Ah….the internet. As you are no doubt aware, a bit of a firestorm was set off this morning on the interweb regarding fuel surcharges on award tickets for AAdvantage members. I believe Lucky broke the news this morning when attempting to book an award. The short form story is that someone attempted to book an award with an AAdvantage partner. When they did so, they were hit with a fuel surcharge. Thinking this unusual, the CSR checked with the rates desk, and came back with the little gem that effective 8/28, AAdvantage would begin charging fuel surcharges for award travel on partners and even international award travel on American.

Some notice there. To make matters worse, American’s various social media outlets confirmed the change. As you might imagine, this set off a bit of a reaction on the boards and blogs. Admittedly, even I, the one person in the world who is convinced that all of these programs are heading in a new direction was surprised at this. I mean seriously, this is not something you just spring on people, especially the granddaddy of all loyalty programs and arguably the best. Turns out that this was just a big “our bAAd” from American. AAdvantageGeek advises us of a statement on the subject from American.

Last night, in a routine effort to better align American to industry standards with other global carriers, American began collecting carrier-imposed surcharges on tickets for travel on other carriers’ metal.

This change was intended for revenue tickets only, but the surcharge was erroneously added to AAdvantage award redemptions on other airlines as well.

Except in the cases of British Airways and Iberia, where American currently collects these surcharges, no carrier-imposed surcharges will be applied when redeeming AAdvantage miles for award travel on other carriers. Any customers who encountered this fee in error will be fully refunded. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Now, I’m no PR expert, but I do know a little something about managing a crisis and getting out front when a bad story breaks. I know the AA team is heavily involved in merger drama right now, but a few lifespans may have been shortened by this news and the slow effort to correct a firestorm of now incorrect information. In retrospect, a change like this seems out of character for American without some notice. Further, major changes like this would have been are rarely made in the midst of a merger effort. Maybe those of us on the blogs and boards side of the fence did react a little emotionally, but that still doesn’t explain away the fact that American led us that way with their initial public outreach on this. Oh well, hopefully all’s well that end’s well. Now, everyone just settle down. 🙂

-MJ, August 28, 2013