Tragic: Woman Visiting Dying Mother Gets Kicked Off United Flight

Filed Under: Media, United

Unfortunately compassion is often lost in the airline industry. I see how that happens. The airline industry is incredibly complex, and there are so many moving parts that often following the published policy is the only way to do business. For example, if someone is just two minutes late for their flight it seems cruel to leave them behind, but on the other hand you never know what impact this could have on people with connections on their bags, etc.

We hear a lot of horrible stories in the airline industry. In some cases these are stories of airline employees acting abusively towards passengers, in some cases there are stories of passengers acting abusively towards employees, and then there’s everything inbetween.

This is one of those stories where you can’t really point your finger at any one party, though you can say “gosh, that sucks.”

The New York Times ran a story yesterday entitled “She Boarded a Plane to See Her Dying Mother. Then Her Ticket Was Canceled.”

Essentially what happened is that on January 16, 2018, a woman from Colorado intended to fly to Minnesota to see her dying mother, as she had just hours to live. The passenger had a ticket on United which was purchased by her landlord, because the woman couldn’t afford her own ticket. She made it all the way onto the plane and was on her seat, when this happened:

But minutes before departure, already buckled into her seat, she was ordered to leave the plane. The gate agent told her that her reservation had been canceled. Traveler Help Desk, the online agency that sold the ticket, had rescinded it because the landlord made a change directly through United — even though United had assured the landlord that it was not a problem to do so.

Unable to fly, Ms. Amrich drove through the night, not stopping even to use the bathroom. Her sister, in the hospital room, held a phone to their mother’s ear, and Ms. Amrich begged her to hold on.

She was still driving when her cellphone rang again. Her mother was dead.

For their side of the story, here’s what Traveler Help Desk, the online travel agency that issued the ticket, had to say:

Carolyn Gallant, customer service supervisor at Traveler Help Desk, confirmed that the agency had voided the ticket after it saw that a change had been made to the reservation. She said that the intention had been to protect Ms. Amrich against possible fraud and that a representative had tried “numerous times” to contact Ms. Amrich first.

But Ms. Amrich and her landlord, Ines Prelas, said they had heard nothing from the agency before she was removed from the plane.

The reason they changed the flight was because originally she was planning on flying the following day, but her mother’s condition deteriorated, so the landlord called United directly to change the flight.

Once she was removed from the flight, here’s what went down between her and the gate agent:

When Ms. Amrich pleaded, saying her mother was dying, the agent responded that her ticket had been refunded and that “nobody flies for free.”

Back in the airport, Ms. Amrich called Ms. Prelas, sobbing. Ms. Prelas got on the phone with the gate agent and offered to pay for another ticket.

“I said: ‘Take my credit card. We’ll straighten this out later, but get her on that plane,’” Ms. Prelas said. The agent, she said, responded that Ms. Amrich could not get back on the plane.

Traveler’s Help Desk followed up with this:

“We had no way of knowing this was a change by Ms. Amrich directly with the carrier,” she said in an email, adding that if the change had been unauthorized and the agency had not canceled the ticket, Ms. Amrich would have lost her money. “We voided the ticket to protect Ms. Amrich.”

“I am just so sorry for Ms. Amrich’s loss,” Ms. Gallant wrote. “It is tragic. I understand it was unfortunate the ticket ended up voided. Had she contacted us directly to make the change, this all would have been avoided.”

This is such a sad story, and I can’t imagine how this lady is feeling. It’s also the prime example of a situation where no specific party is completely at fault, but rather a combination of unfortunate errors and misunderstandings leads to a horrible result.

The landlord should have contacted the travel agency to make changes, though (understandably) she didn’t know that. The airline industry is complicated, and the United agent advised her it was okay to make a change directly. The travel agency should have made contact with the landlord and/or traveler before canceling the ticket. They claimed they reached out but didn’t hear back, so we don’t know where the truth lies there.

