Donna Witkins was caught off guard when she got the call that her mother was dying. She ended up spending more than $6,000 to get to her. She reached out to NBC Connecticut Responds to share her story in hopes that others learn from her experience.
"We didn't know if she was going to live or what was going to happen."
Donna Witkins said her mom developed pneumonia and ended up in the ICU.
"She was a wonderful person. She would do anything for you,” said Donna Witkins.
Witkins told us she spoke with her mom hours before getting that call that turned her and her wallet upside down.
"I got a call about 2 in the morning from the ICU doctor saying, 'Your mom is taking a turn for the worst,'” said Witkins. "And so, I asked the question: ‘Do I need to get there?’ And she said, 'Yes if you want to see your mother one more time, you need to be here now.'"
Frantic, Witkins tried to book a flight on Delta Airlines to Mississippi for her and her son.
"Ultimately, I had to go to Boston to get a flight out. And I went to Detroit to Memphis and then drove to Mississippi,” said Witkins.
According to the agent, the only tickets available were first class.
"When she told me the price, I couldn't believe it. It was $6,749 for two one-way tickets,” said Witkins.
Witkins took the flight and reached her mother in time before she passed away. She contacted Delta in hopes of getting a refund.
"I have a death certificate; can we do something? They basically told me no,” said Witkins.
Donna said Delta apologized for her loss and insisted they couldn't do anything else.
NBC Connecticut Responds reached out to Delta multiple times for comment. A media spokesperson responded saying they would issue a statement. We have yet to hear back.
Delta's medical emergency policy states:
This program is valid for SkyMiles members needing to travel due to a medical emergency of an immediate family member. If you are not currently a SkyMiles member you may enroll immediately to qualify.
"Make sure that you're talking to somebody that you are comfortable with, that their offering you every single choice available,” said Susan Aresco, director of Travel Sales at AAA.
She recommends speaking with an airlines supervisor when booking an emergency flight.
"Do they offer a bereavement fare? Are they an airline that has a discount for somebody that there's either a death in the family or an imminent death in the family?”
Advice that Witkins wish she knew at the time of booking.
"I don't want somebody to ever go through this,” said Witkins.
In the end, she was glad to get to her mother in time.
"That's priceless to me."
AAA said in some cases, airlines will offer a discount in this situation, though it may not be a huge one.