She missed her grandmother’s funeral — does she deserve a refund for her ticket?

Kimberly Walls missed her grandmother’s funeral. Her United Airlines flight was delayed and she couldn’t make her connection from Denver to Great Falls, Mont.

Should United refund the ticket?

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Well, according to the airline’s contract of carriage — the legal agreement between her and the carrier — the answer is “no.”

Rule 240 c) says United will transport Walls on its next flight to Great Falls, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will get her to Great Falls as scheduled.

This kind of thing drives passengers up the walls. Don’t airline schedules represent a guarantee (if not a contract) to transport you to a certain place by a certain time? Strictly speaking, no.

Still, should United refund her ticket, if for no other reason than that it’s good customer service?

Here’s what Walls wrote to United:

I got on a United Express plane in Durango (flight 6137) to Denver. It was running 30 minutes late but I had plenty of time to get the next gate for my plane to Great Falls.

When we arrived in Denver, the pilot said that we would have to wait about 5 minutes for another plane to leave so that we could have their spot. Well, 40 minutes later, I watched out the window as my flight took off for Great Falls! It was the last flight of the night.

The soonest they could get me to Montana was 11:15 a.m. the next day. The funeral was at 9 a.m.

After speaking with several agents, none of whom seemed to want to help any of us (and there were a lot of us!), I found a kind woman that put me in a nice hotel for the night and gave me a voucher for food. However, since I was unable to make the funeral, I asked that she just get me back home to Durango, Colo.

The next morning when I was home, I immediately called United Airlines and talked with someone for about 25 minutes. They finally said that I had to go through Travelocity for the refund. I called Travelocity, and they had to call United Airlines. After about 40 minutes on the phone, they offered to refund 1/2 my money, because they said I took 1/2 the flight!

I explained that I would never have flown to Denver just to sleep in a hotel for 5 hours and then come home, that I wouldn’t have taken this flight in the first place. They said I had to write to United Airlines and see what they say.

I suggested she contact someone higher up at United Airlines, which she did. A few days later I heard back from her:

Just wanted to thank you for the email contact – I contacted them at this address and they have since refunded the full amount! Again, thanks.

United didn’t have to refund the ticket, but I think it was the right thing in this situation.

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