The Cantrell family of St. Charles, Illinois looked forward to their annual beach trip in North Carolina.
But last fall, their plans changed after the death of 9-year-old Madison “Scout” Cantrell who suffered a sudden asthma attack.
Scout’s mother, Felicity Cantrell, said that even though they had their travel booked, including airline tickets, the family decided to change their plans after daughter Katie, 13, decided it would be too painful to go on a vacation without her beloved sister.
"Emotionally, I couldn’t go back there this year without her," Katie told NBC 5. "It would never be as much fun without her."
When they tried to cancel their tickets on American Airlines, the carrier refused to offer a refund for Scout's ticket.
"The ticket purchased is non-refundable so we cannot offer a refund, issue a travel voucher, or transfer this ticket to another person," said the airline.
Though American expressed their “sincere condolences,” the letter says the company had “determined the request does not meet our exception requirements” and no refund or transfer of funds would be permitted.
Felicity said that although the family could take the financial hit of one plane ticket, she was shocked by the airline’s initial response. She posted her story on Facebook, receiving hundreds of comments from well-wishers who were angered by the airline's actions.
"This is not about the money,” Cantrell said. "Clearly, this has struck a chord with people… We can’t be the only family this has happened to."
Katie said she hopes that no other family in a similar situation would be forced to receive such an impersonal letter.
"I know that I would never write this to someone. I don't know how someone could send this to another family," she said. "I would never want to be treated that way and I would hope no one would ever treat anyone else that way."
Tuesday evening, American Airlines got in touch with the family, apologized for how the situation was handled and refunded the ticket.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the Cantrell family on the loss of their daughter, Madison," an American Airlines spokesperson told NBC 5. "We fully refunded Madison’s ticket last night and apologized to Mrs. Cantrell for not doing so immediately when she first contacted us."