My Mum in Ireland STILL has Cancer…and no refund for her flights!

So some of you may know that my mum has cancer.  In fact, quite a number of you know judging by yesterdays (and today’s) website figures.

First of all



I mean it, people commenting here, on twitter, on Facebook, thank you so much.  My mum was obviously distraught over being diagnosed with cancer.  She didn’t expect (nor did I) so much outpouring of concern, well wishes, positive thoughts and support for her from people she’s never even met.  To say that you moved her with your thoughts and words is an understatement.  She was literally crying tears of happiness because of you.  So from the bottom of our hearts, we really want to thank you for that.  You’ve managed to be a ray of sunshine in a dark time for us and that’s something we’ll never forget.


As for the issue of the ticket refund.  Just to recap for those of you who didn’t read yesterdays post.  My parents (before the diagnosis) had planned to fly from Ireland to visit me (their son) in Oregon.  This was a once in a lifetime trip using their limited retirement funds.  They were excited and really looking forward to their trip.  When the diagnosis came through however, my mum had to cancel their plans as the Doctors wanted to try and get surgery ASAP.  The people she had booked accommodation with were very understanding and refunded her money, they understood she would need it for her medical bills and treatment bills.  They offered messages of support, well wishes and hoped they would see her “when she is better”.  Amazing!


However, when she went to cancel her flights with United Airlines and get a refund, they sent her a mail stating


“We regret that we cannot issue the refund requested, and would like to explain why; exceptions due to illness are granted based on the ability to travel in the future. The illness, as described in your correspondence, does not qualify for an exception.”


You can imagine how shocked and hurt my mum was by this.  After all, if having CANCER doesn’t qualify for an exception, than what does?  Ebola?  Needless to say I was infuriated and so where many others who read this callous uncaring response.


You voiced your opinions on Facebook, Twitter, and even on this very website.  You also went directly to United Airlines to post your feelings on this matter to them.  So what happened, did you have an effect?  Well yes you did!


United Airlines contacted my sister and……….   wait what?  Yes, you read that right.  Rather than contact my mother who they upset with their callous cold heartless email, they decided to contact my sister………..   So did they apologize for their actions, did they apologize for upsetting an Irish Grandmother with CANCER?  Well actually, here’s what they had to say…


“This is a very restrictive bulk rate ticket purchased through Expedia. The funds for bulk tickets are transferred to the airline after travel has taken place. We have no authority to refund your Mother’s ticket. We’re called Expedia and they tell us to have you call them at 01 524 5005 in Ireland or 35315245005 in Europe. We hope this helps. ^km”


Yes, apparently they decided to play “pass the buck” on this matter.


There are however some problems with this….


1:  Why not contact the person you upset directly?  You know, the CANCER victim?

2:  We had already contacted Expedia about this before hand, Expedia actually said we needed to contact United Airlines to get a refund.

3:  If Expedia needed to refund the money, why did United Airlines send out their disgusting email to my mother telling her “We regret that we cannot issue the refund requested, and would like to explain why; exceptions due to illness are granted based on the ability to travel in the future. The illness, as described in your correspondence, does not qualify for an exception.”  

Shouldn’t they have sent out an email saying

“We’re very sorry to hear about your diagnosis, we want you to know that everyone here at United wishes you the very best at this time.  Regarding a refund, you will need to contact Expedia for this as they are the booking agent and they have not issued funds to us for this trip.  I’m sure they will be able to promptly help you, if you require any assistance though, we’ll be happy to help you”.

See?  That’s the way their email should have gone.  Not “Our cancer specialist Doctors here at United Airlines have looked over your diagnosis and are pretty sure you’ll be able to fly, if not, we can at least fly your coffin or urn of ashes if you rebook your ticket within a year.  You may have to pay extra for this privilege though”.


It seems however that common sense, compassion and customer service are not part of Uniteds Natural talents.  In fact, while United Airlines are busy blaming Expedia and Expedia are blaming United Airlines, neither of them seem to care that my mother still has cancer and still hasn’t gotten her refund.  I doubt the stress and anxiety on top of the worry she is already experiencing is helping her against her battle with CANCER.   So well done United and Expedia, well done…..


At this point, my mum will probably end up claiming off her travel insurance.  Something she didn’t want to do for a few reasons


1:  She thought it would be simpler just to get a refund from the Air Line (it should have been)

2:  Guess what happens when you make claims off insurance?  Everyone’s insurance rates goes up that tiny bit more to pay for it.  My mum doesn’t like to claim from insurance to protect other people’s premiums.  People just like you, people she’s never met.  That’s the kind of person my mum is.  At least she has a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.