Perhaps worst of all, the gate agent sounds like s/he should have shown a lot more compassion. While my initial instinct is to say that the gate agent is the most wrong here for his/her lack of compassion, I’m not sure it’s that straightforward. If the ticket were voided, the gate agent couldn’t simply put someone on the flight without a ticket. It’s not specifically about the money, but rather about having a passenger on the flight who doesn’t appear on the manifest. I doubt the gate agent could have done it if s/he wanted to. So presumably a ticket needed to be issued and/or restored, and that would have taken a significant amount of time. A delay on this flight could have lead to a bunch of other passengers misconnecting, and who knows if other people were dealing with equally dire circumstances. Furthermore, United claims that the plane had left by the time the landlord offered to buy a new ticket.

I have nothing but sympathy for the lady who lost her mother. I don’t think anyone was being intentionally malicious here, and based on what we know the only party I can blame here is the gate agent, and that’s for how she allegedly spoke to the passenger, more than anything else.

What do you make of this horrible situation?

  1. This sucks is correct.

    The reality is that there are thousands and thousands of people that try to defraud airlines and other businesses every day. If an exception was made for everyone with a sad and costly-to-verify story, nobody would be paying any money to fly.

    Does anyone truly think that all “support animals” are such, and are not ways for people not to pay the $300 fees (or more) to transport them?

  2. I feel bad for the passenger of course, but honestly, what would you have expected the gate agent to do? This is clearly based on a lot of hearsay, and the gate agent can’t just let people on a plane if the record shows that the ticket has been cancelled. Do you honestly expect the gate agent to have just let the person fly? It’s a terrible situation, for sure, but I don’t think anything that much better could have been done here.

  3. I hate when customer service failures are justified by referring to some inexplicably opaque internal policy. Good customer service = use common sense and fix it! In this case, travel agency shouldn’t be in business, or at least shouldn’t be permitted to sell tickets on United, if they are unilaterally cancelling tickets.

    It’s like the “catch” rule in the NFL. Just layer upon layer of bullshit.

  4. The ridiculous part is that the issue should have been flagged at check in which could have given her enough time to have the ticket reissued or buy a new ticket (as her landlord offered to do). By issuing her a BP and letting her board anyone would assume that everything was in order therefore giving her no time to rectify an arguably simple thing. If someone’s ticket has indeed been voided, it is a little worrying that it should come to light minuted prior to departure.

  5. This woman showed a lot of restraint.

    It would’ve taken cops to drag me off that plane.

    The gate agent would need a set of dentures as I’d have socked my fist to her mouth after the flying for free comment.

    The travel agency’s comment on the matter is one for the PR textbooks as how to make yourself look as tone deaf and self serving as possible.

  6. How can a ticket be cancelled and refunded after the passenger has boarded? Shouldn’t it be marked checked in and not possible to change or cancel without cancelling the checkin? And that not possible after passenger boarded? Very weird.

  7. Someone is lying. Cancellation of a ticket is not possible after boarding. Boarding is not possible without a valid ticket. And the gate agent, assuming he/she was stupid enough to say what he/she said, should be fired immediately.

  8. I am not sure I understand all of the facts as presented. From what I understand the landlord paid for the ticket with travel agency, then called United at a later date to change date of travel which United obliged. Passenger boards flight but travel agency voids ticket and issues full refund to passenger. How is the travel agency able to void a ticket issued within 24 hours of departure and refund the passengers full purchase price without any cancellation fees? I thought travel agencies were only able to void tickets issued at least 7 days prior to departure? I know in years past travel agents used to be able to hold tickets for 24 hours and cancel without ticketing but once a ticket was issued “ticketed” it was my understanding that the ticket could no longer be voided without the airlines penalties applying.

    This is a very sad story and I feel awful for this passenger. She should be commended for her composure and her landlord should be commended for her compassion.

