Saturday, May 9, 2009

Airline Tickets And Hospital Stays

Buying airline tickets always makes me nervous. The cost to change a ticket used to be $50 and that was a lot of money to me. Now the fee is $150! That's usually almost half of the ticket cost.

Here's the beginning of a story about changing ones itinerary. I don't know the ending yet because it hasn't happened. So, my mother and my nephew needed to fly to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I booked the tickets for my mom through Expedia. Because she didn't want to get up at 6am or pay $200 extra, the flight to Minneapolis was with US Airway and the return flight was split between Northwest and Alaska Airlines. She also bought the flight insurance in case she needed to change or cancel her flight.

My mom and my 12 year old nephew flew to Minneapolis. They went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion because my nephew has a condition called Gardner's Syndrome which means he will definitely develop colon cancer by the time he is 40. His father had the same condition (although he found out too late) and passed away in his early 20's. The only treatment is surgery early before the cancer develops. The Mayo Clinic confirms the diagnosis and then says that since he is at the clinic already he might as well stay, have the surgery and get it over with. This idea sounds good as the Mayo Clinic is #1 for performing this kind of procedure.

Now, this means my mom has to change her flight. She and my nephew were scheduled to return on Monday. But now his surgery is on Monday and he will need to stay in the hospital for 7 days. My mom isn't sure what day they will be returning. She is overwhelmed and stressed and tries to call Expedia for advice. They tell her that she needs to call the flight insurance number. She can't get a hold of the flight insurance people so she calls Expedia back. They try to help but the information is confusing and she is frustrated. She spends SIX HOURS! total on hold and trying to find out what to do. She ends up calling Northwest Airlines and cancelling her flight with them.

Since I made her initial reservations I got an email this morning from Expedia notifying me that the Northwest flight had been cancelled. I am concerned because the Alaska connecting flight has not been cancelled. I call my mom and she tells me everything that she as been trying to do to change her flights. I offer to make some calls and I was able to get a claim number from the flight insurance and a cancellation number from Expedia for both the Northwest and Alaskan flights.

So that is as far as we got. I do not think that the flight insurance is going to cover the change but we might as well fill out the paperwork and try it anyway. The worst they can do it say no. They say that the accident or illness which interferes with the trip has to occur after the trip started in order for the $150 trip change fee to be reimbursed. Well then it is going to depend on how the doctor words his note for the trip insurance. To me the surgery was unexpected (we knew he would have to have surgery in the next few years but we weren't expecting it to be Monday!) but I'm sure the insurance will wiggle out of it some how.

I found a one way return flight for my mom and nephew for $155 in 12 days but we can't be sure that he will feel up to traveling on that day. Expedia recommended calling US Airways directly and maybe they would be able to give my mom a special deal at the last minute. I hope so. She has to spend Mother's Day all alone in a strange city. At least she was able to find an inexpensive non-profit guest house to stay in run by the Mennonites. Worst case scenario, my mom will have to pay $150 per ticket plus any difference in the price of the tickets. Hopefully not more than $500 but with a tidal wave of medical bills headed her way any amount that she can save will be appreciated.

So please keep my mother and especially my nephew in your thoughts and prayers. I hope they make it home very soon.

9 comments:

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

That sounds so stressful. I am hoping for the best.

I was at John Hopkins with my brother back in the 90s and had a last minute change for some more medical related work that made me miss my flight. They had a staff person take care of all of the rebooking for me without charge. Said they were used to doing it, and were good at it. Might be worth asking someone at Mayo if they can do something similar for your mom and nephew.

Beyond that minor stuff, I really hope his surgery goes well.

Daizy said...

Thanks. It is easy to forget the little stuff in these situations and then they turn in to big stuff. I try to encourage her to get help from Mayo but she hasn't found the right person yet. It's a big place. I wish I had gone with her to help her out.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

Sounds like you are helping out quite a bit from home. Hang in there.

Daizy said...

Ya, I'm trying. I was hoping that I would have my mortgage paid off and enough vacation time to help them out when the time came. But sooner is better for sure.

Lizzie said...

Sounds like a nightmare poor mum doesnt really need. My thoughts are with them.
Lizzie

Big Sis said...

That's a lot for you to handle with your birthday coming up, too. Hard to celebrate with your fingers crossed. Hugs.

Daizy said...

Hi Lizzie, yes, poor mom is trying to stay sane. She didn't expect to have to deal with this on her own and so far away from home.

Daizy said...

Big Sis, birthday? The people at work are taking me out for giant pizza on Weds. That's when everyone will be back in the office. It won't seem like my birthday (except that I will tell everyone that it is!) By the way, his surgery was just changed to Tues.! Good thing we didn't book return tickets yet.

ThatsMe!! said...

Keeping you nephew and your mom in my prayers...
LaDawn