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Stranded couple get refund after all

An outraged Medford couple who told local media they had been abandoned by United Airlines during a hurricane in Puerto Rico have been given a full refund by the airline.

Dawn Dalton said United Airlines called late Wednesday evening to offer a full refund to her and her husband, Micah Pitts, for the price of the original round-trip tickets — $1,000 total — and the $500 charged by the airline to change their flight after the pair was grounded by Hurricane Maria.

United Airlines did not return calls for comment by the Mail Tribune on Friday, or for a previous news report. Dalton said the airline's reluctance to admit any fault was upsetting.

United's first offer to assuage the couple was a refund for the $500 flight change fee and a pair of $200 travel vouchers.

But then United Airlines' “customer solutions” department made a second call with a better offer — a full refund.

“We emailed and told them what happened and they replied that basically they weren’t in the wrong,” Dalton said.

“So I sent news stories about what happened to us and a copy of the e-mail saying our second return flight had been canceled and a screen shot where they said they would be flexible with people because of the hurricane.”

While booking their flight for a Sept. 16-23 vacation in Puerto Rico, Dalton and Pitts were told they could not cancel, even due to a hurricane, and receive a refund of their airline costs.

Hurricane Maria stranded them for a week, but they made the best of it, even throwing themselves an impromptu wedding. Their resort offered free room and board, and a Royal Caribbean cruise line transported them and 3,800 other stranded passengers to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, free of charge.

Pitts said that while other airlines accommodated passengers during the emergency, United Airlines “was just absent.” Not only were representatives not available to reschedule the grounded flight, United charged Dalton and Pitts a $500 fee to change their round-trip tickets to return to Oregon from Florida.

Dalton said they will use travel insurance to try and recoup some of the lost wages and rental car expense they incurred.

“The really sad part was that, once we started telling our story, we found a lot of people online who United did the exact same thing to. We were only out an extra $500 but some of these people were out thousands of dollars,” she said.

“I won’t go out of my way to fly United after all this. But Micah said he’d give them another chance, so who knows.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

When Micah Pitts and Dawn Dalton got stranded in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, they held an impromptu wedding. [Courtesy photo]