Winifred Flood knew her son Sgt. Kenneth Flood was deploying to Afghanistan from Camp Lejeune sometime between Feb. 9 and 11.
So Flood, who lives in Youngstown, Ohio, booked a Feb. 7 U.S. Airways flight from Pittsburgh to Raleigh, and planned to return Feb. 12. That way she'd have a few days to be with her son before his first 14-month tour in Afghanistan.
She booked the flight in January. But when her son's deployment was moved up, the airline told Flood that she'd have to pay hundreds of dollars more to switch to an earlier flight.
Then the airline canceled her original Feb. 7 flight, so Flood was unable to say goodbye to her son in person.
"He's fighting for our country," Flood said. "At least let a mom say goodbye."
Flood's sister-in-law, Judy Mazur of Raleigh, called the Triangle Troubleshooter for help.
She and Flood want U.S. Airways to change its policy to allow military mothers to switch flights free when they are traveling to see children before deployment to a war zone. After all, the military often changes deployment dates at the last minute.
"I don't want to see another mother go through this," Flood said.
A $300 charge
A week before Flood's Feb. 7 flight, her son was told he'd be leaving at 5 p.m. the day his mother was to arrive.
She called U.S. Airways to get an earlier flight, but was told it would cost $300 to make the change. A widow with eight children, Flood could not afford the extra fee on top of the $200 cost of her ticket.
She explained her situation to the U.S. Airways operator, she says, but was told the airline only waives rebooking fees for military spouses and children, not parents.
Kenneth Flood, 33, is single and doesn't have children. His father died five years ago. His motherwas the only immediate family member going to say goodbye.
The airline wouldn't make an exception, Flood told me.
To make matters worse, Flood went to the airport the morning of Feb. 7, hoping to get to Raleigh and have at least a few hours with her son.
But her flight was canceled because of a maintenance issue, and the next flight out would have arrived too late.
She was so hysterical, she couldn't find her way out of the airport.
Valerie Wonder, a U.S. Airways spokeswoman, confirmed U.S. Airways waives rebooking fees for military spouses and children traveling for active-duty assignments.
She also said the company has no record of Flood calling to switch her flight. Flood had purchased her tickets through Cheap Tickets, and maybe she called that company, Wonder wondered.
"If she had called us, we would have put her in touch with customer relations and would have waived the fee," Wonder said.
Except Flood says she did call U.S. Airways. She even spoke to a supervisor, who wouldn't budge on the policy, Flood said.
I told Wonder all this.
"If she wants to talk to somebody, we can reach out to her," Wonder said. "I understand she's frustrated. I would be upset if I missed my flight to see my son."
A policy in force
Would U.S. Airways change its policy, so another military mother doesn't have to go through this? "We are in line with other airlines," Wonder said.
I called a few other airlines to find out their rebooking fee policies regarding military families.
Ed Martelle, a spokesman for American Airlines, said the airline waives fees for military spouses and children, not parents.
Paul Skrbec, a spokesman for Delta, said Delta does not waive rebooking fees for military family members; only for military personnel traveling on orders.
Sharon Jones, a spokeswoman for JetBlue, said JetBlue waives rebooking fees for any military family member, including wives, children, parents - even grandparents.
Flood hopes she gets the chance to see her son again. And when he comes home in 14 months, Flood plans to fly here to greet him.
Asked whether she would fly U.S. Airways, she said: "Probably not."