On Valentine’s Day, Linda Schulman was searching desperately for flights from New York to Florida.
She had just learned that her son, Scott Beigel, had been shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he worked as a geography teacher.
Linda, her husband and her brother wanted urgently to get to Scott’s side.
However, the mum found that all regular flights had been sold out. So frantically she went to the next step, chartering a flight to the area, paying little attention to the cost as she booked it.
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Within two hours, the company, Talon Air, had a plane ready for her and her family. It was only after they touched down in Florida they learned that her son was one of the 17 victims who had died from their injuries. He was shot after he unlocked his classroom to let more students in to hide.
It was in the midst of her grief that Linda received the bill for the charter plane. She hadn’t expected it to be cheap but was floored to see the charge was US$36.000 (AUD$48,000).
“Even though I had never chartered a plane before, I knew it was going to be super expensive. It didn’t matter what the cost — I had to get to my son!” she said on Facebook.
Even more shocking to Linda, was that Talon Air had charged her for the plane’s return trip to Farmingdale, doubling the cost of US$18,000.
The mum said she was willing to pay the “super expensive” one-way cost, but didn’t understand why she was footing the bill for the return trip.
Linda said she tried to get the company to halve the charge, but after several weeks without success, she decided to share her complaint on Facebook.
“Today marks day 74 since my son Scott J. Beigel was shot and killed senselessly at the Parkland massacre,” she wrote on April 30.
“I have waited all this time in hopes that the owner of Talon Air, Inc. would show some compassion, but as you read on you will see that unfortunately, he has not.
“Talon Air, Inc. not only charged us $US18,229.57 one way, they charged us another $US18,229.56 to bring the plane back to Farmingdale because they did not have anyone wanting to charter the plane back from Fort Lauderdale. Really?”
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Linda said when she explained her circumstances, the company only offered her a US$2000 discount on her bill.
“After much back and forth, they agreed to reduce our $US36,459.13 charge to $US34,459.13. I ask, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
“I have no problem accepting that I have to pay for one way, even the fuel charge for the return flight … but $US18,229.56 for the return of the plane? Where is the compassion from Talon Air, Inc.?
Thankfully in an age of viral social media, Linda’s post was shared by hundreds of people and brought to the attention of Talon Air’s CEO Adam Katz.
He penned Linda a letter apologising for Talon Air’s handling of the situation and offered to reimburse her the US$18,000 (AUD$24,000) she had already paid as well as donate a further US$18,000 to a memorial fund she had set up in her son’s honour.
“You have endured the greatest tragedy that no parent should have to confront,” he wrote.
“No parent should have to go through what you and so many other parents have endured. My heart goes out to each and every one who has suffered so much pain, anguish and loss by virtue of this senseless act of violence.”
Linda responded by thanking the man and accepting the company’s offer.
“After receiving the letter below, I now consider this matter resolved,” Linda wrote in a follow-up Facebook post.
“I want to thank Adam Katz, owner of Talon Air, Inc. for his offer, which I have accepted on behalf of our family and the Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund. I am very happy that Adam and Talon Air, Inc. have seen their way to accepting responsibility and resolving this matter.”