Tragedy strikes twice for Passion Play widow

The Oberramergau Passion Play is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — an event held every decade — and this was to have been Bente Krarup’s year to experience it. But then tragedy struck twice, and now she is may have paid for a trip she can’t take.

Her unfortunate story underscores the need for reliable travel insurance and sound advice from a qualified agent, particularly for travelers who may have health risks.

Here’s what happened to Krarup:

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In August 2009 my husband and I made a downpayment of $500 to a AAA travel agent here in Stuart, Fla., for a trip to Oberammergau arranged by Trafalgar Tours. The proposed trip started in Vienna, Austria and ended in Munich, Germany.

Being Danish we wanted to travel by train to Denmark after the tour, so the agent told us, she would work on the train trip and no insurance was due, as the plans were not finalized. In December she called and said more money was needed and was authorized to collect $2,000 towards the trip.

On Jan. 2, my husband was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism and was told that if the repair was done, he would have to be on dialysis for the rest of his life. I called the agent and cancelled our trip.

Unfortunately my husband passed away on Feb. 19.

I have called the company AAA repeatedly and they have told me my $2,500 is lost, even though I would like to do the trip alone. The most they can offer is to do away with the single supplement, I would still have to pay full fare again. I find that unacceptable. Can you help?

When I read her account, I was relatively certain that there had been a misunderstanding.

The terms of her tour are clearly spelled out on Trafalgar’s site:

For cancellations made prior to 105 days prior to the tour the cancellation penalty is the non refundable deposit amount of $250 per person. Cancellations received within 105 days prior to the commencement of the tour will forfeit the total $1,250 per person deposit. Additional cancellation fees for the tour, air or other products purchased may apply.

Krarup should have been well within that window, if my math is correct.

Typically, when someone dies before they can take a trip, the travel company (including the airline) will offer a full refund. What’s more, you can — and should — consider taking out an insurance policy at the time of your booking.

So her agent’s advice that she didn’t need a policy must have been garbled. The agent must have said that she should consider insurance.

I can’t believe Krarup’s agent would tell her that her entire trip was lost. I asked AAA if it could look into the matter. A few days later, I heard back from Krarup.

I cannot thank you enough for referring me to Janet Stevens in AAA Tampa. She has been a most caring and efficient person I could have dealt with in these difficult times for me. She has promised me a full refund. But the credit goes to you for the referral. I am so grateful and wish you all the best.

What’s the takeaway? Work with a good agent, definitely. Also, don’t wait for your agent to suggest travel insurance — do some research yourself. And don’t take the first “no” as your final answer.

(Photo: Axel-D/Flickr Creative Commons)