Dear ABC News Fixer: My Mother Died Without Using a Plane Ticket – And United Won't Give Me a Refund. Can You Help?

Stephanie Zimmermann, the ABC News FixerABC News
Stephanie Zimmermann, the ABC News Fixer

Dear ABC News Fixer: My mother purchased an airline ticket to travel from Chicago to Palm Springs, Calif., in April 2011. Due to poor health, she canceled the trip before departure and did not travel. She was unable to use the ticket after that, due to failing health. My mother passed away on February 20, 2012.

After her death, there was a tremendous amount of paperwork and legal issues. While cleaning out her desk, I discovered the receipt for her $931 airline ticket.

I requested a refund from United Airlines in May and did not get a reply. I sent a second request in October. I attached a copy of the reservation and a copy of her death certificate.

I received the following form letter on Oct. 19, addressed to "Dear Marilyn Graber" (my mom): "We regret that you were unable to complete your travel plans as originally planned. Your particular ticket is valid for transportation for one year from date of original issue when completely unused. … Therefore, we cannot issue a refund. We wish our reply could be more favorable. Please be assured that United Airlines values your business and we look forward to serving you again in the future."

My mother will NEVER be able to travel on United Airlines ever again since she is now an angel in heaven. They didn't even read my letter.

- Jill Graves, Burr Ridge, Ill.

Dear Jill: First, our condolences on the loss of your mother. You told the ABC News Fixer that your mom was planning to travel to a conference before she fell ill from lung disease.

It's true that most airline tickets are only valid one year from the time of issuance, but we agree that this could have been handled better from a customer service standpoint. Who wants to get an invitation for their deceased mother to fly again?

As consumers, we like to think the companies actually read the letters we send in.

The good news is we were able to get the ear of United's corporate level customer service. They told us they couldn't issue a monetary refund because of the one-year limitation, but they did reissue a new ticket in your name for $931.40, which you can apply to one or more trips within the next year.

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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