Contact Kim: Unfriendly skies

United asked for proof of conflict from an overseas Navy officer.
United asked for proof of conflict from an overseas Navy officer.

RUSSELLVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A vacation, months in the planning, was supposed to be a surprise for a father and son. When the trip got canceled, the only surprise the father got was the hoops he had to jump through to get his airline ticket refunded.

Michael Bell of Russellville is as proud a father as they come. Several months ago, his wife bought him a plane ticket to see their son Nicholas, who though based in San Diego in the Navy, was stationed overseas. Nicholas was granted a break at the beginning of Oct. and was coming back to California.

The trip was to be a surprise for both father and son. Neither knew they were going to see one another. The plan was for Michael's family to surprise him with the ticket to San Diego, and to take a cruise with Nicholas.

Bell said he had to put in his vacation request months ahead of time. "I did it without even knowing why I was doing it," he said.

However, the Navy ended up postponing Nicholas' break and he had to stay overseas. Only then did Michael find out about the surprise trip. Disappointed, Michael had no choice but to cancel his trip.

When Michael tried to get a refund for his airline ticket, Michael said United Airlines didn't seem cooperative. In his opinion, the airline tried to make it as difficult as possible. He was instructed to go online, print out a form, and fill it out, along with a letter of explanation from his son.

Michael said the letter could have contained sensitive information of his military son, and he was not prepared to provide it.

"When I make a purchase and the purchase is not suitable, and I need a refund, all I need is proof of purchase. Well, they wanted more than proof of purchase, and it was things I couldn't give them," said Bell.

We put in a call to United Airlines, where a representative said they usually require some form of proof of conflict or unavoidable occurrence before a refund is issued. After we explained Michael's situation, United agreed to refund the price of the ticket, minus a standard $50 handling charge.

Michael said he can live with that.

"If it had not been for 48 News, we would have just been fighting a losing battle and given up out of frustration," he said.

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