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What Is A Carrier's Obligation W/ Bereavements?  
User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2757 times:

I meant to post a thread awhile ago, but forgot. Here is the scenario:

A colleague of mine received the unfortunate news that his aging mother's medical condition was worsening and that her passing was expected imminently. He tried to rush by her bedside by purchasing a last minute ticket online. His itinerary, without specifying a particular airline, was DCA-JFK-LGW. Due to weather delays in the JFK area, his flight from DCA-JFK was delayed, thus prompting him to miss his JFK-LGW connection. Knowing that when he checked-in at DCA, he requested to be immediately re-routed via another city, but the ticket agent assured him that he would make his connection (he did not know at that time that he would miss the flight). He did not contest the agent and went on his way. As I said, his flight from DCA-JFK did get in late and he missed his connection by 5 minutes. He would then be re-routed the next day via the other city, herein called X city. Frustrated, he told the agents at JFK that he needed to be in LGW as soon as possible. But the agents said that there were no longer any flights and that the next flight out would be via X city. He called me on my cell phone and I did some research and found out that there was a Virgin flight that has yet to depart and he could then do JFK-LHR; LHR-LGW and be there two hours later than originally scheduled (which is better than a 24 hour+ delay). He proposed that itinerary to the ticket agent, but the agent said that she couldn't do that since Virgin had another carrier code that could not be transferred over, based on the ticket that he purchased. To make a long story short, my friend was upgraded to business class from city X-LGW as a "compensation", but he did not make it in time for his mother's passing. Although I am no travel agent, I felt very disappointed in the service that was done by the airline b/c I felt that they could've made special arrangements (as has been done for me in the past wherein I was switched to different carriers) in order for my friend to make it in time. Being fair, I guess my friend could've bought an entire new ticket with Virgin and went on his way, but I guess he expected his mum to stay another 48 hours. That certainly will be one of his life's biggest regrets. Anyways, what are a carrier's obligations when a passenger goes around the world to be by a family member's death bed?

18 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineLincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2711 times:

Quoting B777A340Fan (Thread starter):
Anyways, what are a carrier's obligations when a passenger goes around the world to be by a family member's death bed?

Contractually, none. Zip, nada. In the eyes of the airline for the purposes of applying fare rules and the contract of carriage they have no more or less [contractual] obligation to a passenger traveling to get to a loved than any other passenger. And since many discounted fares' rules specify "Valid for travel on XX only" I don't doubt what the agent was saying about it not being endorseable.

A lot of airlines don't even offer a berevement fare anymore (and many of those that do require proof of the death before honoring the fare). Also, in general, airlines don't gaurntee their schedules and specifically state that that doesn't form part of the contract between you and the airline.

From a compassion point of view, of course, the airline probably could have handled things slightly better, but there's no liability for that (and even if there were, would it be any comfort?)

Lincoln



CO Is My Airline of Choice || Baggage Claim is an airline's last chance to disappoint a customer || Next flts in profile
User currently offlineInnocuousFox From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 2805 posts, RR: 14
Reply 2, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 2632 times:

I'm sure that some politician will begin screaming that people have a "right" to fly when and how they want. About the only "rights" that people don't seem to have is the right to run a business the way you choose.


Dave Mark - Intrinsic Algorithm - Reducing the world to mathematical equations!
User currently offlineChiGB1973 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 1615 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 2583 times:

Quoting B777A340Fan (Thread starter):
He proposed that itinerary to the ticket agent, but the agent said that she couldn't do that since Virgin had another carrier code that could not be transferred over, based on the ticket that he purchased

Why didn't he purchase this ticket? I would have scraped up the money in this situation, if that was a problem.

Quoting B777A340Fan (Thread starter):
Although I am no travel agent, I felt very disappointed in the service that was done by the airline b/c I felt that they could've made special arrangements (as has been done for me in the past wherein I was switched to different carriers) in order for my friend to make it in time

They can't just make up rules to accommodate a single customer. How can you possibly be disappointed in the airline when they have certain guidelines they must follow? It's almost like you blame them for him missing his mother's death or the weather in NYC. I am sure you know better, but to be disappointed in them is too much. They can't just make up a codeshare, interline or some other arrangement everytime someone has a special need.

As for missing his connection by 5 minutes, the agent probably had every reason to believe he would make it when he/she told him that. If weather was bad in NYC, traveling from DCA - JFK probably took extra time. Plus having to check in, clear customs and get to an international flight. If he was cutting it that close when he left DCA, both he and the agent would have known right then the connection would not work.

