BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Alex Hamberger loves being an uncle to his niece Mia, but he doesn’t love that she lives all the way in Kansas City.
“She just makes the best faces, and she’s really easy going,” he recently told News 4. “She was born last September, and then I was back out there in November. Then she was home for Christmas so I have seen her three times.”
The fourth time was supposed to be in March, when Alex planned a weekend trip to see his sister, brother-in-law, and new niece. But a sudden illness grounded him in Buffalo.
“I got really sick pretty much everywhere from just my head up, and went to the doctor and they said they really advised against travel.”
Not only that, but Alex’s ticket was non-refundable. Cancelling meant he would owe American Airlines two hundred bucks. It wasn’t Alex’s fault he got sick, so he decided to write them a letter and explain.
“Dear most kind and benevolent American Airlines customer service staff member,” his letter began. “I write to you with the hopes that you may take mercy on me and afford a little sympathy for this flyer who has taken quite ill and had to postpone his trip to see his beloved niece.”
In semi-dramatic fashion, Alex went through the whole story — adding comedic commentary in between passages.
“I visited the doctor, and he was sufficiently concerned with my symptoms, and suggested I cancel my trip to Kansas City the following day. “Why??” I wondered silently to myself,” another portion read.
Alex included a copy of his doctor’s diagnosis, along with pictures of himself and Mia. He signed it and mailed it off. A couple weeks later, he got an email.
“Dear Mr. Hamberger,” the letter began. “Thank you for your letter to customer relations. I enjoyed reading it, and your photo story to match.”
Alex was delighted to learn that the airline appreciated his tale. They waived the cancellation fee, and helped him re-book his trip.
“I sure don’t want your niece to be disappointed if you don’t show up. Mr. Hamberger, I know you will have a lovely time visiting family,”
So Alex will have some extra cash to bring when he finally gets to Kansas City later this month — and a great story to share with Mia when she’s older.
“To have such a nice response from someone at the company, just brightened my whole day” he said. “Even the days since then, since I’ve been thinking about it and talking about it with different people.”
- Read Alex’s original letter to American Airlines (including photos) :
American Airlines Customer Relations
4000 E. Sky Harbor Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85034
Dear Most Kind and Benevolent American Airlines Customer Service Staff Member,
I write to you with the hopes that you may take mercy on me and afford a little sympathy for this flyer who was taken quite ill and had to postpone his trip to see his beloved niece.
Picture it. No, not Sicily 1922 (But I appreciate you are a Golden Girls fan, much like myself! And in case you didn’t get that reference, no worries; read on!), but February 29, 2016. It was a Monday night and I was getting so excited for my upcoming trip to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and niece who was about to turn 6 months old that Thursday! I started to feel a little sinus pressure that night, nothing major but enough to give me pause. As I woke up that next day on Tuesday, March 1st, I felt OK, but things quickly went downhill. It was a cold, I thought; nothing major.
By Wednesday, March 2nd, things were escalating. My cold symptoms had intensified. I consulted with a virtual doctor-on-call using my computer (very fancy!), and she recommended I head right in and see an actual physician. “Uh oh,” I thought. “That’s not a great sign.”
I visited the doctor that evening and he was sufficiently concerned with my symptoms that he suggested I cancel my planned trip to Kansas City the following day. “WHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY,” I wondered silently to myself. It seemed like a little cold, but alas, he concluded travel was unreasonable and issued me the enclosed note. Always a rule follower, I abided by his advice.
And BOY am I glad I did! You’ll see the doctor’s note references an infectious disease. It was just two days later on March 4th, that I learned this infectious disease was not a household cold or flu: it was a Haemophilus Influenzae bacterial infection. Yes, the same infection that can cause conditions such as epiglottitis (a fatal respiratory disease), pneumonia, and notably, meningitis in children under 5. Remember when I mentioned I was going to visit my 6 month old niece?! Thank heavens I didn’t!
Suffice to say, after 2 long weeks of illness, which prompted a formal medical leave from work, I didn’t suffer any of the severe complications (though I did have a sinus infection, ear infection including a ruptured eardrum, pink eye, throat infection, full-body rash, among others). But most of all, canceling my trip to visit my infant niece was the best thing that could have happened; had I visited her and she gotten sick, it literally could have killed her.
All that said, I’m hoping you may be able, or at least willing, to take pity on me and this woeful tale (as pitiful as it is), and forgo the $200 change fee normally imposed on tickets such as this. I know, I know, I purchased a nonrefundable ticket and that I took the risk that my I may face this fee if my trip were canceled. But I’m hoping you can see that this trip was canceled for very significant reasons, and that in addition to the pain and suffering I endured as a result of my illness, I was even more so upset that I couldn’t see my family members whom I hadn’t visited since November! A niece needs her uncle (that’s a saying, right?)!
Should you, the kind and magical customer service agent at American Airlines, be able to assist me, here is the pertinent reservation information as it applied in this case:
Now, I don’t know if this will be problematic or not, but I just recently rebooked my trip and I’ve already paid the $200 change fee. So I now realize there may be 356 reasons you can’t refund this to me, but I figure it’s always worth a shot! If it’s possible in any way to recoup this $200 I’d be forever grateful.
I know you must deal with testy and ornery travelers all the time, and I assure you I am not one of those. If I’m not able to recoup this cost, I’m most understanding. I thank you for all you do to make the travel dreams of flyers such as myself a reality.
And in case this letter was too long or unclear, I’ve also included a photo-story of the whole ideal attached.
Thank you again for your kind consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and also to my next flight!
Formerly sick person
Currently healthy person
- Read the American Airlines response:
“Dear Mr. Hamberger:
Thank you for your letter to Customer Relations. I enjoyed reading it and your photo-story to match! Still, it is unfortunate that you were so ill that you had to cancel your trip in March. I’m glad you are “formerly sick” and “currently healthy” to make plans to see your precious niece. She sure is a lucky little girl to have such a loving Uncle Al!
I noticed that the ticket for your future reservation, has not been issued. This is where the “magic” actually is able to happen and none of the 356 reasons are needed! I have authorized a waiver of the $200.00 change charge. However, in order for the ticket to be issued, there is an additional fare of $96.22 that needs to be paid. Therefore, if you will please contact our reservations office at 800-433-7300, a professional and kind American Airlines’s reservation agent will be able to complete ticketing for you on this booking.
I sure don’t want your niece to be disappointed if you don’t show up! Mr. Hamberger, I know you will have a lovely time visiting family. On behalf of all of us at American, thank you for flying with us! We look forward to welcoming you aboard!