  9. I agree with @geoff. It’s not possible to check in and board the aircraft if a ticket is voided /suspended as happens, for example when there is fraud

    If the status was changed before checkin the passenger can’t check in

    If she already checked on online , had no baggage and went directly to the gate then the boarding card reader would have identified it

    United isn’t in the wrong as such as you basically have a customer on a flight who is not holding a valid ticket and hasn’t paid

    It’s unfortunate the reason behind her travel, however there was no time to resolve this in probably a time frame of 2-3 minutes

    You cannot buy a ticket on the aircraft or at the gate

    Of course most people, as usual, will only read “ united airlines , dying mother, daughter kicked off flight “

    The airline will receive the usual abuse via social media as this is what it’s like nowadays and 99.9% don’t know nor will ever know the facts

  10. Here’s what probably happened- lady goes to board and the scanner beeps. Gate agent sends her on while the ticket is fixed thinking it’s a simple fix which happens often. Upon further examination they find the e-tkt voided yet the reservation was still intact. Gate agent goes on to pull the lady off the plane. Gate agent has probably been a gate agent for many years and does not know how to sell a ticket – thus saying it’s not possible to get back on the plane. Many gate agents only work gates and haven’t seen a ticket counter in years. This could’ve been avoided had they used compassion and empathy.

  11. What do I make of this horrible situations? Well, you answer the question yourself with that phrasing, no? Shouldn’t your question be: “What do you make of this situation?” By inserting horrible, you answer the question yourself. And, yes, it’s horrible.

  12. The travel agency is to blame here. They should not be voiding someone’s ticket because they make a change directly with the airline.

    I never book flights through an agent or third party anymore. It is best to go direct to the airline.

  13. “When Ms. Amrich pleaded, saying her mother was dying, the agent responded that her ticket had been refunded and that “nobody flies for free.”” – And this right here is if true why the gate agent is totally in the wrong. Maybe the gate agent couldn’t have done anything maybe she could have I dunno, but that response to me screams to me completely inappropriate and makes the agent 100% wrong. Also United is 100% wrong if they told the landlord she could change the ticket via United. Stop trying to excuse or minimize this terrible behavior by an airline between giving out false information and then being totally unprofessional with a passenger under extreme stress for a situation United created when they told the landlord the changes could be made with united instead of the travel agency.

  14. Also, why the hell was she allowed to board the plane and then removed? Again what the hell is United’s problem that they can sort stuff out before they let people on a plane?

  15. I think the fault is clear:
    – Whichever United customer service agent said it was OK to change a ticket booked through a third party
    – Traveler help desk for cancelling the ticket without contacting the purchaser (we all know they are lying when they claim they tried to contract them “numerous times”)

    I also agree that it is a bit fishy that she was already on the plane when they figured out the ticket had been voided.

  16. You’re wrong, Ben. Someone is at fault, and it’s United. THEY are the ones who issued a boarding pass and let her on the plane, neither of which they should have done for someone with an invalid ticket. If they had told the lady there was a problem with her ticket in plenty of time before the flight, she could have gotten it straightened out. Then, after the complete failure to catch this, they do the most heartless thing possible and drag her off the plane – behavior that seems to be SOP for United.

    Also, Ben, while it’s true that “we hear a lot of horrible stories in the airline industry,” why is it that they seem to disproportionately involve United?

    Maybe UA is just a sh!t airlines with a sh!t customer service culture.

  17. United has partial blame because they let her CHECK IN. Then they assume responsibility for the ticket! Any change after checkin from a third party should be resolved with United and third party communication, with no changes made until the customer agrees.

  18. @phil. No 100% fault with UA. they may have simply told the sponsor it’s ok to change the res however they should refer to the agent

    If a journey has not commenced it’s an industry standard that requires you rebook via the agent

    @snic unless you can see the transcript of the booking and entire history you and 99.9% don’t know the full story

    Sadly passengers often claim someone is ill/dying etc so airline staff can be immune to this although can empathise

    If she had hand baggage only she could have still checked in online and the ticket was voided afterwards between the time she checked in and time boarded

    Again there was no time to resolve the matter as the flight was closing

    Do the “United Airlines fault “ people expect to hold it disrupting
    everyone else ?! She also had a connection therefore had it been delayed may have missed that plus everyone else with short connections

    In the end never book via third party.