M


User currently offlineCV990A From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 1421 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 2437 times:

B777A340- I am sorry for your friend's loss...

Quoting Lincoln (Reply 1):
A lot of airlines don't even offer a berevement fare anymore (and many of those that do require proof of the death before honoring the fare).

I know USAirways doesn't. Most of my family lives outside the US, so I am the US point-of-contact in case of emergencies with my elderly relatives. My grandmother passed away in January, so I had to go to Texas, and I called USAirways to ask about berevement fares, and the Res Agent said very abruptly 'No Berevement' and hung up. Needless to say, US didn't win my business that day. Continental did offer a 5% berevement discount, but I needed the death certificate or funeral home info, which obviously didn't have, BUT they do let you get the refund retroactively.



Kittens Give Morbo Gas
User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 2320 times:

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 3):
Why didn't he purchase this ticket? I would have scraped up the money in this situation, if that was a problem.

That's why I said in my original thread that if he had known, he probably would've done so, knowing that he would miss his mother's passing, but I suppose he expected his mother to make it through another day. I'm sure that he would've paid a last minute first-class fare if needed. You have to realize that your mind is running through all sorts of emotions and that, looking back, you may not have made the wisest decisions.

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 3):
It's almost like you blame them for him missing his mother's death or the weather in NYC.

No, not at all. In fact, all parties were courteous and polite to one another. I'm not blaming the airline, the weather, or anyone. I may have flown on a different ticket in the past, but like I said, I have had an instance wherein I missed a connection and I was put on another entirely different airline (not even alliance partners) just to make sure that I wasn't too affected by the situation.

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 3):
They can't just make up a codeshare, interline or some other arrangement everytime someone has a special need.

I think that customer service quality is based on case-by-case events. It is by accomodating every single customer that an airline can gain a reputation of good customer service. But, having said that, I realize that every customer can't be accomodated according to their different expectation. But in bereavement situations like these, I think an exception could've been made. Look at it this way, my friend would've commanded the airline, spread the word, flown again with them, etc.... You know? If he had a meeting that he had to attend and missed it, big deal, that can always be rescheduled, I'm saying in irreversible situations like these.

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 3):
the agent probably had every reason to believe he would make it when he/she told him that.

I'm not doubting that. I don't think the agent lied or in any way misled my friend.

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 3):
Plus having to check in, clear customs and get to an international flight.

I've never had to check-in or clear customs to get onto an international flight.... have you?


User currently offlineAviatorTJ From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 1838 posts, RR: 7
Reply 6, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2308 times:

Quoting B777A340Fan (Reply 5):
I have had an instance wherein I missed a connection and I was put on another entirely different airline (not even alliance partners) just to make sure that I wasn't too affected by the situation.

Typically, most carriers stay online with weather misconnections. In my experience, I've only been moved offline on carrier provoked cancellations or delays.


User currently offlineChiGB1973 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 1615 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2308 times:

Quoting B777A340Fan (Reply 5):
I've never had to check-in or clear customs to get onto an international flight.... have you?

Yeah, I have always had to check-in with the agent for international flights. I don't remember a time I didn't. I generally had last minute tickets.

My bad, clearing customs is a destination procedure. I flew from SNN a lot where there was some screening done. It's been a while since I have been out of the country, but it was never like printing my boarding pass from my home computer and heading towards the gate. There was always something.

M


User currently offlineBongodog1964 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2006, 3569 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 2238 times:

I know its a terrible situation to be in, but at the end of the day, it was a last minute booking with a tight connection that didn't work out in the end.

Perhaps in hindsight a direct flight from Washington - London would have been a lower risk option.


User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2183 times:

Quoting ChiGB1973 (Reply 7):
Yeah, I have always had to check-in with the agent for international flights

Haha, I apologize.... I meant it like, checking in at your origin and then at your connection. I've always had to check-in for int'l flights as well, just not at the connection point, like I thought you meant.

Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 8):
Perhaps in hindsight a direct flight from Washington - London would have been a lower risk option.

