A health crisis, a missed vacation and no chance at a refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

Just before their Grand Cayman vacation, Tim Kersten’s wife suffers a miscarriage. Although their tour operator promises “a credit” for their missed vacation, it quickly reverses course. Will they get no refund?

Question

My wife and I recently bought a seven-night, air-inclusive package to Grand Cayman through Apple Vacations for our fifth anniversary. We didn’t buy travel insurance or trip insurance because we didn’t think anything could stop us from going.

We were wrong.

A few days before our missed vacation, we rushed my wife to the emergency room. She suffered a miscarriage. She was 12 weeks pregnant. The next day at her visit, the doctor told us that she could not fly due to the complications and uncertainty of the miscarriage.

The day after that, she had to have an emergency dilation and curettage. Again, the doctor urged us not to take our trip. We have records and documentation of both emergency room visits, doctor visit, doctor’s note stating no travel.

We shared our story with Apple Vacations, and they said there was nothing they could do until they canceled the trip. An Apple representative promised us a credit by phone. Instead, they issued us a $172 gift card and told us that we have $672 each to use at American Airlines, minus a $200 change fee.

We have called multiple times and have written several emails trying to get a hold of Apple’s customer care department. Because we did not purchase the insurance, their automated response reads that they will get back to us in “21 to 35” business days.

We feel that this is completely unacceptable. Understanding that rules are rules, and looking back, we regret not purchasing the trip insurance. We hope that someone with a heart within the company can review our case and help us out.

Trawick International offers a variety of international travel insurance, trip cancellation/interruption, adventure travel and student insurance plans. We offer 24/7 travel assistance to travelers domestically and internationally. We continue to research ground-breaking products and ideas which meet the needs of travelers everywhere. No matter what type of Travel Insurance product you need, we have the perfect travel insurance policy for you! Visit Trawick International to learn more.

I was on the phone for three hours with them this evening, only for them to say again that they could do nothing but to try another phone number. I fear that they are spinning me in circles, hoping I give up. Do you have any suggestions?– Tim Kersten, Orland Park, Ill.

Answer

I’m really sorry to hear that you had a miscarriage. At a time like that, you would expect your tour operator and airline to offer a compassionate response. And, indeed, a representative initially did offer you a credit.

Then reality hit. You hadn’t purchased trip insurance, and Apple appeared to reverse course.

Does this mean no refund?

Travel insurance isn’t always necessary. But in your case, you might have benefited from it. I say “might” because I’ve seen pregnancy-related claims go both ways. Insurance companies sometimes consider a pregnancy a “pre-existing” medical condition and deny claims. Other times, I’ve seen them do the right thing and honor a claim made after a complication or miscarriage. In other words, having insurance is no guarantee that your case would have turned out any better.

The terms of your purchase were clear. Cancellations 44 to 31 days before departure are subject to a $125 per person penalty. And outside of 44 days before departure, there is a $45 per person penalty. But cancel within 30 days, and you lose everything. You agreed to those terms when you booked your soon-to-be missed vacation.

Your airfare was even more restrictive — a nonrefundable economy class ticket that, as you already mentioned, will give you a flight credit minus a $200 change fee. That change fee alone eats up almost a third of the value of your ticket, and American gets to resell the seat you didn’t use. (Here’s a compelling story: A reader wants to know if he can get a refund on his non-refundable airline ticket due to a brain tumor diagnosis.)

I keep coming back to the Apple employee who listened sympathetically to your story and then promised you a credit. Somewhere, there’s a recording of that conversation, and if Apple took the time to listen to it, it might see things your way. (Related: What to expect if you’re expecting to cruise.)

To nudge a company like Apple, you might try contacting an executive directly. I list the names, numbers and email addresses for Apple’s execs on my consumer advocacy site.

Saving a missed vacation

I contacted American Airlines and Apple on your behalf. Although they were under no obligation to do so, both the airline and tour operator agreed to refund your missed 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 São Paulo.

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