    Airlines seem to bear the brunt of negative stories and yet more people go to the supermarket every day. My local us full of rude unhelpful staff I’ve seen customers shouted at , mould .. I could go on .. yet is there a supermarket equivalent of OMAAT

  19. I’m blaming the agency too. Person buys a ticket it’s theirs to do with what they please. I spent a lot of years issuing tix for people and then seeing they did stuff on their own, causing me to lose control of ticket. It was maddening. But it’s a normal part of business.

  20. The person is in the plane and in her seat, also begging to get back on the plane, United refused to let her as the ticket wasn’t paid, so it’s not a matter of United doesn’t know the passenger don’t want the change, simply because of nobody flies for free with United. That’s sad. Which is I appreciate the kind stories of British Airways helping few individuals get to where they need.

  21. This UA’s problem. They let her check in, they let her board, and then they pulled her off of the plane when it was too late to do anything. Whoever got the call about the cancelled ticket should have been empowered to straighten it out instead of forging ahead. Whoever made the decision to pull her off the plane also needed to be empowered to NOT pull her off the plane.

    I am terribly sorry for her loss. That is something you can never get back.

    Shame on United.

  22. I agree with Phil, not everyone is a frequent traveler so you can’t expect them to know what the proper procedure is to make a change on an airline ticket. The average person would assume it can be done directly with the airline. That said, the CSR with United, after reviewing the reservation, should have referred her back to the travel agent if there was the slightest risk of the ticket being canceled due to making a change directly with the airline. The CSR is an “industry professional” so if anyone should have known it should have been them.

  23. They thought it was fraud so they voided the ticket to protect the person. LIE. You are not responsible for fraudulent charges on your credit card, the bank or the merchant eats it, so they voided the ticket to protect THEM, not the customer.

  24. This story clearly impugns this garbage OTA. Never heard of them, but now I never want to hear of them. Why would they cancel a ticket of someone who’s already checked in? What fraud are they preventing exactly? I’ve changed plenty of OTA tickets directly with carriers, and typically you get an email from Priceline saying “we understand you made a change without us. Good luck with that.” Lucky, if you want to dive into one part of the story, that’s the interesting part. How does messing with your ticket imply FRAUD to the OTA? And how frequent are these ticket cancellations? The NYT headline should have been: BOOK DIRECT.

  25. Absolutely unfortunate. Another example of poor training by customer service agents. Whenever I have an issue or change to a ticket, I always hold my breath until it’s wheels up. It shouldn’t be that way. The airlines need to hire better people and/or invest in more training. These types of situations will only increase in the current environment.

  26. it is easy to pin down whose fault it is. With the technology these days, UA can check the timing of cancellation. That will tell us a lot. Furthermore, TA called but two people involved both did not receive the call needs to be investigated at the TA. Did TA at least reach out to the passenger and her tenant later to see what went wrong? They didn’t seem to care to contact the passenger first before releasing the news to media. If I were them, I first pin down what went wrong and reach to the passenger and apologize and sort it out. Was the number at reservation wrong or what? something just does not add up and the TA is really sloppy

  27. Why on Earth do you all unconditionally accept the exact wording of the gate agent, as relayed without proof by a passenger with an agenda who was in great distress at the time?

    I find it incredibly hard to believe they got a blunt response of “no one flies for free” unprovoked – it must have been in context at least.

  28. Horrible travel agency that caused this. There’s no way they attempted to contact the passenger “numerous times” in the span of a few minutes when the standby cleared to when she got pulled off the plane. If a travel agency is willing to lie they also would have no problems cancelling a ticket before reaching out to the passenger, which is likely what they did.

    Ultimately it didn’t matter whether she made the flight or not, her mother passed away that same evening on 1/16. She was on the last flight of the day COS-DEN. Her connection in DEN would have put her in MSP about 11:15pm. Then another 1 hour 15 min drive to the hospital and she would have arrived well after midnight, after her mother had already passed.

  29. I totally agree with @Icarus’ excellent analysis.

    I also cannot help but feel that there is still a missing part to this tale.

    “She was still driving when her cellphone rang again. Her mother had died.” I instantly question the details of a story once it lapses into melodrama worthy of a movie on the Hallmark & Lifetime channels.

