USA 3000 Airlines meets grounded passenger “halfway” after hurricane cancellation

When Greg Caravelli’s flight to Cancun, Mexico, was cancelled in October because of Hurricane Rina, his tour operator, Apple Vacations, offered a full refund. United Airlines, which was supposed to fly him back home, returned his money. But the airline on which he was flying to Mexico, USA 3000 Airlines, did not.

“They refused, giving us until Oct. 31 to rebook with no fee, or take a refund less rebooking fees,” he says. “Since our payment to USA 3000 for the outbound leg of our trip was approximately $190 per person, and the rebooking fee was $125 per person, I said we would prefer to rebook, but that it would take beyond Oct. 31 to settle on other travel plans. I asked for a year in which to rebook without penalty. USA 3000 refused.”

With good reason. USA 3000 will shut down in January.

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Caravelli tried to use the credits in time, but he couldn’t.

“I think a USA 3000 refund is not unreasonable,” he says, adding, “Am I out of line?”

That depends. When a flight doesn’t operate as scheduled, a full refund is routinely given. After all, you paid the airline for a service it was unable to offer.

Indeed, section J of its contract of carriage (PDF) seems to call for nothing less than a full refund of the fare.

Involuntary Refunds

1) In the event the refund is required because of USA 3000 Airlines failure to operate or refusal to transport, the following refund options will be made available to the passenger:

a) The total fare paid for each unused segment will be refunded to the original form of payment; or
b) A credit will be established for the total fare paid for each unused segment; or
c) The passenger will be rebooked on another flight.

But it appears Caravelli’s outbound flight to Cancun wasn’t canceled. The hurricane was bearing in on Mexico, but hadn’t yet arrived.

I asked Apple Vacations, which owns USA 3000 Airlines, to take another look at Caravelli’s case. It had already issued a refund to his credit card, minus a change fee.

Here’s its response.

As a gesture of goodwill, and in an effort to earn back your trust, Apple Vacations (on behalf of USA 3000) would be happy to meet you in the middle. We are willing to issue Apple Vacations travel vouchers in the amounts of $62.50 for each person in the Caravelli party.

These amounts represent 50% of the penalties you each paid, and it is our hope you would accept these vouchers in the spirit intended and book another Apple Vacations trip in the near future.

Is that enough?

If Caravelli plans to take another Apple Vacation, then it’s a meaningful gesture. But if he can’t use the credit within the next year, he may not be happy with the latest offer. He’d really prefer a full refund of his fare.

I’m on the fence. Had USA 3000 Airlines canceled his outbound flight, then this would be an open-and-shut case. Yes, he’d be owed a full refund on his air fare.

It’s complicated by the fact that USA 3000 is shutting down in a few weeks. Even if he had tried to use his credit by Oct. 31, he probably wouldn’t have been able to. And the fact that USA 3000’s parent company, Apple Vacations, is offering Caravelli a full refund on his resort stay only confuses the issue, at least for him.

(Photo: Fox Insane/Flickr)