Well, his mother lived near LGW and there are no direct flights to LGW from Washington. BMI used to fly the route, but it cancelled its service couple months back. I guess trying to save an hour drive from LHR-LGW ended up being a bad decision. Trying to be fair, if I had to blame someone, it'd be my friend, as mean as it sounds... but I think that things could've happened differently. sigh


User currently offlineSpencerII From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 2183 times:

Back when I was a gate/ticket agent at DL, we offered bereavement fares. Many times customers would ask for this, without proper documentation-BUT- it was always retroactive as far as a refund goes.
Proper documentation was required for a refund to be issued, and it was for "immediate family" members only.

As far as this practice goes, the following needs to be asked. "do cabs and taxies offer a discount for bereavement?"
Do rental car companies offer a discount for bereavement? Do Hotels offer a discount for bereavement?
Do dry cleaners?, The airport parking lot? "the toll bridge?" the light rail system? and the list goes on and on......

While there is a human element to everything & compassion is due in many instances, it is my feeling that
many folks out there "automatically blame" the airline for the misfortunes in their lives.

And-----When something goes wrong, does the rental car company offer compensation for getting on a road with construction that delays you or the road is icy & you are really delayed getting to the airport? Does the hotel offer you a discount cause the weather is bad? Does the airport parking lot offer you a discount cause you have to walk through snow or ice to get to your car and it takes a little longer?


User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 2134 times:

Quoting SpencerII (Reply 10):
As far as this practice goes, the following needs to be asked. "do cabs and taxies offer a discount for bereavement?"
Do rental car companies offer a discount for bereavement? Do Hotels offer a discount for bereavement?
Do dry cleaners?, The airport parking lot? "the toll bridge?" the light rail system? and the list goes on and on......

No, those companies do not. I guess I live in a very idealistic world and my bubble will burst in any instant. However, the original institution of the bereavement fare was, I believe, that airlines felt a social and moral responsibility to assist a person in whatever way they can. After all, that's why companies and ourselves donate money to charities and various causes. No one forced us to. So whether a rental car company chooses to offer bereavement rates or not does not preclude an airline to offer one. It is a good act of kindness that I can appreciate.7

Quoting SpencerII (Reply 10):
While there is a human element to everything & compassion is due in many instances, it is my feeling that
many folks out there "automatically blame" the airline for the misfortunes in their lives.

While I'm sure there are people that "blame" the airline, I do not. I sure hope that I didn't come across that way. One can easily say: "if you don't like to fly, take the boat, or swim". Evidently, as much as we hate it (like computers for instance), we're not going to avoid it. I said I felt disappointed and that the airline could've acted differently. Never did I say it's the airline's fault that there was traffic congestion or weather delays at JFK. Things happen for a reason and you deal with it, that's all. It's like: does everyone who cross a begger give him/her money? no. do you wish the person did? sure... but do you blame him/her? no.

Quoting SpencerII (Reply 10):
And-----When something goes wrong, does the rental car company offer compensation for getting on a road with construction that delays you or the road is icy & you are really delayed getting to the airport? Does the hotel offer you a discount cause the weather is bad? Does the airport parking lot offer you a discount cause you have to walk through snow or ice to get to your car and it takes a little longer?

I think there's a stark contrast with my friend's scenario and those that you mentioned. I'm talking about accomodating someone the best you can in an irreversible situation like his. If you encounter snow or ice....sure, you get delayed, so what? you can catch the next flight out or you won't get home that night. big deal! nobody got hurt and everyone's still breathing. here, it's a little different. it's not like my friend will have a second chance to say goodbye to his mom or that he will ever see her take her last breath again, you know?


User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3970 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 2105 times:
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Quoting SpencerII (Reply 10):
"do cabs and taxies offer a discount for bereavement?"

No, but they charge everyone the same price to go from A to B.

Quoting SpencerII (Reply 10):
Do rental car companies offer a discount for bereavement? Do Hotels offer a discount for bereavement?

No, but there isn't a $1,000 difference between the cost of the room booked 6 months ahead of time and the cost of the room booked the day you actually need it either.

Quoting B777A340Fan (Reply 11):
However, the original institution of the bereavement fare was, I believe, that airlines felt a social and moral responsibility to assist a person in whatever way they can.

My personal belief was that airlines did not want to be seen to be taking advantages of people whose means may be limited and who obviously did not have the leisure of booking 6 months ahead for a trip that, emotionally speaking, simply has to be taken, whatever the financial cost. That doesn't mean I know what the right bereavement fare or terms ought to be (I don't), but I think policies such as Continental's (a discount off the current price to pretty much any family member upon proper documentation) is reasonable. A blanket end to bereavement fares a la US Airways on the other hand, is not.

