Parkland mom paid $36K for a flight to see her deceased son

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

“Geography teacher and cross country coach” were the only two descriptors that Linda Beigel Schulman needed to hear to know that her son was among the victims of the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting. When Schulman first heard of the shooting, Stoneman Douglas High School had yet to release the names of the 17 teachers and students who had been killed. But when she heard “geography teacher and cross country coach,” she knew her son Scott Beigel was among them.

Over 1,200 miles away in New York, where all flights to Florida were sold out, Schulman decided to book a last-minute private charter for $18,000. The charter successfully delivered her to Florida, where she got confirmation that her son was among the dead. But when a bill arrived in the mail a few weeks later, Schulman was dealt another blow: The charter company, Talon Air, had been unable to find someone to charter it back to New York and had therefore charged her another $18,000.

“I had no idea what the charge was at the time. It really didn’t matter what the charge was,” Schulman said in an interview with CNN. “I was convinced in my mind that my son was in the hospital and I needed to get to him as fast as possible.”

Although Schulman had every intention of paying for the flight there, she felt that a charge to return the plane — especially given the circumstances — was unsympathetic to the tragedy she endured. But when she reached out to the company asking for a refund on that portion, it refused.

In an exasperated post on Facebook this week, Schulman revealed how Talon rejected her petition for a refund, and simply issued her what it called “the best they could do,” $,2000. “I have no problem accepting that I have to pay for one way, even the fuel charge for the return flight… but $18,229.56 for the return of the plane?” Schulman writes. “Where is the compassion from Talon Air, Inc.???”

Schulman goes on to note that JetBlue offered 30 days of free flights to the victims’ families (to and from Florida) in the wake of the shooting. “They even gave us a special # to call so that they could help make our flight arrangements,” Schulman says. “JetBlue could not have been more accommodating and understanding.” In conclusion, she asks those reading her post to “not even consider” using Talon Air, and instead to turn to one of the “many more charter companies available.”

Just hours after the post went live, the owner and founder of Talon Air, Adam Katz, called Schulman to apologize for the response. He said that the company would immediately refund the $18,000 she paid for the return flight, and pledge another $18,000 to a nonprofit she set up in her son’s name, the Scott J. Beigel memorial fund. (Schulman returned $2,000 of that since the company had already refunded her that amount, saying she didn’t want Talon to “reimburse us for more than we originally paid.”)

Still, Talon’s owner Katz further offered his condolences in a letter to Schulman, which she posted on her Facebook Tuesday. “You have endured the greatest tragedy that no parent should have to confront,” Katz wrote. “Being that I’m a parent myself, I was shocked and heartsick when your Facebook post was brought to my attention only last night, at midnight.”

In her post about the letter, Schulman declared that she now considers the matter “resolved.” But, based on the comments underneath her post, others don’t feel the same way. While some commenters offered words of sympathy about her loss and the subsequent ordeal with Talon Air, others used it as an opportunity to attack Schulman and her attempt to get reimbursed.

Guess you shoulda asked for a definition of ‘super expensive.’ I guess there was a price you weren’t willing to pay…” a user named Larry Ward III wrote. “For the record, those jets take fuel, insurance, licenses, pilots, maintenance, etc…. and all of these COST MONEY. They need to pay their bills as well.” Some even took it a step further, digging up financial information on Schulman and posting the address and cost of her house in Dix Hills, N.Y.

But those comments were further attacked by others on Facebook. “Shame on you,” one user wrote in response to the woman who posted Schulman’s address.

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