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RyanAir Issues Grieving Father Partial Refund After Charging Him For Flight Change

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RyanAir announced Sept. 20 it will refund a passenger after initially charging him extra for rushing to be nearer his recently-deceased family. (Photo Joerg Sarbach/dapd) | AP

RyanAir has issued a partial refund to a passenger who had to change his ticket after his family died in a house fire last week.

Dr. Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar had originally intended to take a Saturday morning flight from Dublin, Ireland, to his home in Leicester, England. But after an apparent act of arson killed his wife and three children, reports the Irish Independent, a RyanAir representative offered to change his ticket for an earlier departure -- that is, if he was willing to pay €188 (more than $250).

"I thought, given the circumstances, they might just let me transfer flights, as I had already paid for a return fare," Sattar told the Irish Daily Mail. "I don't want to make a big deal about it but it did shock me. I really did not expect them to charge me."

He added that tears were streaming down his face as he spoke with the agent at the counter.

Airlines have long offered "bereavement flights" to customers who need flexibility to travel at the last moment because of an illness or death in the family. And while RyanAir, the discount carrier infamous for nickel-and-diming its passengers, technically has a policy in place for such instances, the airline doesn't seem eager to implement it.

In a statement to the BBC, a company representative offered "sincere condolences" and said RyanAir will provide Sattar "a full refund."

A representative also told Irish media that instances such as this have to be dealt with "on a case by case basis. There's no other way. We're carrying 81 million passengers across 120 airports."

The incident comes on the heels of a survey ranking RyanAir last in quality of service among 100 other brands, prompting RyanAir CEO Michael O'Leary to acknowledge the company has an image problem. O'Leary said the airline will seek "to improve and to soften some of the harder edges in our service and in our image."

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