Reader Question: Brussels Airlines Fare Code Issue & Helping Sick Passengers During Flight


A LoyaltyLobby reader emailed me a question that comes up quite frequently, regarding medical professionals on a flight that ends up helping sick passenger(s). Also the question covered a booking class issue that the pax has between United and Brussels airlines when credited to Turkish.

Reader Question Helping Sick Passenger During Flight

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I booked a flight on United to see my son appear on Jeopardy. The first and last legs were on Brussels Airlines Tlv-Br and Bru-TLV. The booking was held up for 24 hours while United checked with Bru regarding the aforementioned legs. I was blocked from access due to site problems.

When I finally got into the site the 24 hour free cancellation window had passed and the booking code for the last leg was changed from a mile  accrual class to non accruing class. I spent hours on the phone to no avail. Although I was told that normally since United knows it takes 24 hours to verify with BRU the credit card is not charged until 24 hours later, for some reason a glitch occurred and my card was charged immediately. I needed to credit the miles on TK so I could renew my Gold status otherwise I would have to pay $70 per 1000 miles needed to achieve the renewal.

When I got to Brussels from the first leg I and got in line for Gold for the BRU-ORD leg on United metal I  was sent to the transfer desk even though I was instructed to go immediately to the gate with my boarding pass. I was forced to stand in line again and THEN I was told I had to go to secondary screening where they even went through my billfold to see if one of my credit cards contained contraband. The body search involved the agent reaching into my groin and touching my skin, I saw this was apparently. done to others as well. By the the time I finally got on the plane everyone else had boarded and the stewardess were not helpful in finding a space to put my carry on. I finally found a spot in the back of the plane. During the fiasco that ensued some of my personal effects were lost.

During the flight several people fell ill and unbeknown to me a paramedic who knew me form the ER where I work recognized me on the plane and had me paged. There were several sick Africans, including one who had 2 seizures on the plane. At one point it was thought the cases were related and several passengers as well as a less experienced physician thought the plane should be rerouted to  the closest airport. I overruled the others and took responsibility that the flight could safely reach ORD. It was explained to me by the head steward that the airline has full responsibility unless medical personnel take over and the flight would have had to land at the closest airport. Our identifying information was taken and we were promised compensation. Lunch was never served because the man with the seizure was on the floor in the pantry. Everyone was giving instructions on how to get  compensation for the missing meal (1250 miles or $25) which I received as did all other passengers.

I am still waiting for the promised compensation for 4.5 hours I spent attending to the patients on the aircraft.

How should I proceed? Should I demand a specific amount or hope that they are honorable and generous? I imagine I saved them tens of thousands of dollars and untold aggravation for hundreds of passengers.

Should I file a separate claim with the credit card issuer regarding the bait and switch with the missing miles to have been credited to TK?


You have basically two separate issues here; the booking class change that happened during the United ticketing and you helping sick passengers during the flight for hours. Flying with US airlines unfortunately comes with some frisking.

I don’t see any reason to book anything on airline websites unless they offer lower prices than sites such as Expedia (most of the time they don’t). United doesn’t always ticket immediately and you may end up unticketed itinerary if UA’s ticketing has “stalled” and you don’t babysit your itinerary where Expedia’s et al. ticketing is instantaneous. You can also the see the booked fare classes for various legs on Expedia.

If United send you a confirmation for itinerary that is being ticketed and the changed the fare booking classes before the ticket was issues, I would open a complaint with DOT that you can do here.

It is really unfortunate that many airlines don’t show any gratitude for medical professionals that help during emergencies while in-flight.  A diversion can incur a great financial cost to an airline, not only in schedule disruption, but fuel costs, landing fees and the risk of an international crew timing out… let’s not even get into how disruptive it would be to the passengers.

Obviously you are not entitled to anything, but common courtesy would dictate that they would dump a nice amount miles into your account or issue a travel cert that you could use in the future. This wouldn’t cost them anything considering the savings for not having to divert a flight.

I would keep these two issues separate if you contact Customer Relations and you may have to reply a few times before someone with few brain cells left at United actually reads the email and acts accordingly.