  30. @Imperator
    Seems like a pretty direct and emotionless piece of writing to me… Please share how would you word it?

  31. I try to think to myself, How would an airline like Southwest have handled this?

    With 80% of my flying done on United and about 10% on SW, I’m 99% sure this woman would have been on that plane had it been a WN flight. I’ve actually been amazed at how their employees bend over backwards to help out when things go completely FUBAR.

    United probably was not 100% at fault here, but what a bunch of clowns to continually keep having things like this happen. It’s clear that it is a total mismanaged, bureaucratic company whose employees frankly don’t give a ^**(. Not sure how that gets fixed, but it’s clear that Oscar is totally in over his head and should have been fired long ago.

  32. It seems to me that everyone but the woman and her landlord are at fault:

    1)Whatever agent informed the landlord that a ticket change could be made with no problems should be fired. They gave misinformation that led directly to this happening.

    2)”Tried to contact them several times” is such crap. It’s easy to say and impossible to verify.

    3)How did United let a woman with a voided ticket on the plane? It seems to me that that’s their screw-up.

    4)Customer service these days is utterly lacking in compassion. A woman’s mother is dying and the gate agent says “nobody flies for free”? Why is it always UA agents pulling this kind of crap? The cost of letting that woman fly for free (due to this unusual and extreme circumstances) could honestly be made up for with the goodwill and publicity that would be generated for it. Now UA is getting bad publicity…again.

  33. Benyamin,
    In the old days, there was this thing called “supervisor”. This person had powers akin to a God, common sense and compassion too. Then came several generations of drone like douche bags, much like you. No imagination, no problem solving capability, and ofcourse, no compassion. Look it up!

  34. As a travel agency owner, we would need to know the complete facts here before sitting in judgement.

    The key unknown variable here is did United send the travel Agency a message advising the reason for the change. Eg changed flight at pax request. That’s the standard practice. Our policy if not is to call the airline if not to verify the status of the booking as the change would show up as a cancelled flight in the agents system and agents can void a ticket with no penalty if it was issued on the same day.

    So before you all sit in judgement we need to know the full story.

    And people use travel agents still because we can SAVE you money! Our systems can see seat live availability in a way the net can never show you! Why use the net I would ask you?

  35. There is simple solution for that kind of situations (this one, Dao etc.): In each airline should be 24 * 7 duty person with authorities of a VP to handle last minute gate situations.

    Let’s assume he has a shift of 8 hours. At any moment at most he will deal with 1 case, max for entire shift, what? 10 cases?

    Gate agents should escalate such situations to the duty VP, and he should have authority bypass bureaucracy. Even if on average most of the cases will be fraud, the damage in terms of money to the airline is bounded.

  36. We’re way too accepting of corporations behaving robotically, when corporations are composed of humans who should behave like humans.

  37. Well I get that this situation could’ve been handled better, that gate agent should’ve have been more understanding and nicer to a person who’s mother was dying.

  38. Feel good story with no merit. The ticket was cancelled, voided, done. The gate agent would have been fired for letting someone fly for free. They could , however, said it in a better way.

    How about this ? You mother is terminally ill. Ready to go. You should have been on that plane asap , and not dilly dallied around. The fact they the passenger “changed” the ticket, showed how unprepared they were. Next time, get there asap and dont monkey around.

    No sympathy. This is yet another story of someone, who tried to shift blame and accountability to someone else, and takes no responsibility for their own actions. Sorry.

  39. I agree that it is one hundred percent the fault of United Airlines and the shameful travel agency. United Airlines already allowed her to check in and board the plane. It is already their responsibility. When will U.S. Airlines like United learn the real meaning of customer service? Also, the gate agent was very rude with that remark that nobody flies for free. No matter the situation, that was totally not necessary.

    Moreover, it was United’s fault because they allowed the change. No matter that, the company representative should’ve told the landlord that she had to contact the airline directly. Whenever, I had to do similar changes, I was told by the airline and Travelocity that these type of changes such as changing flight times must be made with the one who originally sold the ticket. I guess it also goes to show you that you should choose a better airline and travel agency. Any changes or purchases that I do, I am notified immediately by my preferred airlines and travel agency immediately by email and on the app.

