The death of a customer doesn’t guarantee survivors a refund

Marlene Eckert was looking forward to a spring river cruise in southern France, which included planned ports of call in scenic Lyon, Beaujolais, Arles and Avignon, along with an extension to Nice. But in January, her husband suffered a massive heart attack and died.
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Could shortsighted airline refund policies lead to an outbreak?

The deadly Ebola virus has arrived in the United States just in time for the holiday travel season, carrying fear and uncertainty with it. A survey late last month by Unicomm, an organizer of trade shows and conferences, found that 41 percent of active travelers said the outbreak had raised their anxiety levels.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Help, my river cruise transfers are sunk

Question: My wife and I are booked on a Viking River Cruise. We plan to go from Washington to Moscow three days early, take the river cruise to St. Petersburg and remain there for three days before going on to a four-day stopover in Paris en route home. It is because of the diversions and deviation that Viking is attempting to set aside its responsibility to comply with what its literature apparently states.
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Want a refund? Read the policy

It looked like a lost cause.

Betty van Iersel had prepaid $3,900 for an all-inclusive seven-day French canal tour on the barge Luciole. But two weeks after she’d wired the money to the cruise line, a financial emergency forced her to cancel.

The Luciole’s owners refused to return her money, citing their refund policy. Her travel agency, Annapolis-based Special Places Travel, which specializes in European barge tours, told her that she could only get her money back if her cabin was resold. And that seemed like a remote possibility.

“I can’t afford to lose this money,” van Iersel wrote to me. “Do I have any options?”

An increasing number of cases that cross my desk look like van Iersel’s: Because of a policy or rule — not always clearly disclosed — a favorable resolution looks improbable. Though each case is different, they all tend to have one thing in common: They could have been completely avoided with a few simple preventive steps.
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