Carrol Amrich from Pueblo, Colorado, wanted to fly out to Minnesota to see her mother in the hospital. However, Amrich couldn’t afford a plane ticket.

The New York Times reports her landlord, Ines Prelas, bought her a ticket for a flight leaving the next day through Traveler Help Desk, because it was the least expensive ticket agency online.

Then Amrich learned some awful news: her mother had gone into heart failure and was dying. Prelas hopped on the phone to United  to find an earlier flight. However, because Prelas contacted United directly, rather than the ticket agency, Traveler Help Desk voided Amrich’s reservation— they suspected fraudulent activity.

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Soon after Amrich boarded her flight, a gate agent approached her and told her that she needed to get off. Amrich informed the gate agent that her mother was dying and that it was urgent that she make it to Minnesota on time. But the agent reportedly responded, “Nobody flies for free.”

Distraught, Amrick called Prelas for help. Prelas called United and offered to pay for the ticket.

Prelas explained:

“I said, ‘Take my credit card. We’ll straighten this out later, but get her on that plane.’”

But by then, the plane had already taken off.

Carolyn Gallant, the customer service supervisor at Traveler Help Desk said that Amrich’s ticket was voided after they saw the changes Prelas made to the original reservation. She claimed that the ticket was voided in order to protect Amrich against fraud. Gallant also said that a customer service representative called Amrich many times to inform her the ticket was voided.

Gallant wrote in an email:

We had no way of knowing this was a change by Ms. Amrich directly with the carrier. We voided the ticket to protect Ms. Amrich.

Prelas said neither she nor Amrich were given any notice whatsoever that the reservation was cancelled.

She explained that she called United directly because she thought it would be the quickest way to make changes to the ticket. When talking with the airline representative, Prelas mentioned that she bought the ticket through an online ticket seller. United’s representative, according to Prelas, told her that making changes through the airline would not be an issue.

Amrich claimed that she drove 1,000 miles without stopping, not even to use a bathroom. As she drove, her sister who was with her mom in the hospital, was holding a phone to her mother’s ear, while Amrich “begged her to hold on.”

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But it was too late. By the time Amrich got to Minnesota, her mother had passed away.

Amrich said:

“I drove 1,000 miles, and she was gone before I got here. I never stopped to rest. I went straight through. And she was gone.”

Amrich told the New York Times two days after her mother’s death:

“I cried the whole way from Pueblo. I’ve been awake for two days. I haven’t had anything to eat in two days.”

Gallant said that this entire situation could have been avoided had Traveler Help Desk been contacted directly.

She said:

“I am just so sorry for Ms. Amrich’s loss. It is tragic. I understand it was unfortunate the ticket ended up voided. Had she contacted us directly to make the change, this all would have been avoided.”

While Amrich was driving to see her mother, Prelas said that she tried to make sense of what had happened by making calls to United headquarters. She said that someone from United called her back, asking for Amrich’s address in order to send her flowers.

But Prelas said:

“What are the flowers going to do? You took away from her that she might have been able to see her mother alive.”

Tragic.

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