After brother’s death, where’s my airfare refund?

Jorg Hackemann /
Jorg Hackemann /
After Irene Reitman’s brother passes away, she cancels her trip to Las Vegas. But American Airlines won’t refund her fare. Why not?

Question: My husband and I were recently scheduled to fly from Chicago to Las Vegas on American Airlines. Unfortunately, my brother died shortly before we left, and we canceled our non-refundable tickets.

I subsequently noticed on the American website that non-refundable tickets could be refunded due to a death in the immediate family. I called the refund services desk for many days and could never get through to a real person. The message on this phone was “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we can’t answer the phone right now, call back later.”
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An unexpected act of kindness from a big airline

Carlos E. Santa Maria /
Carlos E. Santa Maria /

If you think airlines stopped caring about everyone but their elite-level “high value” passengers long ago, you’ll want to hear Dick and Zoe Hannah’s heartwarming story that — I’ve gotta be honest with you — really restores my faith in humanity.

It’s easy to be left with that impression, by the way. Consider American Airlines, which just reported record second quarter profits and is about to merge with US Airways. It’s rewarding us by moving some of its seats in economy class closer together. So there!

The Hannahs, both of whom are retired schoolteachers from San Jose, Calif., were scheduled to fly to Portland, Ore., on May 16. But on the evening of May 14, they received a call every parent dreads. Their adult son had died.

To be fair, most airlines will refund a ticket when an immediate relative passes away, so the Hannah’s ticket shouldn’t have been an issue for them no matter which airline they were flying.
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My mother is terminally ill — why won’t Princess refund her cruise?

oceanQuestion: I am currently sitting on a deck overlooking a park at a hospice facility while my mother lies in her bed taking a morphine nap. She will die in a couple of days.

My mother was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma last year. We had expected that she would be around for at least another couple of years. But last week we discovered that the tumors she had more than tripled in size and a week later she was given a few days life expectancy.
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No name change on a dead passenger’s ticket?

Songquan Deng /
Songquan Deng /
Question: Last year my husband canceled a flight on United Airlines and received a ticket credit. A few months later, he was killed in a hit and run accident.

I have had a difficult time even focusing on things. I sent United an email a few weeks after his death, but months before his ticket credit was to have expired. I received a standard automated response that they would get back to me within 10 days on my refund request.
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Dad passed away — is his cruise refund sunk?

Sandy Perozeni’s father was scheduled to take a two-week cruise on Celebrity’s Constellation last year.

He knew it would probably be his last vacation. He’d just undergone cancer surgery, but it was also his 55th wedding anniversary and he wanted to go, despite his pre-existing medical condition.

I use the term “pre-existing” medical condition because, unfortunately, her father died before he could set sail.
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Hey American Airlines, where’s my ticket refund?

Question: My grandfather recently passed away and I needed to travel to Austin, Texas, a few days later for his funeral. Because I was already scheduled to fly from Baltimore to Austin on American Airlines on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be easiest to just move my outbound flight up a few days to Nov. 19.
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Is “heartless” Southwest Airlines profiting from dad’s death?

Jennifer Kucinski lives in Kansas City. Her father lives in Orlando. Make that lived in Orlando.

A few weeks ago, she received devastating news that her dad had passed away unexpectedly. Compounding that tragedy was the fact that Southwest Airlines was trying to stick her with two overpriced plane tickets, a decision she calls “heartless.”

“Upon reaching the agent and explaining the situation, the first words out of the agents mouth were, ‘We don’t offer bereavement fares’,” she says.
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Case dismissed: My father died — please refund my rental car

Sometimes, even death isn’t a good enough reason for a refund.

Consider what happened to John Graham when his father died unexpectedly the day before he was scheduled to pick up a rental car he’d booked through Priceline. It’s true that Priceline’s rentals are non-refundable, but travel companies routinely make an exception when someone flashes a death certificate.

Not this time.
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Can this trip be saved? No hotel refund after a sudden death

A death certificate can be a trump card for travelers who want a refund. Whether you’re locked into a nonrefundable hotel room or a consolidator ticket, proof of a relative’s death can loosen the rules — if not get them waived entirely.

But what if it’s the death of a friend? That’s the call Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts and Expedia had to make after Joe Diamond’s neighbor died in a tragic car accident. He’d booked a two-night stay at the Mövenpick property in Munich, Germany, which he needed to cancel.

“At the time of booking, I did not notice the hidden cancellation policy that states that you are liable for 90 percent of the fee if the reservation is cancelled, which in itself, is totally absurd,” he says.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Dead passengers can’t use a flight credit

Question: I recently booked a flight on Expedia from Dallas to Midland, Texas, with my wife. She died before we could make the trip. I canceled her ticket and applied for a refund through Expedia, the online agency through which I had booked the ticket.

I furnished all the requested documentation, including the death certificate. After not hearing anything from either Expedia or American Airlines, I called Expedia this week and was told that American had refused the refund.

The reason given was that all American could do was issue a credit for a future flight. But since my wife wouldn’t be able to use the credit, they weren’t even going to do that.

Now, the amount involved isn’t going to break me, nor would it break American Airlines, but the bizarre reasoning for the refusal just smacks of lousy customer relations. On top of American’s poor attitude, Expedia never informed me of the refusal of the refund until I initiated the call.

Sure I’d like a refund but you can bet your bottom dollar I will never darken the door of either American or Expedia again. — David Walters, Plano, Texas

Answer: My condolences on the loss of your wife. Airlines routinely offer a full refund when a passenger dies, and your online travel agency should have been able to return your money when you sent it proof of your spouse’s passing.

The death of a passenger is one of the most common exceptions to the nonrefundability rule on airline tickets (the other is military orders). Once Expedia and American were informed of the event, the refund should have been more or less automatic.
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