My condolences on your loss. American should have answered the phone the first time you called, instead of sending you through a bureaucratic maze during this difficult time.
American’s policy on the death of a passenger, immediate family member or traveling companion is spelled out on its website.
At the time you booked your ticket, it said a change fee may be waived or the ticket refunded, provided a copy of the death certificate is presented to American Airlines.
The “refund” would be in the form of a nonrefundable transportation voucher that may be used for future travel on American Airlines only. (Only dead passengers can get full refunds, which go to their estate.)
In other words, American will let you miss your flight because of a death in the family, but if you send it a death certificate, it will offer you a voucher.
If you’re a “no show” without proof of the death, you would lose the value of your ticket.
If you had emailed or faxed your brother’s death certificate, along with your record locator, to the airline, I think you might have received the promised voucher. But it’s difficult to know.
The airline was operating under bankruptcy protection at the time this happened, and things have a way of slipping through the cracks when a company is trying to restructure.
You could have tried two other avenues.
The second would be filing a dispute with your credit card company, which might have succeeded if you could show that the airline isn’t following its own rules.
Fortunately, none of that was necessary.
I contacted American on your behalf. A representative got in touch with you immediately and sent you a voucher for $705.