority under this section or section 57a of this title to declare unlawful an act or practice on the grounds that such act or practice is unfair unless the act or practice causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers themselves and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition. In determining whether an act or practice is unfair, the Commission may consider established public policies as evidence to be considered with all other evidence. Such public policy considerations may not serve as a primary basis for such determination.

You see the practice of American Airlines - which makes it ridiculously difficult to claim a refund which you are entitled to seems unfair. I guess if it is "reasonable" then the Commission has no power to declare it unlawful on the grounds that it is unfair.

The process at Herbalife is much easier. It is reasonably easy to get a full refund and the refund includes postage. The section above somewhat it seems limits the FTC's power in the Herbalife case.



Otto said...

Get well soon

Andy said...

Your experience is why there's still a market for good old fashioned travel agents... one call and 'make it so' (theoretically).

Ben said...

Hope you feel better. The Herbalife comparison here is a stretch, probably should have just complained about American. I have found Delta to be much better the last couple of years, although doesn't help in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Complaints about sirline service go here:


No idea whether they do anything, but they do keep track of complaints.

Anonymous said...

Value walk say as they have material negative info confirmed. Heads up,

Anonymous said...

Is it true you received a "get well soon" card from Michelle Celarier?

If not, I wouldn't take it personally.

Feel better and get back to that family of yours.

Robert in Chicago said...

I feared when I read this that your potentially crucial FTC-authority find would get lost in your American Airlines packaging. Judging from the comments, either I was right, or the others paying attention to what matters are keeping quiet.

Anonymous said...

AA not an MLM. Return policy at HLF mentioned periodically but not the core issue. You are a veteran investor/trader...don't you see yourself stretching to hold this position? Hope is not a trading strategy...it's up over 10% in a few days...sell it and move on...you've lost objectivity.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I love your thoughts on Herbalife. My concern is you are misinterpreting how Washington works. I would not place too much faith in Washington acting "rationally" based on established laws. A fund manager might have more influence than a corporation if the hedge fund manager greases enough palms. How else did he get a Senator’s office to send out a letter? This brings up an interesting question: whose more corrupt Washing or Moscow? They are probably about the same. The Russians are just worse (or don't care) about hiding it. Here in America, favors are done first, then brides (sorry, I mean million dollar salaries) are paid later.


The PM said...

If you replaced American Airlines with Universal Travel Group, I probably would have not noticed.

polit2k said...


The bean counters and layers are running the show. They never have a clue about good business practice.

Phillip M. said...

Though i'm sure AA could give you details of every end customer they've had over the last decade.

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