    On the part of the travel agency, they tried to contact the passenger? Really? For how long? All of the time before she even got on the plane, she did not receive a call or text even once. It seems that the agency is just trying to shift the blame. The landlord and the passenger did not receive any communication. It seems fishy to me that the travel agency would make such a claim.

    Okay. It could also be the passenger’s fault for not knowing even basic policies or failure to completely read the rules. However, as a reader of this blog pointed out, sometimes they just don’t know or get it. In my line of work, I consistently have to kindly and firmly remind my guests of the policies. It is part of delivering superb guest service.

  40. I watched the same thing unfold at DFW AA Terminal D one morning. Ticket was issued then cancelled due to payment issues. Pax could not provide payment thus AA was not going to let them ride for free. At the end of the day its a business and money talks. A very nice lady paid $1100 on her CC to buy this young guy a new ticket. Granted this guy was not on the plane yet but you get the story. All the airlines operate the same.

  41. As our culture in the USA becomes ever more self centered and bureaucratic, we lose our compassion and our ability to help even if we want to.

    Just sad.

  42. What an unfortunate, stressful, tragic mess! Several people messed up, all players in some way contributing to the whole mess. But, think about it, your mother’s dying, literally, so you don’t turn your cell phone on or answer it if it is turned on and your landlord who has paid for the ticket and sent you on your way in this urgent situation, doesn’t turn hers on either or answer it either. Therefore, the “numerous” calls made by the TA are not picked up and ALL go unanswered by either of two people whose BP has risen considerably. SURELY, the TA jests!

  43. I would get it if she had to check-in and the ticket showed as cancelled, but for her to have gotten all the way to sitting down on the actual plane that would have meant verification was done to check that the ticket was valid. How coincidental that between the time she scanned her BP and getting on the plane the cancelling of the ticket occurred.

    The fault surely lies with the TA and United to varying degrees.

    – UA should have put in a note that the pax / landlord made the change in the system and they verified identify so that the TA would not think that it was fraud.
    – There should be missed/failed call logs if the TA did try to contact either the landlord or the passenger. Unless this can be shown and verified by the landlord/passenger or some unbiased third-party, I won’t believe this PR line about potential fraud. In the first place, the change couldn’t have been so last minute that they could not try multiple times to contact them.
    – The TA could have also alerted UA to possible fraud and to have the check-in agent verify that the pax is the one checking-in to the amended flight.

    I don’t see how this can be a ‘fraud’ situation given that the passenger ticketed was actually aware enough to take the amended flight.

  44. The problem started when a third party (landlady) then a forth party (agency/reseller) got involved. The more points of possible failure, coupled with the need to move/change things quickly don’t mix. As a road warrior, I know whenever possible I want to deal with the airline directly. Airlines, believe it or not, are very sensitive to on-time performance, a delay not only delays you but the whole plane and everybody else in it who needs to make connection etc. and whose fault is it if passengers don’t make their connections due to an airline’s decision? the airline. I won’t even go into overtime pay and pilots timing out and can’t fly any more and they have to cancel the whole flight. The airline, face with these deadlines can’t always make the best decision possible to have a good news outcome the next day. Am so sorry this happened that’s all I can say.

  45. For those who don’t bother to dig deeper into stories, it was a $75 same-day change she did:

    That makes what the travel agency did all that much more egregious. Passenger did everything by the book (SDC with airline on agency ticket is perfectly OK) and got screwed. This was not any sort to change that this incompetent travel agent could have handled in time for the passenger anyway (read their ratings).

  46. People say UA uncaring and yet we are looking at this in hindsight 20-20. People get confused, lie all the time. If u find yourself in a situation like this, ignore everything, give them your credit card and fix whatever LATER. Apparently this lady was in no position to do that either unfortunately.

