Terminally Ill Patient Misses Flight For Health Reasons, Airline Wants $200 To Rebook

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Harrie Schmidt, left, and his caregiver on the plane to Bradley International Airport.

Harrie Schmidt, left, and his caregiver on the plane to Bradley International Airport.


This weekend’s Bottom Line column:

Doctors have told Harrie Schmidt he has only months, maybe a year, to live. He does not want to spend that time in a nursing home in Seattle, where he has been living, far from his family in Connecticut.

His sister, Barbara Alex of Windsor, booked a Sept. 7 American Airlines flight for him and a caregiver to Bradley International Airport so Schmidt could return home and reside in an area nursing home. Alex bought a nonrefundable round-trip fare for the caregiver and a one-way ticket for her brother.

“He wants to come back to Connecticut, where he does have family before he dies,” says Alex. “He is very ill: Frail, incontinent, and his legs are very swollen from the knees to his feet. He is able to stand for maybe 15 minutes at the most, but is in a wheelchair or bed most of the time.”

But Schmidt, 67, has been so ill that he never made it onto the Sept. 7 flight. He was hospitalized the previous week, says Alex, and on the day he was scheduled to leave, Sept. 5, he vomited blood and landed in the intensive-care unit. That same day, Alex called American Airlines and asked if it could keep the tickets open and allow her brother to travel when he was able.
American Airlines told Alex she had one option: Cancel, book another flight and pay $200 extra in change fees for each ticket.

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