Last updated: 02:32 PM ET, Fri September 04 2015

How Passengers on American Are Gaming The Credit Card System

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | September 04, 2015

How Passengers on American Are Gaming The Credit Card System

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

American Airlines and other carriers are wrestling with an interesting problem with passengers who, knowingly or not, are gaming the system when it comes to onboard credit card purchases.

Several American flight attendants reached out to recently to say they are being asked to provide more oversight and more responsibility for a little-known, yet growing problem.

It appears that passengers are able to use an expired credit card, or canceled card, or debit card with insufficient balance, to purchase headsets, food and alcohol while in flight.


Ah, the little-known secret is revealed.

“Because the card isn't actually run until long after the flight,” one flight attendant explained. “Flight attendants simply take the card and swipe it, and the card information is run at a later date.”

The American flight attendant said the Samsung tablets used during flight only take the information and are used as data transfer, which can only be done on the ground. When the card is actually run after the flight, any expired card, or canceled card or debit card without enough funds will be declined.

Interestingly, airlines went to cashless cabin purchases more than five years ago in an effort to speed the process of passengers not only fumbling for change, but crew members having to make change, which sometimes wasn’t able to be done on the spot. Now, say flight attendants, airlines are asking their crew members to be more diligent in checking credit cards’ expiration dates and verifying names on the cards – a process that some FAs say reverts back to the old time-consuming system of using cash.

“No one has time for it,” a flight attendant said. “Apparently American is receiving quite a few declines and they want to try and curb the losses by placing the responsibility on the flight attendants.”

Not true, says American.

In a statement given to TravelPulse, an American Airlines spokesman said “Our experience has been that the rate of declined credit cards is low. For those cards that are declined, American began this year to re-process credit cards to handle failed transactions, a standard practice for many companies.”

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