3:  This isn’t something that happened in the past that she’s claiming for, this is a claim for tickets on a flight she hasn’t been on yet.  Do you think United Airlines is now going to have two empty seats they can’t fill for a flight to the USA during the summer?  Of course not.  They will keep the airline ticket money, fill those seats with two more people and charge them for their flight!  Yes, United will make a profit from a cancer victim’s money………..    if that doesn’t make you feel ill, I don’t know what will (which just goes to show that I don’t know much, after all, I still haven’t managed to find out what type of illness does qualify you for a refund from United Airlines).


Anyway, I think this will be the last post I have about the whole “United Airlines/Expedia” experience.  Obviously this issue will not be resolved and it’s no use hanging onto something like this.  Right now, we need to move on, concentrate on the positive and hope we have a bright future facing us.  Thanks to people like you, this is possible.  Your words, your thoughts, your well wishes have proven to be such a joy to my mum.  I thank you each for reading this, sharing this and being there to support us.


In the coming posts, I’ll be sharing with you the hopefully “positive” news from Ireland, and letting you know how things are progressing.  I want to try and keep this upbeat and even share with you some stories about Ireland, my mum, my dad, my family and how you are making a difference in their lives.  Maybe someday, someone with cancer or with cancer in their family will view this blog and share the journey.  Maybe they’ll also realize that they are not alone in this world.  That the world is filled with caring compassionate people like you.



Thank you so much.


What’s Wrong With United Airlines?

My Parents had planned to fly from Ireland to visit me (their son) in the USA.   This was part of their retirement plan, you see my dad had been working up until January full time and had finally retired.  Just like everyone else in Ireland though, the terrible economic situation had taken it’s toll.  They were living in rented accommodation,  their pension was a pittance and the government was still raising taxes and trying to introduce more taxes throughout the year to pay for their failures.

So my Parents had one wish, to spend some time in the USA and to finally enjoy their retirement.  They planned to partake in the greatest American adventure of all, THE ROAD TRIP!

You have to understand, in Ireland, you can drive from coast to coast in about 3 hours.  You can pretty much see all there is to see in a day, so this trip, this was going to be EPIC for an Irish person.

My parents got busy trying to book accommodation throughout Oregon.  I got busy worrying if they were going to be spending all their retirement money in one trip.   They wanted to have at least one good FUN holiday and visit their son at the same time.  They had only been able to fly out once before to Portland to visit me, so needless to say, this was pretty important to them.

So after much discussion, planning and excitement, my parents had finally booked their trip!  They had a little beach house booked for a week (they luckily got pre summer rates, otherwise I doubt they could have afforded it… luck of the Irish or what?) , they would spend some time at my place also and finally they would fly back home.  It was all planned out and going to be great fun!

They were to fly out in June and by gosh, they were so excited about the trip, they couldn’t stop taking about it.  Then on May 1st, I got the news that my mum had been diagnosed with Cancer.  It was shocking, I was numb just hearing the news.  My mum couldn’t even tell me, she had to get my dad to phone to tell me.  Needless to say, the trip was cancelled.

I can’t even imagine how my parents felt, one moment they were looking forward to the trip of a lifetime, in the next, they were confronted by their own mortality.

So my mum started calling around cancelling her bookings.  The response was amazing.  I figured it would be hard to get the cancellations made, that people might haggle over paying the money back or try to make them pay at least 50% of the cost, but no.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  People were decent, understanding, caring and wished my mum the best of luck.  They even shared their own tales of how cancer had touched their family and what it’s effects on them had been.  They wished her the best of luck with her treatment and hoped she would get better soon.

To say my mum was touched by how amazing people were being is an understatement.  We talked on the phone about this and at one stage she broke down in tears at how wonderful people in Oregon were being.  “If there’s ever a time when you lose faith in humanity, just look towards Oregon, it fills your heart with hope” she said.  After living here for a number of years, I have to agree.  Oregon has had it’s troubles sure, but some of the most wonderful and open minded people live here from every walk of life.  It makes me happy to be here.

So finally my mum had to contact United Airlines to cancel her flights.  She told them she needed to cancel her flights and they responded that she would need to provide a letter from her doctor confirming that she did indeed have cancer.  I’m sure that’s routine from such a business these days, it was a little shocking though.  None of the accommodations had said “you need to prove you have cancer”, but still, my mum complied, got a letter stating she had cancer and needed treatment.  She then waited for United Airlines to get back to her.  They did.  They sent her the below email….

United Airlines are obviously caring people.  They know you will live, hence they won't give you a refund!  Thank you Dr United Airlines, Cancer Specialist!

