A Harsh Policy

By Daniel Nardini

For the first time in seven years I went to Tampa. Florida, to visit my sister and her family. I enjoyed the visit, and it was good to see them after so long. However, while I was in Tampa, I became severely ill. I was rushed to the emergency room of Tampa General Hospital where I would spend the next day and a half as I was undergoing tests. Eventually the doctors figured out that some of my medications needed to be adjusted and I felt better afterwards.

I was supposed to fly out of Tampa on April 9th, but due to my emergency I could not go on that flight. I had informed American Airlines of my predicament before the flight was to leave, and why I could not fly out on that day. Eventually I was released on the evening of April 9th—having long since missed my flight. The doctor thought it was a good idea for me to stay an additional 24 hours in Tampa in case I should have a relapse, and so I tried to rearrange my tickets with American Airlines to fly out on April 11th.

To my utter horror, I was told that to rearrange the tickets would constitute a $200 penalty per person plus the fee for going from Tampa to Chicago. The cost would be $500 per person for both me and my wife. The American Airlines ticket agent then told me that if I paid for a totally new ticket out of Tampa back to Chicago the ticket would be $495 per person. I told them that I was in the hospital, and that I had a doctor’s letter certifying that I had been there. I also said that if they wished to contact the hospital about my condition they could do so. But the ticket agent told me that with the exception of military personnel, American Airlines could make no exception in my case. So, I flew out of Tampa to Chicago on Delta Airlines for $272 per person.

I was thankful that my wife still had the name card of the Korean American travel agent she knew back in Chicago who arranged for the tickets to get us back to Chicago. But this episode left me feeling bitter about how I was treated by American Airlines. I did not intend to miss my flight. I could not help being in the emergency room of a hospital halfway across the country with IV tubes in my arm while a team of doctors were trying to figure out what was wrong with me. For the doctors and staff at Tampa General Hospital, I have nothing but praise for how they helped me when I needed help the most. However, the episode with the airlines has set my already low opinion of domestic U.S. air carriers in concrete. It is a harsh policy to make no exception to people when they are down. Apparently money and profits seem to be more important than the customers who fly on these air carriers. Well, next time I will go to Tampa by Amtrak.

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