In my last two blogs, I discussed how my son reacted to the death of my sibling, and the unexpected change in the plans for the holidays.
With that in mind, this blog will be geared more toward anyone who finds themselves having to fly unexpectedly during the holidays—and with a child with special needs.
Booking the flights during the holidays for travel during the holidays is one thing—expensive. Most airlines no longer even try to give “bereavement” discounts for these types of travelers.
There are a handful who say they do something, however it turns out that even what those airlines do is very, very limited. One airline, for example, will give you a 10 percent discount, after proof of the death is presented (which, I learned, death certificates during the holidays are not issued on a timely basis).
Another airline will only give a discount (an unknown amount) if travel occurs within three days.
The rest do nothing to help travelers off-set the cost of last minute travel due to a death in the family.
That is the reality today.
That was lesson number one that we learned.
Lesson number two was that when my husband, son, and sibling flew from Los Angeles to Greensboro, North Carolina, they were all sitting in single seats. And, those seats could not be assigned online. They had to be assigned at the gate, and only after everyone else got their seats.
It was the same on the trip back, when I fly back with them.
This is a cause for concern for my husband and myself. Our son is older now, but he still has autism, and there are still some things that may or may not set him off.
The bottom line is that we are the parents, and one of us need to sit with him on an airplane.
On the way to North Carolina, the airline was not accommodating for my husband. He had to wait until he was actually on the plane and then ask for someone to switch with him.
Someone did switch, and it worked out that he sat next to our son.
On the way home, the airline arranged our seats before we got on the plane. I sat next to my son.
I wanted to delve into this side issue because it is important to note that traveling in this manner is already stressful enough, add on last minute flights (and the cost of those flights), then add on traveling with a child with autism. All of that could add up to disaster.
Luckily, we didn’t experience any problems when it came to traveling with our son during this time.
The airlines, though, I felt were over and above ripping people off.
For example, on the trip home, we wanted to drive the hour it would take us to get from Greensboro, North Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then take a direct flight home to Los Angeles, thus skipping the “puddle jumper” from Greensboro to Charlotte.
The airline said, “That’s fine, it’s $500 each.” That’s an ADDED $2,000.
What if someone missed their puddle jumper, we asked the airlines.
“Oh,” they said, “If you miss that flight, your other flight is completely canceled.”
Turned out, and this is my warning to all of you out there, that the airlines are not friendly when it comes to changes and/or last minutes travel.
They were willing to switch us for $2,000, and release those seats on the puddle jumper (most definitely attempted to sell them AGAIN), and allow us to take the direct flight from Charlotte, but they would cancel our entire trip if we skipped that first flight.
Even after we explained to them that this whole trip was a bereavement trip.
Nope, no good.
I guess this is a warning, and a rant.
Even though my son made it throw the flights okay (except for the lack of Wifi at the Charlotte airport), the airlines still made our very sad trip even sadder.
It was pathetic that we couldn’t get someone on the phone that would even try to help us. I went up the ladder as far as I could go.
But, no, the airlines are about one thing—making money.
I’m sure when a similar situation happens to one of them, that they’ll bend the rules. It’s too bad, though, the rules should apply to everyone.
Because no one wants to be traveling under the banner of a bereavement situation. I wished I didn’t have to.
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