    Lady pulled from plane after boarded, this happens all the time. In order to save every second$, be as efficient as possible businesses do stuff in an advance fashion. Plan to build something get scheduled BEFORE the raw materials arrive. Profit are booked BEFORE they are actually realized, and most of the time it works but when things happens, back-tracking is ugly as in this situation but I don’t think this will ever change.

    People here in hindsight have perfect do-this and do-that. Here is the truth, when a third party business is involved, the main provider, UA in this case, pushes all responsibility to the third party and customer. Don’t complaint to me why, it just works that way.

    Then some here, again in hindsight expect perfect, timely communication. Come on now, if everybody involved knows this in advance of this situation, perhaps no problem give this case top priority but no, in a day to day situation this case is no more important than hundreds, thousands… look, they always say you are the most important caller but you KNOW this cannot be true if they say that to everybody who calls in, everyone of us, except the million-miles members are treated like cattle, you know this, I know this, the lamppost knows this.

  47. How is UA not at fault here?
    UA should have insisted that ticket be changed via travel agency and not change the ticket on its end.
    Or UA could go ahead and make the changes, but would then be responsible for notifying the travel agency.

  48. United is not at fault here. On their end it’s perfectly okay to make a change directly, and they couldn’t have known the agency would cancel the ticket.

    The gate agent however, I agree should be immediately fired for that comment.

  49. How can UA accept the $75 change fee on what they claim is a voided ticket??? That piece of junk airline should pay for the mothers funeral and treat her like she was the queen of England. You issue someone a boarding pass you are legit. How a ticket shows voided that long after is BS. This situation could have easily been resolved with competent employees. Then again it starts with a competent company which UA has proven it is not. The power is with the people – If no one purchases a UA ticket for their travels, that company will implode. Its a shame that we as a group take the hard road so much more than the smart road.

  50. @Callum,

    “Why on Earth do you all unconditionally accept the exact wording of the gate agent, as relayed without proof by a passenger with an agenda who was in great distress at the time?”

    Probably because United hasn’t denied it.

    The airline has had plenty of time to interview the agent, FAs, and whomever else from the company was involved. If the agent actually did not make such a statement, a lousy statement that makes United look really, really bad, then I’m sure the airline would publicly denied the agent having done so.

    Silence is consent.

  51. 1) This is why you ALWAYS book directly with the airline. Im still shocked people book with travel agencies.

    2) I feel so sorry for this lady. May God comfort her.

  52. Well at least they didn’t physically drag her off….which quite honestly is what they would have had to do to me if I was in that situation.

    Poor woman.

  53. I understand that the gate agent didn’t have power to make decisions but she wasn’t helpless either. She could have called management/ a supervisor/UA central and had them override the cancel.

    the right thing to have done in this situation was to verify the situation quickly (e.g., call to Doctor/Hospice), put her on the plane, and then retroactively deal with the ticketing .
    Rules are rules, but first any rule that can’t be changed to accommodate a special situation is not a good one.

  54. Terrible story, and easy to believe given UA’s past behavior. Still, too much here just doesn’t add up and many “facts” seem vague and subject to interpretation. Are we sure this story is more than party true? After all, it was published in the NYT, the grand poohbah of fake/unverified/anonymously sourced/biased against a perceived bad actor like UA. I’ll wait for the rest of the story.

  55. I am very sorry for this young ladies loss, but why did she wait until the last minute to go see her dying mother, when she could have seen her many times while she was living.

  56. @Jamie,

    We don’t know everyone’s personal financial situations. The fact that she had to ask her landlord for help with a ticket indicates that she isn’t the most well off. It’s very possible that she wasn’t able to see her mom as many times as she would have wanted due to money concerns. Her mom may also have taken a sudden turn for the worse which necessitated this last moment travel. In the end, we don’w know and respectfully probably shouldn’t judge. Its the conduct of United and the ticketing agency that should be examined.

  57. It sucks, but the world does not care about our problems. Always best to have a plan b, and leave nothing to chance. Never trust what an online agent or call center says: always verify.

  58. I bet Southwest would have got her there. It wasn’t like she had no History that she wanted to fly and it was paid for. The seat made it on time without her.

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