Consumer Alert: Rochester woman’s fight to get refund after cancer derails her train trip


Alberta Ingram turned 68 in December.

“My birthday is December the 14th,” she says proudly.

And while she has no children and lives alone, the Rochester woman is far from lonely.

She’s surrounded by good friends.

“And they had a little get together for me in the community room on Dec. 9th,” she says.

They held her birthday party early because on Dec. 13th, Ingram was scheduled to travel by Amtrak to Newark, N.J. for Christmas.

But her birthday party ended abruptly with a call to 911.

“I blanked out, and I hit my head. I bust it open. I had to get staples in the back of my head,” she says.

Doctors found a subdural hematoma – a potentially life-threatening collection of blood pressing against her brain. But she’d soon learn that was the least of her problems.

“They was telling me about my low blood sugar and then they took X-rays because I was hurting in my abdomen and that’s when they told me I had kidney cancer,” she says.

Instead of going to Newark to visit family, she spent four long weeks at Unity Hospital so surgeons could remove the cancerous kidney.

After she got out of the hospital, she remembered the ticket. Being able to see her family now was even more important than before. She called Amtrak’s customer service line.

“And I said that I don’t want my money back. I just wanted to know if I could take the trip in the summer,” she said.

But she was told no and that her ticket was non-refundable. She says she carefully explained she’d been hospitalized.

“I said, ‘Is there anybody else I can talk to?’”

“‘No, there’s no one else you can talk to,’” Ingram recalls.

But she’d been diagnosed with cancer, she explained, and had paperwork to prove it.

“She’s going to tell me I can’t get my money back? And I’m sick?”

There’s no mandate that planes, trains, and buses provide a refund when you’re too sick to travel, but many will.

For example, American will provide a refund on a case-by-case basis. “Some extenuating exceptions may be considered due to critical illness of customer,” according to the company.

That would certainly characterize Ingram’s situation, who says now a summer trip to see family is more important than ever.

“That would mean to me a world of good. I would really be happy,” Ingram says.

News10NBC Consumer Investigative Reporter Deanna Dewberry reached out to Amtrak, which immediately gave Ingram her money back.

But she had lots of questions, like have customer service agents been given the authority to issue a refund in these kinds of circumstances? And if not, what is a passenger like Ingram supposed to do?

If you’re too sick to travel, try to call before the trip with proof of your illness.

In many cases, compassion prevails without having to reach out to a news station.

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