Can I get my deposit back from Aurora Expeditions? They’ve had my money almost two years

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By Christopher Elliott

Steven Meisel paid Aurora Expeditions a $5,000 deposit for an Antarctic tour back in 2019. Then the pandemic happened. Can he get his refund now? 

Question

In 2019, I booked a trip to Antarctica through Aurora Expeditions, an Australian company. I reserved the tour through Expedition Trips, a Seattle-based travel agency. I made a $5,000 deposit and the trip was scheduled for late 2020.  

Of course, all of these trips were canceled because of COVID. Aurora rescheduled the trip for November 2021, and we agreed to accept the reschedule.

But since that time, Aurora has rescheduled the trip two more times. Now, they are departing from Chile instead of Argentina due to COVID restrictions. That, combined with some recent health issues, made the trip much less desirable.  

I’ve been working with my travel agency, and Aurora has agreed to cancel our reservation and return our deposit.

Expedition Trips says it will take Aurora up to 90 days to issue a refund. We arranged the cancellation on August 28, and they want until December to issue a refund. To me, that is outrageous. They’ve had my money since early 2019, and as we both know, had I been tardy in sending a deposit, they wouldn’t have been very forgiving.  Issuing a refund should be merely the click of a button on a computer screen.

My travel agent has been nothing other than helpful and courteous. They tell me that they can’t issue me a refund until Aurora pays them. I get that. The issue is on Aurora’s end. I have not reached out directly to Aurora since all of my correspondence and communication has been with my agent. Can you help me get my refund? — Steven Meisel, Woodbury, Minn. 

Answer

You’re absolutely right: Aurora has had your money for long enough and should return it quickly. And another 90 days seems like a long time, but that’s not as bad as it sounds.

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands, including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

During the pandemic, refunds routinely have taken 6 to 12 months, and sometimes even longer. That’s because companies, and particularly smaller businesses, would go under if they had to issue all of their refunds at once. 

In a perfect world, refunds would take about a week. But during the pandemic, travelers had to cut airlines, hotels and tour operators a little slack. If Aurora could get you a refund within 90 days during the pandemic, that would be pretty average. (Here’s everything that you need to know before planning your next trip.)

From your perspective, things look a little different. It’s just been way too long and you don’t want to wait any longer. You contacted me in mid-October, which was about seven weeks after Aurora agreed to refund your deposit. Your agency had been responsive and polite about your refund request. And you’re absolutely right — the agency is just your intermediary. It doesn’t have your money and can’t force Aurora to issue an immediate refund. (Related: The Colorado Avalanche canceled the game and promised me a refund. Where is it?)

You can’t really force a refund any faster, but I outline some strategies that will help you move things along in my guide to getting a faster cruise refund on my Advocacy site Elliott.org. You certainly could have reached out to an executive at Aurora to ask for your money. But in my experience, the accounting department moves at its own pace. (Related: The Avalanche offered her money back. Looks like her refund request got buried.)

“The global conditions and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread and impacted the travel industry significantly,” explained Ashton Palmer, president of Expedition Trips. “While I am sympathetic to Mr. Meisel’s frustrations, I am confident that his refund will arrive accordingly. I am also very sorry to learn that Mrs. Meisel is unable to travel due to her medical condition. I certainly hope she returns to good health soon.”

Shortly after that — about eight weeks after Aurora promised your refund — you got your full $5,000 back.

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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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