United fails to prioritize health and safety of passengers

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Jan 11, 2017
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I was supposed to leave for Costa Rica from Seattle on Monday, Jan 8, but on Saturday (the 7th) was diagnosed with an "acute and highly contagious pharyngeal infection." On Sunday, a United representative was kind enough to delay my flight until 7:00am on Wednesday, free of charge for both change fee and fare differential. I presumed this would be enough time for recovery and to move past the point of contagion. Unfortunately, my condition worsened and I went back to my medical provider on Monday, who told me I would not be able to travel on Wednesday.

All representatives that I explained the situation to continue to tell me that the first change made was a "one time exception" and that I must pay a $268 fare differential to change my flight. I have a contagious illness. I do not understand why this fee would not be waived to ensure the safety and health of the other passengers on the flight. I also do not understand why this is not considered a part of the same "one time exception" when the reasons for my request have not changed at all. If I had just asked for the change of date that I need now when I had first spoken with that representative, none of this would be an issue.

With a 100˚+ fever, I spent over 4 hours on the phone yesterday either on hold or talking to representatives that would then put me on hold for half an hour or more and then end the call. Not a single one of them called me back. My first rescheduled flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 am this morning, and I would have been unable to get any money back (presumably) if I did not go along with the request to pay the fare difference. I caved and paid, but I am now out $268 and would like to be reimbursed. They essentially charged me as if I had decided on a whim to book the trip yesterday, instead of planning ahead and buying it over a month in advance. United was willing to put other passengers' health and safety, along with my own, at risk instead of accommodating a simple request.

Help!
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#2
Let's put this into perspective.......no one is forcing you to get on the airplane with your health predicament. Charging a fee is not what would expose the other passengers to your illness. The change fee and additional fare cost are the terms you agreed to at the time you booked your flight, assuming you purchased a non-refundable ticket. That being said, you have a couple of options that may help you regain some of the additional costs associated with postponing your trip:

1. Check with your credit card to see if you have any trip insurance as a perk of the card.

2. Write to customer service in a brief, polite and professional manner asking for another exception to the fare rules. You may want to request the refund amount to come in the form of a future travel voucher since the airline is more likely to part with those than with cash. If you do not receive a reply or do not like the reply, use the Company Contacts link at the top of the forum to find the email addresses for United's execs. Write to them one at a time waiting one week for a reply before moving to the next name on the list. Do not write to them all at once.

Good luck, please let us know your progress and wishing you a full and speedy recovery!
 
Jan 11, 2017
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#3
Thanks so much for your advice, Patina.

I agree with you, but I also don't think it's my responsibility to protect other passengers. It is United's - if they knowingly allow me to get on a plane when I have told them I am sick, and King County is currently experiencing a flu epidemic and warning people to stay home, then I would argue that the financial burden is their responsibility.

Anyway, just a thought. I'll keep you updated. Thanks again.

Let's put this into perspective.......no one is forcing you to get on the airplane with your health predicament. Charging a fee is not what would expose the other passengers to your illness. The change fee and additional fare cost are the terms you agreed to at the time you booked your flight, assuming you purchased a non-refundable ticket. That being said, you have a couple of options that may help you regain some of the additional costs associated with postponing your trip:

1. Check with your credit card to see if you have any trip insurance as a perk of the card.

2. Write to customer service in a brief, polite and professional manner asking for another exception to the fare rules. You may want to request the refund amount to come in the form of a future travel voucher since the airline is more likely to part with those than with cash. If you do not receive a reply or do not like the reply, use the Company Contacts link at the top of the forum to find the email addresses for United's execs. Write to them one at a time waiting one week for a reply before moving to the next name on the list. Do not write to them all at once.

Good luck, please let us know your progress and wishing you a full and speedy recovery!
 
Sep 19, 2015
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"I agree with you, but I also don't think it's my responsibility to protect other passengers. It is United's - if they knowingly allow me to get on a plane when I have told them I am sick ..."

