Can Club Med really refuse to offer a refund during the pandemic?

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By Christopher Elliott

Can Club Med cancel Emily Moerer’s vacation because of the coronavirus and ignore her refund request? It looks like, according to Club Med, the answer is “yes.”

Can the Elliott Advocacy team extract a different answer? Let’s find out.

Question

We booked a week-long vacation through a travel agent affiliated with American Express (Altour) for last spring break. We had accommodations at the Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, including roundtrip airfare, for our family of four.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort closed two weeks before our departure. Club Med canceled our trip, but we received no refund. The company offered us a future travel credit for the land portion and an air credit for the flights. So last May, we rebooked with Club Med for spring break 2021.

Now the resort has not reopened, and Club Med canceled our trip a second time. They are again only offering us a future travel credit. For the airfare, which we booked through Club Med but is with American Airlines, we must use the flight credit before the end of this year.

We have been trying to work through our travel agent, but we have gotten only delays and obfuscation. I’m not sure if it’s the travel agent or Club Med.

At this point, we do not want to rebook with Club Med, and we simply want a full refund —  of both the land and air portions of our trip. Club Med sold us a trip twice and canceled it twice. They have had $11,573 of our money for over a year. We feel it is not our responsibility to buy something else from them since they sold us a trip they cannot provide. We’ve told the travel agent that we want a refund, but she says they can only rebook. Can you help us get a refund from Club Med? — Emily Moerer, Merion Station, Pa.

Answer

Club Med can’t keep your money indefinitely for the trip that it canceled. For what it’s worth, I think you deserve a full refund for your vacation canceled by the pandemic.

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I also think you were smart to work with a travel advisor. As a result, you had an extra layer of protection. Altour should have advocated for a quick refund or offered an acceptable alternative. It’s unclear what Altour did for you. If I had to guess, I’d say it wasn’t stalling but was probably overwhelmed with other COVID-19 refund cases.

Many tour operators offered vouchers after the initial outbreak and refused to provide refunds — including major, competing resorts like Sandals (See: Can Sandals cancel my vacation and refuse my refund request?)

And many customers willingly accepted those vouchers, hoping the pandemic would be over soon. But this is the travel industry equivalent to “long COVID,” a condition where people continue to experience COVID-19 symptoms for longer than usual. It would have been easier if Altour had found a way to get your first vacation refunded. Then you could have booked a redo yourself when it’s safer, instead of scrambling to use your expiring flight vouchers. (Related: Club Med wants another $3,000 for a vacation I already paid for.)

The good news: Here is your Club Med Refund!

By the way, your hard-earned money doesn’t expire. So why should your flight credits?

You could have appealed this to American Express. Our research team lists the names, numbers, and email addresses of the Amex managers in our database. We also publish the Club Med executive contact information.

We reached out to Altour on your behalf. The company made arrangements for a full refund of your canceled Club Med vacation.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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