With that said, I do think that the airline apparently did what it could to accommodate the OP's friend. There are things that simply cannot be done (anymore), due to the appropriate interline agreements no(t) (longer) being in place, younger CSRs coming in line with less training than more experienced ones, more restrictive ticketing policies that cannot always be overridden, etc... Someone dying is an act of God, the weather not cooperating is an act of God, the rest is up to mankind, and mankind definitively isn't perfect.



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 2038 times:

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 12):
My personal belief was that airlines did not want to be seen to be taking advantages of people whose means may be limited and who obviously did not have the leisure of booking 6 months ahead for a trip that, emotionally speaking, simply has to be taken, whatever the financial cost. That doesn't mean I know what the right bereavement fare or terms ought to be (I don't), but I think policies such as Continental's (a discount off the current price to pretty much any family member upon proper documentation) is reasonable. A blanket end to bereavement fares a la US Airways on the other hand, is not.

 checkmark   checkmark   checkmark 

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 12):
Someone dying is an act of God, the weather not cooperating is an act of God, the rest is up to mankind, and mankind definitively isn't perfect.

 checkmark   checkmark   checkmark 


User currently offline57AZ From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 2550 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 1998 times:

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 12):
My personal belief was that airlines did not want to be seen to be taking advantages of people whose means may be limited and who obviously did not have the leisure of booking 6 months ahead for a trip that, emotionally speaking, simply has to be taken, whatever the financial cost.

I agree that that is probably the case. Back when railroads were the primary means of transportation, they did not offer any bereavement discount. In fact, if the body was being shipped for burial they charged full fare for those accompanying the deceased and a half fare for the transportation of the deceased.

In my case, if I had to make quick travel arrangements under similar circumstances I might go so far as to look into chartering a plane (if in the US) if that option were available.



"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
User currently offline3wheelbogey From United States of America, joined May 2007, 10 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 1862 times:

Quoting Lincoln (Reply 1):
A lot of airlines don't even offer a berevement fare anymore (and many of those that do require proof of the death before honoring the fare).

UAL may still offer them. Our family of four had to fly PDX-ATL twice in three weeks last summer with only two days notice both times. UAL provided a bereavement fare for both trips that was about 60% off of the lowest internet rate and all they required was doctor and/or funeral home information over the phone. The first trip was the "last call" for my mother and the second trip was after she passed away. Since then I have tried to directly most of my business and leisure travel to UAL--it was a relatively cheap way for them to gain a lifelong customer.



300 319 320 330 717 727 732-739 744 752 762/3/4 772 E120/45/70 DC9/10 F50/100 S340 MD11/80/82/83/88 B58 B90 ATR L10 DH8
User currently offlineB777A340Fan From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 774 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1770 times:

Quoting 3wheelbogey (Reply 15):
Since then I have tried to directly most of my business and leisure travel to UAL--it was a relatively cheap way for them to gain a lifelong customer.

Kudos of being a UAL fan, I myself swear by them as well. And I agree that good customer service isn't too hard to do, and you gain a good reputation/business.


User currently offlineKempa From Brazil, joined Aug 2003, 373 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1762 times:

When it happened to me a few years ago, the bereavement fares were half of the full fare. I chose to go with a discounted fare that was a lot less than that.

My flight was supposed to be DL IAD-ATL-GRU. The IAD-ATL flight was delayed to the point that I would miss my connection. Delta rebooked me on UA IAD-MIA-GRU. At that time DL and UA cooperated in FF programs and some codeshare flights, so it was easy to be rebooked. The UA flight was a little later and arrived in GRU about 5 hours later than the originally booked flight should have. The luggage got lost and damaged, and arrived the following day in GRU.

I missed my mother's death. Even though I know that the airlines aren't required to do anything about it, I wrote a letter to Delta customer service. They called me on the phone and offered some credit for a later flight. It was a nice gesture, and I was satisfied with the outcome.


User currently offlineHagas From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 13 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (7 years 3 months 1 week 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 1615 times:

When I priced bereavement fares two years ago I found all were more expensive than the lowest internet fares. Ultimately I went with United since the reservation agent was very helpful and honest that she could get a lower fare than the bereavement fare I was inquiring about. She also waived the service charge for scheduling via phone which wasn't a huge financial difference but was very nice for customer service in light of the situation.

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