Last updated: 12:08 PM ET, Tue August 02 2016

Airline Says Man Boarded Flight Even Though He Died A Week Earlier

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | August 02, 2016

Airline Says Man Boarded Flight Even Though He Died A Week Earlier

Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook

Between adventurous and wild travelers emboldened by alcohol, disputes over reclining seats, the Mile High Club, turbulence and more, airline travel is always ripe for bizarre tales.

This might be the weirdest.

England’s Thomas Cook Airlines put a grieving widow through further emotional turmoil recently when it initially refused to compensate the cost of a ticket to Mallorca. The woman had purchased the tickets for herself, her husband and her 12-year old child.

The airline insisted that the man had boarded the May 21 flights, traveled to Mallorca, and even claimed the man was denied entry at the border.

One problem.

Pauline Pritchard’s husband died on May 14.

Several media outlets, including London’s Daily Mail, reported that James Pritchard suffered from liver disease and his worsening condition even prompted Pauline to contact Thomas Cook Airlines and explain that the family would have to cancel.

First, Thomas Cook denied compensation, saying that its insurance policy did not cover liver disease.

READ MORE: How to Be a ‘Trusted Traveler’

Then, three weeks later, it relented and issued a voucher for the booking, which was $1,794 in U.S. dollars, although the family was seeking an actual refund.

Then it contacted Pauline Pritchard via email to say it was reneging on the voucher because, the airline claimed, James Pritchard had indeed traveled to Mallorca on May 21 according to its records – even going so far as to say the man “refused entry into the country by Border Control Authorities.”

“It is shocking. To make one mistake is bad enough but to make two is horrendous – especially seeing as they know what I am going through,” Pauline Pritchard told the Daily Mail. “They said that he was on a flight when he was lying dead in a morgue. There was no reason behind it, I don't understand why we would ever be refused into Spain. They knew my husband was dead when they wrote that voucher out – it was like some kind of sick joke.”

Thomas Cook has since apologized, sending her a letter that read, in part: “While the initial incident was human error it is certainly not good enough and understandably would have caused you great anguish. This service is not good enough and I will be liaising with the senior management of the area to ensure this does not happen again and the correct protocols are adhered to. It was and will continue to be a distressing time for you and Thomas Cook should have been helping you quickly and with compassion which I am deeply sorry for.”

For her part, Pauline Pritchard said she would use the voucher but that will be it.

“I don't trust them at all and will never trust another holiday company again,” she told the paper.


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