Carrol Amrich boarded a United Airlines flight in Pueblo, Colo., hoping she wasn’t too late. Miles away in a Minnesota hospital, her mother lay dying.
She was buckled into her seat and ready to go when a flight attendant approached her and told her she had to get off the plane.
Because of a technical mishap, her reservation had been canceled, and she was escorted off the flight.
Amrich pleaded with ticket agents, but the plane left without her. She immediately got in her car and started driving to Minnesota. She went on all night without stopping but got a call midway that the worst had happened: Her mother had died.
“I cried the whole way from Pueblo,” Amrich told the New York Times in a phone interview two days after her mother’s death. “I’ve been awake for two days. I haven’t had anything to eat in two days.”
A series of unfortunate events unfolded that led Amrich to this moment. When she first heard her mother had fallen ill, she made arrangements to travel to Minnesota.
Without money for a plane ticket, she got help from her landlord, who bought the ticket for her through Traveler Help Desk.
When Amrich got word her mother was experiencing heart failure and likely wouldn’t live through the night, her landlord called United directly and changed her ticket to an earlier flight. It was this change that caused Amrich’s ticket to be canceled.
Although United reportedly said her landlord could make the change through the airline instead of Traveler Help Desk, Amrich’s ticket was still voided.
Carolyn Gallant, customer service supervisor at Traveler Help Desk, told the Times that Amrich’s ticket was voided after the change to help guard against fraud and that it reached out to her “numerous times” after the change appeared in its system.
Amrich says she pleaded with a ticket agent to let her stay on the flight but was told that her ticket had already been refunded and that “nobody flies for free.”
“I am just so sorry for Ms. Amrich’s loss,” wrote Gallant in an email to the Times. “It is tragic. I understand it was unfortunate the ticket ended up voided. Had she contacted us directly to make the change, this all would have been avoided.”
According to Amrich’s landlord, a United representative reached out ask where it could send flowers. “What are the flowers going to do?” said the landlord. “You took away from her that she might have been able to see her mother alive. If I’d have been at that gate, I would have done everything in my power to get her back on that plane.”
United Airlines in a statement referred all questions to Traveler Help Desk and offered its condolences to Amrich.
This latest incident is another in a series of public relations blunders for the airline. In December the company came under fire after a passenger lost her first-class seat to a Texas congresswoman.
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