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My elderly father had surgery and can't fly. Can we get a refund on our scheduled flights together?

Dear Anita,

My father (age 90), sister, and I purchased tickets from St. Louis to Canada on US Airways. A month later, my father fell, fractured his hip, and ended up having a total hip replacement. He is now in California with me. He does not feel that he can make such a long trip. Is there any way to receive a refund for the tickets? We were told at the time of purchase that we had two years to travel. Thanks in advance for any assistance in this matter.

Toni D.
Rialto, CA

Dear Toni,

I am very sorry to hear of your father's dilemma, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I contacted US Airways on your behalf to see what they had to say regarding your situation.

A US Airways representative stated the following:

"Although non-refundable fares are not eligible for a refund, we do recognize that unexpected events may occur that are beyond the control of the passenger. Our policy allows exceptions in the event of the death of the passenger or spouse, a change in military orders, jury or a court subpoena. Tickets are valid for two years from the original intended date of travel. The value of the tickets, less a service charge, can be applied toward new tickets during the validity period."

It is a bad news/good news scenario. Unfortunately, you cannot receive a refund. However, your tickets are valid for two years.

There used to be a time when airlines did accommodate passengers who could not fly due to an illness. All that the airlines requested was a doctor's note noting the illness. Airlines would then change flight plans at no cost, or would issue a refund.

According to several travel agents, continual abuse of the system by customers forced the airlines to change this policy. One travel agent said that a particular client (whose brother was a dentist) claimed to have the same tooth pulled three years in a row to change flight plans. She says, "I don't blame the airlines one bit—it was so blatantly abused by customers."

One option for elderly travelers, or for someone with a pre-existing health condition, is to purchase travel insurance. A ninety-year-old can purchase travel insurance for around $70, and for a $500 ticket, that's a good investment. However, you need to balance out the costs. If an airline ticket is under $200, it is probably best to just spend the airline service charge/fee versus buying the insurance policy. Depending upon the airline, this charge/fee runs between $75 and $100.

I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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