United Airlines are obviously caring people. They know you will live, hence they won’t give you a refund! Thank you Dr United Airlines, Cancer Specialist!

Yes that’s right, United Airlines refused to refund my mum her money.  Lets break down their email shall we?

“Thank you for contacting Customer Refund Services regarding the above referenced ticket.”

You may notice at this point I left the ticket information off the mail, well that’s just to protect my parents privacy as much as possible.  United Airlines, I do actually care about my parents.

“We regret that we cannot issue the refund requested, and would like to explain why;”

I would also like them to explain why, after all, when the everyday folk of Oregon can refund money to my parents, express their sadness regarding my mothers cancer, send her positive thoughts and wish her well, why can’t a business as big as United Airlines  find 20 seconds (at the very least) to do the same?

“exceptions due to illness are granted based on the ability to travel in the future.”

I’m not sure what type of medical establishment United Airlines are, but apparently their cancer specialists feel that my mum has a good chance of living.  Not being cured (they don’t go as far as to say that), but she will live… oh no wait, they don’t even say that.  They say “travel in the future”.  Maybe United Airlines will hold onto the money and offer to fly her coffin over to me should she wish to visit.  Will they also pay the money to have her dug up from her grave first?

“The illness, as described in your correspondence, does not qualify for an exception.”

Yes you’ve read it correctly, CANCER doesn’t qualify for an exception from United Airlines refund Policy.  Being faced with a disease that slowly breaks down your cells, mutates them, and eats you away from the inside doesn’t QUALIFY for a refund from United Airlines.   It really makes you wonder what does qualify?  Does it have to be an even worse illness?  Something worse than cancer?  I would ask United Airlines to please tell me/US what illness my mother would have to have to qualify for a refund.  Please tell us what United Airlines considers worse than cancer and worth of a refund.

“Please be advised that your ticket is valid for one year from the date of issue, and may be used toward the purchase of another United Airlines ticket.”

And if my mum should die of cancer within this time?  Will United Airlines then issue a refund for being wrong about about a persons “ability to travel in the future.”  Please, I’d love to know about this.

“If the fare of the new ticket is higher than that of the original, you will be charged the additional amount, plus the applicable reissue fee when the new ticket is issued.”

Well thank you for letting me know that getting the most amount of money out of a CANCER VICTIM is very important to you.  More important than issuing a refund.

“If this reservation has not been canceled or to make a new reservation, please call1-800-525-0280 or visit our website at”

A new reservation?  Why on earth would I ever reserve anything ever again with such a shower of heartless money grabbing cretins that don’t give a crap about people?  Why would anyone want to make a reservation with United Airlines for that matter?

“If we can be of further assistance, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives.”

Actually I really do think United Airlines could be of further help to me, I really do.  Why?  Because they obviously couldn’t be of any less help at all whatsoever.  They’ve already scraped the bottom of the barrel in this matter, they can only go “up” from here.

“Thank you for choosing United Airlines, we look forward to serving you in the near future.”

Since United Airlines seems to be strictly self serving, I doubt I’ll be served by them in the future.  I just hope that maybe someday they’ll learn to serve customers with a sense of decency and a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.


I doubt it….

“Customer Refund Services”

Shouldn’t that read “Lack of Customer Refund Services”

I’m not here asking United Airlines to pay my mum’s medical bills.  I’m not here to ask them to give her free first class airline tickets.  I’m not even asking them to give her an extra coffee on her flight.  No, I’m here to ask for something very simple.  I’m asking United Airlines to do the right thing.

Refund my mum her money.  She’s not going to be able to make her flight.  She has a number of operations scheduled to remove her cancer.  She’s then got 6 weeks post op to ensure her stitches don’t rip or burst.  She then has to have radiation therapy every day for 8 weeks and has to go through extensive Chemotherapy also.  Then she will have to have her various checkups to ensure her treatments are work and she will need time to recover.  She’s nearly 70 years old, she has asthma, high blood pressure and COPD.  Frankly I don’t even know if she’ll survive the procedure, let alone everything that will follow it.

So Dear United Airlines, instead of saying that my mum will be fine and well enough to travel, how about you leave the diagnosis to an actual Doctor and you do the RIGHT thing and give her a refund of her money.

Thank you.

Please take a moment to forward this story to your friends, post it on your blog or facebook page, or share your United Airlines in the comments section of this blog whether it be good or bad.  I don’t want to believe that a company as large as United Airlines is bad, maybe someone just made a wrong judgement call.  So please, share this and share your stories also.  What’s important though is that I want this story to have a happy ending.


Thank you.