Sick right before your flight? This San Francisco family learned a lesson about airline refunds

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- All the worries about coronavirus have focused attention on the safety of traveling. One Bay Area woman was about to go on a flight overseas when she found out her son had a different, but very contagious, virus. She says she canceled the trip mostly to protect other travelers. So is she entitled to a refund? This story underscores the importance of buying trip insurance or refundable tickets anytime you take a big trip. Because if there's one thing you can foresee, it's that unforeseeable things DO happen.

Betsy Hicks had just escaped city life in San Francisco, finding heaven under the waterfalls of a Tahitian island.

"Moorea is the greatest place in the world," she said. "It's just surrounded in gorgeous beaches. The perfect place to get off the grid."

Since then, Hicks and her partner dreamed of going back. This time with her son Joey.

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"My son has autism," she said. "He's been labeled as severely autistic, he doesn't have a lot of words but he does love to travel and he really loves beaches."

And so she booked three tickets on French Bee airline, paying extra for seats next to Joey and baggage for his special food.

"We were super excited and ready to go," she recalls.

And then Joey became very ill and highly contagious.

"High levels of Epstein-barr into the mono stage," Hicks said. "I was like, ohhh we're leaving to go on our trip. And we knew what we had to do."

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Fearing Joey might infect others on the plane, they canceled.

"We contacted the airline, we told them our situation, they said give us a doctor's note," said Hicks.

However, these were non-refundable tickets. So she asked just for those extra fees for baggage and seating.

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"I'm not asking for a lot, just let us choose another time," she said. "We're not gonna do anything for you."

Betsy came to 7 On Your Side. We contacted French Bee and the company agreed to a partial refund of the fees and taxes totaling $1,000.

"We were so grateful and appreciative," said Hicks.

French Bee didn't have to provide a refund, so we thank the airline for giving some of that money back. The lesson here? If you plan a big trip, buy trip insurance or refundable tickets. It's well worth the investment because as we saw here, you never know what might happen.

Click here for more info on Betsy and Joey's "Autistic, Be Kind" vests.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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