This week we learned about a sad case, a tragedy really, involving a woman who was denied boarding enroute to her mother’s deathbed due to a ticketing snafu. It’s a reminder to always book directly with the airline, when possible.
A woman in Colorado named Carrol Amrich was trying to get to Minnesota to see her mother before she died. Her landlord booked her a ticket through Traveler Help Desk, an online travel agency. Travel was on United.
When her mother’s health deteriorated further, the landlord called United directly to move the flight up. The change was made without issue. Amrich checked in and boarded her flight.
But the gate agent received a reservation cancellation notice after the passenger had boarded. Amrich was forced to exit the aircraft and there was not sufficient time to resolve the problem prior to takeoff. Amrich connected the gate agent to her landlord on the phone, who offered to pay whatever was necessary to get her on the flight. But it was too late…the flight was gone.
With no further flights available, she began driving. Her mother passed away before Amrich reached her.
Traveler Help Desk confirms it cancelled the ticket, stating that it suspected fraud and cancelled only after trying to reach Amrich multiple times. Amrich and her landlord state they never received a call or email from Traveler Help Desk. For its part, United could have let the woman remain onboard…but they would have been giving her a free flight.
Why You Should Book Directly with the Airline
The most important reason you want to book directly with the airline, whenever possible, is for ease of change. If you have booked through sites like Orbitz or Expedia before, you know how difficult it can be dealing with an overseas call center trying to adjust a ticket. There are additional fees as well for any changes or cancellations.
The fact is, there is a great deal of fraud in the world of airline tickets. Some online travel agencies, like Traveler Help Desk, put restrictions in place to protect against it. Perhaps these are overzealous protections, but they are not wholly without logic. When you transact directly with the airline, you avoid these concerns that led to Amrich missing the chance to say goodbye to her mother.
Additionally, booking directly with the airline gives you more leverage during irregular operations such as delays or cancellations. Even dealing with schedule changes may be greatly impacted by whether you bought your ticket direct or through a third party.
There are some cases in which interline tickets require the use of an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia. But in most cases, your best course of action is too book directly with the airline.
This very tragic case illustrates why.