A woman travelling to visit her dying mother was removed from a United Airlines plane, after her ticket was cancelled without her knowing.
Carrol Amrich of Pueblo, Colorado, found out earlier this month that her 80-year-old mother, Dixie J. Hanson, had been taken to hospital in Minnesota. But as Amrich could not afford a plane ticket to travel to her mother’s bedside, her landlord, Ines Prelas, purchased the $585 (£415) ticket for her using the online travel agency Traveler HelpDesk.
Soon after reserving the seat, Carrol Amrich was told her mother was suffering from heart failure and may not live through the night, at which point Ines Prelas called United and switched the ticket to a flight that afternoon, paying a fee of $75 (£53) for the change.
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The pair rushed to the airport – about an hour from Pueblo – and Amrich was able to check in, board the plane and take her seat. But minutes before take-off, a gate official came onto the plane and escorted her off the flight, allegedly telling her “nobody flies for free”, the New York Times reported.
Because Amrich’s landlord had modified the flight by contacting United direct, Traveler HelpDesk was not aware of the situation and voided the ticket. Traveler HelpDesk has said that the ticket was cancelled to protect Amrich from possible fraud.
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Carolyn Gallant, a customer service supervisor at Travel HelpDesk, told the New York Times that a representative had tried to contact Carrol Amrich numerous times. She said: “We had no way of knowing this was a change by Ms Amrich directly with the carrier,” adding that they cancelled the ticket to protect her.
She continued: “I am just so sorry for Ms Amrich’s loss. 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.”
After being removed from the plane, Carrol Amrich drove the rest of the 1,000-mile journey, but her mother had passed away before she arrived.
In a statement, United Airlines said that it refunded all money to Ines Prelas and offered condolences to Carrol Amrich and her family.
United Airlines made headlines last April, after an aviation security officer was filmed forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight to make room for employees.