Delta’s spontaneous goodwill gesture is a welcome act of kindness

James Hager and his wife are looking forward to a relaxing trip to Arizona after she finishes her treatment for a brain tumor. Unfortunately, before they can leave, they receive the troubling news that she needs further treatment. Can Delta provide some relief?

Question: My wife was to have radiation on a tumor in her brain. This is a procedure she has had before and at that time was released for travel the next day.

Anticipating the same release time frame, we purchased two tickets to Tucson on Delta Air Lines and also purchased travel insurance — just in case.

When my wife was examined during the procedure, the MRI showed that the tumor had grown significantly since the last MRI; so much so that the procedure was considered too dangerous to do. Instead, my wife was immediately rescheduled for whole-brain radiation, a 10-day procedure — starting on the day we were to travel to Tucson. We could not have known that the tumor’s startling growth would change the treatment from a two-hour procedure to a 10-day one.

Because of our inability to fly, we requested reimbursement for our tickets from Delta who rejected our request. Allianz rejected the claim stating that my wife had a pre-existing condition.

To me, that is like saying we can’t honor your contract even though you were hospitalized for double pneumonia because you had a cold when you bought the tickets. Is there anything that you can do for us? James Hager, Monroe, Wash.

Answer: First, I am very sorry to hear of your wife’s illness. But, I am not sure that others would agree with your analogy. Your wife’s condition was a pre-existing condition that, unfortunately, worsened. And the stance that Allianz took was predictable.

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Although Allianz does offer policies to insure travelers with pre-existing illnesses, there are conditions that must be met.

On its website, Allianz details how pre-existing conditions are handled. It appears that you could have purchased a policy that would have covered your wife as long as she had a physician certification to say that on the day that you purchased this policy, she was approved for travel.

Unfortunately, It appears that you did not purchase a policy that covered the pre-existing medical condition of your wife.

In this particular situation, it may have been prudent to purchase refundable tickets instead of the trip insurance policy. The terms of these tickets are quite flexible and would have allowed for a full refund when your plans abruptly changed.

Of course, refundable tickets come with a much higher price tag than their nonrefundable counterparts.

Checking the exact routing on your ticket, the current lowest non-refundable, round-trip rate is $321. However, if I add the refundable criteria to that same reservation, the fare jumps to $951. The nearly three-fold increase illustrates why most travelers choose the non-refundable rates and hope for the best.

These nonrefundable rates suit most travelers’ needs, and they are able to complete their trips with this low-cost option without incident. But your situation was more complicated and this risk didn’t pay off.

The good news is that we have consistently seen that airlines are typically amenable to waiving change fees and allowing these types of tickets to be used within one year of purchase if there is an extenuating circumstance. And I believed that your situation would qualify.

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So I approached Delta and explained your predicament and your hope to be able to travel with your wife sometime soon.

I was pleasantly surprised that our contact at Delta asked me if you would prefer a refund of your tickets.

Of course, you did. In fact, you had previously asked both Delta and your insurance company to refund your tickets. Our contact at Delta only requested proof of your wife’s condition and inability to travel at this time, something you swiftly provided.

You have now been refunded for the tickets. This should give your wife plenty of time to recover from her procedure — without worrying about rebooking these flights before the credit expires.

I wish your wife a speedy recovery, and I hope that you are able to enjoy your much-anticipated vacation to Arizona sometime in the near future.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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