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“Nobody Flies for Free” United Blamed for Booting Traveler On Her Way to See Her Dying Mother

A New York Times report details the devastating results when common sense makes an early departure in the face of conflicting polices and confusion on the frontlines at a mega-carrier.

Modern air travel can, at the best of times, make the world a much smaller place. According to a New York Times report, the seeming convenience of a last-minute flight ended up costing a Colorado woman the chance to see her dying mother in Minnesota one last time when the airline inexplicably canceled her ticket and kicked her off of a flight from Colorado Springs Airport (COS) to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) via Denver International Airport (DEN).

Carrol Amrich says she was already in her assigned seat on the flight that she was expecting to deliver her to her dying mother’s side, when an airline employee ordered her off of the plane. She was told that her reservation had been canceled by the third party booking agent Traveler Help Desk from which the tickets were purchased.

According to Amrich, because her friend and landlord had booked the tickets through Traveler Help Desk, but then later changed the reservation to an earlier flight through United Airlines, Travel Help Desk suspected fraud and cancelled the reservations – even though United Airlines customer service agents had reportedly promised that the emergency change would not cause any problems when traveling. Traveler Help Desk confirmed that they canceled the reservations per the company’s published policy, but insisted that agents made several attempts to contact Amrich and her friend before the itinerary was voided.

Amrich says that when she explained her dire situation to gate agents at COS, she was simply told “Nobody flies for free.” She says that pleas to allow her to purchase another ticket on the same flight were dismissed outright.

In a rush to see her mother one last time, Amrich says she was left with little choice but to drive nonstop to the hospital in Minnesota. Unfortunately, just hours before reaching her destination, she received a devastating phone call.

“I drove 1,000 miles, and she was gone before I got here,” Amrich told NYT reporter Maggie Astor. “I never stopped to rest. I went straight through. And she was gone.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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9 Comments
M
Madison Guy January 29, 2018

It would seem the TA was in error - unless their "fine print" really says they will cancel the flight under these circumstances AND they tried contacting as they claim. UA is messed up for their phone agent's promise (but that happens a lot in the industry) and as for the refusal to allow a ticket purchase - perhaps that flight was full? BUT - since the change was to an EARLIER flight - why go for a later one. In any event the comment was inexcusable. But since she was ready to purchase another fare anyway, why not fly AA - they have multiple options each day as well on that route - just a different connecting city.

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Global321 January 29, 2018

Not a fan of UA, but... Simply put, she did not have a ticket. The TA/friend/landlord is where the blame sits. Could this be as simple as the passenger and friends running a scam to cancel the ticket and refund it after the flight departed? Maybe, maybe not. And while in this case there is a dying family member, I would guess the airlines hear stories like this every day, multiple times a day, with the vast majority being a just a story to run a scam. If UA would not sell her a ticket, why not book with American or Delta? Why not drive 70 miles to Denver to catch a non-stop flight? Last DEN flight departs at 8pm. Last flight from COS - 5:15. If she was driving to MSP, SHE DROVE RIGHT PAST DEN. If she left COS right after the last flight departed, she would have made the last flight to MSP with time to spare. versus 14 hour drive. I am very sorry for her loss, but she needs to accept the responsibility/blames lies with her friends and the TA.

J
JimInOhio January 29, 2018

Didn't the reporter as UA why the passenger couldn't purchase another ticket? Seems to be the most obvious question in all of this.

A
AsiaTraveler January 29, 2018

"...even though United Airlines customer service agents had reportedly promised that the emergency change would not cause any problems when traveling."?

J
jjmoore January 29, 2018

This is not United's fault, folks.