Delta bends a rule after daughter’s tragic death

I’m honored to introduce our newest columnist, Andrew Der. His weekly feature is called “The Good News Guy” and it offers a much-needed counterpoint to all the negative stories on this site. I hope you find this feature as uplifting and inspiring as I have.

Too often, airline rules add insult to injury.

If you cancel a flight, for example, they make you pay even more for a new one, assuming the fees and fare differential don’t consume the entire value of your credit. And forget about changing the name on your ticket — it’s not allowed.

But those rules are not written in stone. Thank goodness for that.

Consider what happened to Charlie and Katie Heitzig, who asked Delta Airlines for a simple favor a few weeks ago. They wanted to change the name on the ticket which had been issued to their 12-year-old daughter, Grace, to that of her sister Ellie’s friend.

Normally, this kind of change request would be automatically dismissed. Delta’s policy is strict and unyielding. The ticket would have to stay in Grace’s name, and if she couldn’t use it, Delta would keep her $750 airfare.

Except for one thing: Grace was dead.

She’d passed away in January from natural causes.

“We have a long-awaited family beach vacation to Puerto Rico scheduled for spring break in March, and our Delta tickets were booked last fall,” says her father, Charlie Heitzig. “With Grace’s passing, our other daughter, Ellie, was not looking forward to the vacation as much, as she would be the only kid. So, we decided to ask a friend of Ellie’s to travel with us to help balance out the group and give Ellie someone closer to her own age to hang out with.”

Heitzig’s wife called Delta and spoke with a representative named Peggy, who was both “supportive and kind,” he says.

Peggy expressed her sympathies very sincerely and said that she would do whatever she could, but that a manager would also need to be involved.

We ultimately only paid a $25 processing fee, but the original ticket was refunded and a new one issued for Ellie’s friend at the original price.

Please understand that we originally paid $740 for Grace’s fare, but the fare for the same ticket was around $1,500 when we called, so there was significant money involved.

Heitzig contacted us because he wanted to let everyone at Delta know how grateful he was for their generosity at a difficult time. We happily supplied him with names and numbers. We also offered to help him get the word out about Delta’s amazing response.

There are many layers of beauty in this beyond just the airline changing a name.

Delta didn’t just take a financial hit on the ticket; it did so without resistance. It balanced its policy, established to ensure its profitability, with compassion for its passengers.

Of course, that kind of empathy shouldn’t be extraordinary. It ought to be routine.

Maybe if we write about it enough, it will be.

But perhaps the most poignant layer of this story is the Heitzigs themselves. Many of us find ourselves ruffled by a day of lesser aggravations. But the Heitzigs, despite the most tragic of all circumstances for parents, felt it important to pause and simply ask how to best express their gratitude – and nothing more.

If they can take a moment out of their overwhelming trauma and grief to just say a heartfelt “Thank you,” then surely the rest of us can, too.

Should Delta have fixed Charlie and Katie Heitzig's ticket?

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About the Author
Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations
Posted in The Good News Guy Tagged , , ,

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