August 6, 2014 6:45 pm

Family told they can’t use return airline ticket after ticket holder dies on trip

For 72-year-old Gordon Reid of Cambridge, Ontario,  a July trip to Newfoundland should have been restful. In the first two days, Reid joined family members on a ritual fishing trip to look for cod.

But the voyage turned tragic when a boating accident cost Reid his life. Other family members flew in from Ontario to plan a funeral and to grieve, including his daughter, Lucy.

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Reid had purchased a return ticket on Sunwing Airlines, which specializes in package holidays and charter services. Family members believed that someone ought to be able to use the return portion of his ticket. But they say they were told by Sunwing representatives that couldn’t happen.

“They said — ‘we do none of that; you buy a ticket, that’s it,” said Gladys Reid of Bell Island, NL, a member of the deceased man’s family. “It’s definitely wrong.”

Reid says she and others were told by CAA, the travel agency that sold the ticket and later by Sunwing directly that it was not possible to use the ticket.  The answer wasn’t satisfactory.

“There’s a seat there that’s paid for. There’s been a tragedy. Out of courtesy, the daughter should able to go back with her mom, ” said Reid, who said the airline would have sold the pre-paid seat to someone else anyway.

“It’s a terrible thing to do when somebody dies,” said Jim Byers, a travel writer and former travel editor and frequent traveller.

“You just really have to wonder what they are thinking of,” added Byers, saying the decision not to re-issue a ticket was a matter of bad public relations.

When a family member called Global News to see if this was the final word, we contacted Sunwing’s corporate office.

Janine Chapman, vice president of marketing for Sunwing Travel Group agreed to look into the case. A few hours later, the company agreed to allow the ticket to be used by Lucy.

In an email, Chapman said in part: “Due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding this request, we have allowed for the customer name to be changed on the ticket so that a family member could use the return portion of the flight at no additional cost.”

Chapman said Sunwing has “standard policies around name changes, which are typically allowed prior to departure for a nominal administration fee when sufficient notice is provided.” She said name changes mid-way through a flight are unusual.

Reid’s family expressed gratitude to Global News for helping.

“It’s a small thing to do,” said Gladys Reid, speaking of the name change on the ticket, adding it meant a lot to the family.

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