Flying While Sick
Have you ever been booked to travel and then found yourself really sick? Thus far I have been fairly lucky considering how much I fly, but it has happened to me. A couple of years ago I booked a $170ish mistake fare from New York to Milan and then from Prague to Hong Kong. After spending a week in Europe, I boarded my flight for Hong Kong with a developing cough.
Let’s just say that getting no sleep and being cooped up for 11 hours turned that developing cough into something much worse. It was so bad that I was bedridden in Hong Kong for 2 of the 3 days I was there. Just as I was feeling slightly better I had to fly home. I had booked a ticket from HKG-JFK-LAX in Cathay Pacific first and then AA first so I could both maximize my time in the Cathay cabin and also so I could try the AA 321T for the first time without spending extra miles.
While I had been feeling slightly better before my flight and while the cabin was much more comfortable than the coach experience on the flight from Europe, all of the travel had weakened me. By the time I arrived home I was so sick that it took two full weeks for me to recover and I honestly did not even feel well enough to enjoy either first class product. Lesson learned.
Cancelling a Trip
Last night I was supposed to get onto a redeye flight to New York and then this morning I was to fly to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic to stay at what looks to be a beautiful all-inclusive resort, the Ocean Blue & Sand. They had asked me to visit so I could review the property and had paid for my flight, but unfortunately something happened. Starting on Sunday I developed a cold and while I had hoped it would be minor or go away, by yesterday it had progressed into a fever and bad cough. I’ll never forget how long it took me to recover from that Hong Kong trip and suddenly I had flashback.
With my flights to Punta Cana involved about 16 hours of travel time including a redeye to New York (I can never sleep on airplanes when sitting up), I knew it would end badly if I got on that place. Since I wasn’t going to make it on the flight, I started to look into options for getting the ticket changed or cancelled.
Delta to the Rescue
At first I tried to cancel the ticket online, but the system wouldn’t allow that. Since I wasn’t feeling up to a phone call, I hit Delta up on Twitter instead. In a Direct Message I explained my situation and asked them to cancel the ticket. I knew there would be a hefty cancellation fee, but at least the money minus the fee would be available for use later. After conversing with them back and forth, I almost fell off the couch when they said the following:
I am very sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. If you would like to cancel your ticket and use it at a later time, I can waive the change fee for you as a one time exception.
Wow! We can say a lot about Delta with their devaluations to SkyMiles, but they really have customer service nailed. I am not a Delta elite, but I do have Alitalia Gold status, but I doubt that is why they did this. Either way, Delta was incredibly generous to allow me to cancel the ticket. I fly American most often as an Executive Platinum and I honestly do not believe they would do something similar.
Thanks to Delta’s generosity the money is now there in the form of a credit and while I am not feeling much better today, I hope that changes soon so I can perhaps get to Punta Cana to review Ocean Blue & Sand because I am still conflicted about not getting there today as promised and because it looks like an awesome place to spend a couple of days.
Flying While Sick?
All of this has gotten me to think about the subject of flying while sick and I am honestly interested in your opinion on the matter. In this case I feel like I made the right choice not only because I would have probably arrived in much worse shape, but also because I didn’t want to expose others to whatever I have. On my previous trip I was away from home so it made a bit more sense to fly, but in hindsight I would have rested up and re-booked once well.
Have you ever faced a situation where you were too ill to fly or where you decided to fly anyway despite being sick? Has an airline gone out of their way to help in such a situation? Does it matter if you are traveling for work or just going on a vacation? Do you think sick people on planes are being selfish considering they are exposing others to their germs?
Please share your thoughts on the subject. I’ll be reading them as I sit here resting and trying to get better!