I would suggest that you ask nicely and not include any statements such as the above. Frankly your health and the contagiousness is not the responsibility of United or CenturyLink Field (if you had sports tickets) or any other venue or situation where the tickets are restrictive. United could have not given you a one time exception (one time exception is just that, one time) and said that you should have bought travel insurance or a flexible ticket. To say that United fails to prioritize the health and safety of the passengers is just wrong.

You chose an inexpensive fare with restrictions; with that comes a certain risk. You chose not to mitigate the risk with travel insurance.

While it is commendable that you did not fly while contagious I think that asking nicely will get you a lot further than an accusatory tone.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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"I agree with you, but I also don't think it's my responsibility to protect other passengers. It is United's - if they knowingly allow me to get on a plane when I have told them I am sick, and King County is currently experiencing a flu epidemic and warning people to stay home, then I would argue that the financial burden is their responsibility"

You can argue that all you want but that will get you nowhere with the airline. The financial burden is not their responsibility. You are the one that got sick and you are the one that chose not to buy travel insurance or a flexible ticket.
 
Jul 27, 2016
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#7
If you had shown up for the flight obviously ill, United would have been entirely justified in barring you from the flight and giving you a refund, which would have left you in the same position (needing to rebook at current prices).
 
Likes: Neil Maley

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
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#8
@Patsy3000 I'm a UA flyer and know the website well. When you purchased your ticket, one of the steps is to accept or decline travel insurance. It's an affirmative step where you have to choose one or the other. It sounds like you declined to purchase it like most people do.

The problem you have now is that UA offered to sell you a product that would cover this situation exactly. In doing so, you essentially self insured and accepted financial responsibility for any covered reason (like illness) that might keep you from flying.

Try reaching out to the executive contact listed in the company contact. Reach out to each one individually leaving at least a week between each email. Just understand that you have a low probability of success given that you turned down their insurance.

Good Luck
 
#9
Thanks so much for your advice, Patina.

I agree with you, but I also don't think it's my responsibility to protect other passengers. It is United's - if they knowingly allow me to get on a plane when I have told them I am sick, and King County is currently experiencing a flu epidemic and warning people to stay home, then I would argue that the financial burden is their responsibility.
That's a horrible attitude - and expresses everything wrong with modern society.

How about I get on a plane with ebola and sit next to you - would you change your opinion of my responsibility? Why are you special?

You bought a non-refundable ticket. How is it EVER the travel providers problem when you need to cancel for health reasons? It's not their health - its yours.

While I understand the reasoning underlying your complaint - I find it expression of an entitled attitude that you are special and should not bear the cost of the consequences in your life.

We all get sick. Hopefully we understand that communicating that illness to 150 other innocent people is not respectful of living in a modern society.
 
Nov 20, 2015
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#10
First of all, I have no problem with you seeking a free flight change if you are carrying a contagious disease and don't want to pass it along to others.(I also wouldn't fault the airline for turning down your request because you bought a nonrefundable ticket.)

The periods of being contagious and being symptomatic often do not line up. With Strep throat, patients are generally accepted to be noncontagious within 24 hours of beginning antibiotic treatment, regardless of whether they are still symptomatic or not. You seem to imply that you might have the flu. With influenza, people shed the virus for at least 5-10 days after the onset of symptoms, even if symptoms go away before then. If you don't want to spread the flu then you should postpone your trip until at least next week. By extension, per your argument, the airline should not allow you to travel until then. Would you be okay with that?
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#12
You were extremely lucky to find such a sympathetic agent when you first called, Patsy. Were you booked in first class? Do you have status with United? If not, it's unlikely that they'll extend you a second "first exception". It is difficult to avoid paying the customary fees that an airline charges. It has nothing to do with your health, they have set up these fees and penalties and everyone is subject to them. If someone with a contagious illness boards a flight just to avoid an extra charge, s/he could be criminally charged; your illness has nothing to do with United.

I'm reading that they charged you the fare difference of $268 ... what about the change fee? If they're willing to waive that this second time around, you should send them a letter of thanks.