Man's Clever Letter Persuades American Airlines to Drop $200 Cancellation Fee

"It was a complete surprise."

"It was a complete surprise," Alex Hamberger, 30, of Buffalo told ABC News. "I didn’t think I would hear from them at all. I was really taken aback and really overwhelmed by the fact that someone on the other end read it and enjoyed it. So, it was so much more of a personal experience than I anticipated."

Hamberger was booked on a flight to Kansas City, Missouri on March 7 to visit his sister, brother-in-law and niece, but fell ill days before.

After his doctor advised him not to travel, Hamberger called to cancel his flight. American Airlines informed him he would be charged a $200 fee.

Later, on April 4, Hamberger called the airline to change his flight to a different date.

"When I spoke with the representative I said, 'I had to cancel that trip because I was sick. Is there anyway I can get that fee waived?'" he explained.

But, as it turned out, he would have to send in an explanation by mail. "I was just going to write a letter and send in the doctor's note. That's when I had the idea to take it a little further and get a little creative with it."

On April 24, Hamberger sent his doctor's note to American Airlines, along with a witty letter.

It read, in part:

“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.”

Hamberger described how he began to feel sick before his trip:“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.”

He went on to explain in the letter that, when he subsequently visited the doctor, he was surprised by the news that what he thought were mild symptoms were actually much more serious.

He was glad for the diagnosis and explained that, “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.”

"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," he continued in the letter. "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."

He went on to assure the reader that he was not one of the “testy and ornery travelers” that employees must deal with and thanked the airline for “all you do to make the travel dreams of flyers such as myself a reality.”

He signed off:

Alex Hamberger
-Frequent Flyer
-Formerly sick person
-Currently healthy person
-Grateful flyer

On May 6, Hamberger received a response from American Airlines, informing him that the company would waive the $200 fee.

"Thank you for your letter to Customer Relations, I enjoyed reading it," an airline representative wrote to Hamberger in an email. "I'm glad you are 'formerly sick' and 'currently healthy' to make plans to see your precious niece. She sure is a lucky little girl to have such a loving Uncle Al! I have authorized a waiver of the $200.00 change charge."

Hamberger said the gesture restored his faith in humanity.

"It's nice to get the $200 back, but it was really more about taking a chance and hoping to make a nice connection with them," he said. "I truly thought if someone at the office at American opens up and it puts a smile on their face, that to me was really special."

Hamberger will be flying out to Kansas City today, to spend five days of quality time with his family.

"We are proud to provide excellent customer service to all American Airlines customers," a spokesperson for American Airlines wrote to ABC News. "Our customer relations team found his note very compelling, and we were happy to assist Mr. Hamberger."