My girlfriend is pregnant, but Sandals won’t refund our Caribbean vacation

Kevin Kordosky’s girlfriend is pregnant, but thanks to the Zika epidemic, they’ll have to cancel their Caribbean vacation. Worse, they soon find out that Sandals won’t refund their money.  Can I help?

Question

I am beyond upset and frustrated. Last year, I booked a vacation at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for my pregnant girlfriend and me. It was supposed to take place in early January of this year.

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After news of the Zika virus broke last January, we contacted Sandals to get a refund for the trip because of the seriousness of the health advisory. That is the only reason we don’t want to go to Jamaica.

At that point, Sandals advised us that we already had paid in full, and it claimed that we were outside the refund period. We provided a note from our doctor stating that travel to Jamaica was highly discouraged and against her medical opinion due to family-planning concerns and the issues with Zika. The Sandals reps should have refunded our trip at that time.

They were not swayed, and in an effort to find a solution, we temporarily accepted their idea of pushing the trip back a year, which laughably cost us a fee as well. I was skeptical but felt we had no choice, given that the trip was days away and we clearly could not go. In the time since then, concerns about Zika have only intensified.

We contacted Sandals again this past July to try and refund our purchase. We originally had paid for a trip, been told that we could not cancel because it was too close to the date, and then paid a fee to move the trip forward a year. We spoke with a customer service representative on the phone and were led to believe that we could get a refund for the trip. But that has not happened. Can you help us get a refund from Sandals? — Kevin Kordosky, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer

You’d think a company like Sandals would try to help you in a situation like this. But its refund policy, which you agreed to when you booked your vacation, is clear. If you cancel 30 to 15 days prior to arrival, you’ll receive 50 percent of the purchase price, including any applicable airline fees. If you’re anywhere from 14 days to zero days before arrival, no refunds. It’s all spelled out on Sandals’ website.

Sandals and your travel agent probably also recommended travel insurance. Some insurance, such as the pricier, cancel-for-any-reason variety, might have helped you secure a partial refund. But most normal insurance, which would have excluded any pre-existing medical conditions, would have been useless.

I’m troubled that a manager left you with the impression that you might get a refund. You could have avoided that by putting your request in writing. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Sandals’ executives on my consumer advocacy site.

The real question

The real question is: Who should take the financial loss for the Zika outbreak? Sandals — or you? I’m not sure if this is an “either/or” kind of question. In a perfect world, no one would be left holding the bill. Sandals would get its money, and you would be able to keep your vacation.

I contacted Sandals on your behalf. The company says it agreed to refund your room upgrade fee and a private candlelight dinner you’d paid for. You should see both of those items on your credit card statement soon. Sandals told me that it “understands your concern,” and has extended your trip credit for one year from your current travel date.

Should Sandals have provided a full refund?

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12 thoughts on “My girlfriend is pregnant, but Sandals won’t refund our Caribbean vacation

  1. The real question is: Who should take the financial loss for the Zika outbreak?

    It should be insurance. In any other industry, an unforeseeable event (a Zika outbreak) that is hazardous to the insured’s health would be covered by insurance. But of course the travel industry doesn’t work that way…

      1. Yes but the resort would have insurance. And one would think they’d be able to claim losses that can be directly attributed to the virus. But I don’t know if their insurance would cover it.

        1. what business insurance covers a change in demand? Hard to directly attribute to Zika since the resort isn’t forced to close…

          1. I don’t know, I’m not an insurance expert. But if a resort suddenly loses many bookings that specifically state it’s due to the Zika virus, maybe that would be covered. I have no idea.

  2. If the travel companies would let op transfer the deal, everyone could be happy. (ie op could gift/sell the vacation to an older couple not worried about getting pregnant)

  3. I do feel bad for the OP – how could they have foreseen zika or that it would be around a year later? Likewise, I feel bad for Sandals, their business must be hurt across the board from Caribbean zika fears depressing travel. Neither should be stuck with the bill. However, Sandals did provide a policy that the customer accepted upon booking.

    I wish Sandals was more upfront about refunding things like a room upgrade and optional dinner – at the very least those items cost them nothing to give back. They could have also offered another extension or voucher towards another resort or the 50% cancellation refund.

    curious to know if they ever booked / refunded airfare as well

  4. Is this article older? If she was pregnant when they canceled, a year is plenty of time to have the baby. And Zika has not gotten worse, it’s gotten better! Hardly any reports. Additionally, they could have transferred to another Sandals with less outbreak. Finally—butch has announced that not a single guest at any of his properties has had it. They do spray you know.

  5. The Zika problem already existed. It was the pregnancy that intervened and activated the “do not travel” warning. The official advice for avoiding Zika-related birth defects includes use of contraception for some months after a visit where Zika could be contracted.

    It is obvious that the couple did not use contraception before the trip to a Zika risk area. The delayed use of the paid vacation does seem to be the most fair solution for all involved.

  6. This is a bad headline. The couple is not trying to back out because of pregnancy, but because of the threat of Zika to the fetus.

    To my thinking, whether this justifies a refund depends on how real and present the threat is. We keep hearing from pax who want to cancel because a terrorist incident occurred somewhere in the target country this year.

    Has the CDC advised against travel to Jamaica for pregnant women because of Zika? If so, this is like a hurricane closure – LW should get a refund. Most of the people who go to Sandals are not pregnant, so Zika would not drive the resort into bankruptcy.

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