Pregnant Woman Denied Full Refund for Travel to Zika-Affected Destination

Last fall, Karen Doan and her husband booked a trip to Mexico.

“We wanted to relax on the beach and get some sun,” said Doan.

But a routine doctor appointment quickly changed their plans.

“The nurse comes out and says ‘It’s positive,’ and I look at her and go, ‘Are you sure?’” said Doan.

She was sure alright - Doan was pregnant. Once the surprising news settled, Doan realized she had to cancel her upcoming trip.

“We realized we couldn’t go to Cabo anymore because of the Zika virus,” said Doan.

The Centers for Disease Control warns women not to travel to coastal Mexico, saying, “Infection during pregnancy could cause serious birth defect.”

Doan says the hotel and tours she booked understood that, and have her full refunds. But United Airlines wasn’t as generous.

Doan used miles to purchase her tickets. And United agreed to refund her miles with restrictions -- she had to use the miles within a year and pay a $200 penalty per ticket.

“Everyone gave us a refund, happily gave us a refund, except United Airlines,” said Doan.

United’s decision for Doan’s mileage ticket seems to contradict its Zika policy for paid tickets that’s posted on its website. There, it says, “Consumers who are advised to avoid the affected regions based on CDC guidance may change their destination or travel date without a change fee or may choose to receive a refund.”

Doan’s doctor even wrote a letter on her behalf, saying she couldn’t travel. But United didn’t budge.

“I just didn’t think it was fair because the situation was very unusual,“ said Doan.

So Doan reached out to us for help. We contacted United and the airline deposited Doan’s miles back to her account - with no fee and no restrictions.

“I was very happy,” said Doan.

Doan is now looking forward to her new baby, and says she’ll plan another trip to Mexico someday.

“We might have a little one running around when we go,” said Doan. “That’s OK — the more the merrier.”

United told us it offered Zika-related refunds for travelers who purchased tickets prior to March of last year. It said beyond that date, travelers had plenty of warning about Zika.

As for unexpected situations like Karen’s, United said it makes those decisions on a case-by-case basis.

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