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July 2021 - I purchased tickets (reservation, itinerary, whatever buzzword you like) round trip from San Diego to Manila for December 2021 using my AA reward miles (booked on Japan Airlines).

October 2021 - I was notified by American Airlines that the entire route for 1 leg of my trip (connection flight from Tokyo to Manila) has been suspended. After several days of calling and checking with agents I was advised it might be better to cancel the entire ticket (reservation, itinerary, whatever buzzword you like) so that the agent could try to rebook it. Suddenly, after cancellation there were no flights available for purchase with miles. The cash price for tickets skyrocketed 300%. I was refunded my miles (big deal) but now the outbound flight has a mileage requirement that is 50% higher than when I originally booked. No change on the return flight.

November 2021 - Japan Airlines is pleased to announce that it is resuming its service to Manila. According to flightaware.com, between the time I purchased my ticket and when that announcement was made there has not been a single day that the "suspended" route did not have a flight.

Basically, Japan Airlines (and American too, by extension of the agent who advised me to cancel) falsely claimed that a route was suspended, cancelled my ticket (reservation, itinerary, whatever buzzword you like), and then was able to sell that booking to a cash customer at a 300% mark-up.

While there is no doubt in my mind that this is very underhanded I'm wondering....do I have any recourse?

And to think we were worried about price gouging of hand sanitizer due to COVID-19.

For clarification, my itinerary was as follows:

December 11 JL65 SAN to NRT (arriving December 12) December 12 JL475 NRT to MNL (this is the allegedly suspended flight) January 10 JL476 MNL to NRT January 10 JL66 NRT to SAN (arriving January 11)

There was a different flight code for Japan Airlines that shows as suspended however JL475 is a daily flight and has flown everyday between July 15, 2021 and November 10, 2021.

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    Was there an American Airlines flight listed for all those days on that route? Or just the JL one? It is possible that American suspended their code share deal with JL for that route, but JL kept flying it. Is American offering the route now? Nov 11 '21 at 18:45
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    Given all the travel restrictions due to Covid, it would not surprise me if indeed flights were pre-emptively cancelled, but brought back after restrictions were ratcheted back down. Many uncertainties.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 11 '21 at 23:49
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While there is no doubt in my mind that this is very underhanded

Hard to say. Covid has made a total mess out of flight schedules and bookings and it's entirely possible that at the time of notice, the flight was really not available to you. Could also be incompetence or misinterpretation of existing rules (which change a lot and are very complicated and detailed).

I was advised it might be better to cancel the entire ticket (...) so that the agent could try to rebook it

That does indeed sound strange. The agent should have FIRST tried to find an alternative booking and once that's agreed upon, cancel the old one to retrieve the miles. Some reservation system don't allow booking a passenger on a flight that they already have a reservation for but the agent should know how to work around this.

I'm wondering....do I have any recourse?

Very little, I'm afraid. At the time of notice you accepted the option to cancel for a full refund, which ends this contract and AA is off the hook. Any new booking is a new booking with new terms and conditions. Typically it's a good idea to figure out Plan before cancelling but that's water under the bridge.

Best you can do is to call AA and ask nicely, especially if the agent advised you to cancel BEFORE giving you can alternative that was agree on. It's unlikely to work but there is no harm in trying.

Current fares from SAN to MNL are indeed high for these days. You are not bound to AA anymore and you can shop around and be a little more flexible. For example using Philippine Airlines from LAX looked like the cheapest option at the moment.

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    This is David G. (the original author). To Hilmar, thank you for your answer. Greatly appreciated. The agent told me to cancel the original ticket completely so that the miles "could be released and show as available for use". You are correct in the fact that I'm not bound to AA anymore except for the fact that cashing in my miles was my means for paying for the ticket. The company is too large for one customer's complaint to mean anything to them. The frustrating part is that for the past 4 years as I was accumulating the reward miles, I faithfully flew with AA only, even when I had much chea
    – user124022
    Nov 18 '21 at 13:21

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