“Uncommon Journeys” to a refund. What’s going on here?

Uncommon Journeys continues to refuse refunds to its customers.

After  Uncommon Journeys rebuffs Cathy Elliott’s repeated attempts to extract her client’s sizeable refund from the company, she turns to our advocacy team for assistance. Why do we decide to bend our policy and assist this travel agent?


I am a travel agent who is trying to get a refund owed to my client who had to cancel a trip. She paid a deposit last November, and I asked for her refund in June. Per the contract, she would need to pay a cancellation penalty of $750, and this would leave a balance of $2,626. Uncommon Journeys owes my client that balance.

Uncommon Journeys has refused to send her the refund. The representative that I have been speaking to tells me that the accounting department is taking care of it. When I tried to reach out to the accounting department, the representative said to me that the owner is the accounting department. He doesn’t respond to my emails.

My client is 90 years old and just moved to flooded Houston to care for her daughter who is suffering from pancreatic cancer. I cannot ask her to contact you on top of everything else she is handling right now. Is there a way I can just operate as her surrogate, please? I have everything in writing.

I want to get this handled for her. Can you help? — Cathy Elliott, Deerfield, Ill.


When I first read your request for help, I reminded you that our advocacy team does not typically take cases that involve travel agents.

Why? As a travel agent, you should be the advocate for your client.

The reason consumers use a travel agent is for the support and expertise that one can provide — especially in situations such as the one your client, Jeane West, found herself in.

But you were persistent and assured me that you had tried every route possible to get your client’s money returned. You also tugged at my heartstrings, explaining that West had too many troubles in her life right now and couldn’t also fight this battle.

Ok, you convinced me.

Uncommon Journeys ignores this travel agent

The paper trail that you provided showed that over the course of four months, you had made numerous inquiries to Uncommon Journeys. The representative that you had been working with had sent you a cancellation confirmation on June 21 that showed that Uncommon Journeys would process West’s refund of $2,626.

With that confirmation in hand, you felt confident that West would soon receive her money.

It never materialized.

Two months later you were still emailing back and forth with that same representative. He now said that the refund was beyond his control — the accounting department needed to process the refund.

When you asked for a contact in the accounting department, the representative explained that the entire accounting department consists of only the owner of the company, Christopher Kyte.

You tried emailing Kyte and received no response. Hitting that wall is what led you to reach out to our advocacy team.

Reaching out to the owner of Uncommon Journeys: Christopher Kyte

Having had prior cases involving this company and its sister company French America Line, I reached out to Kyte and asked for his assistance in obtaining West’s refund. He was apologetic and told me that he would investigate and straighten out the situation. I felt confident that I could quickly resolve this case.

I was wrong. And that’s an understatement.

Over the course of a month and eight additional emails, Kyte said he finally had figured out the problem.

I believe I have figured this out. The July refund went to a credit card with an expiration date of July 2017 which cannot be correct. I will ask our reservations people to ascertain if this expiration date can be correct.

When I offered that I had a copy of West’s credit card and that Kyte could process the refund immediately, he stopped responding to me — permanently.

And then something else unusual started happening. In one week, we received two additional complaints of canceled Uncommon Journeys tours and missing refunds totaling close to $20,000. I forwarded these emails to Kyte as well.

No response.

The Fair Credit Billing Act to the rescue

The good news for West was that she had used her credit card to book this tour. So she had the protection of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the strength of her credit card company behind her.

Since Kyte did not contest that the refund was owed, I recommended that West initiate a chargeback.

West’s bank was able to quickly retrieve her funds. Problem solved.

But there was one more twist to this story.

A travel agent and victim of Uncommon Journeys

It turns out that you are also a customer of Uncommon Journeys. A few days after West received her funds, you emailed me again in search of help — this time for yourself.

You had received notice that  Uncommon Journeys had suddenly canceled your upcoming tour of the Midwest. You immediately realized that the $9,000 that you had pre-paid for this trip was in peril.

Unfortunately, because of the method of payment that you chose for this trip, initiating a chargeback is not available to you. You explained:

I wish I was as clever as my client. I paid the deposit last October with a credit card but the final payment of $5,395, I paid with a personal check. Do you have any advice for me how to get my money back from them? Since they canceled the trip themselves, ordinarily it would not be a problem but I do NOT know how I will get back my $9,171 that I paid to them.

This is a nightmare that just never ends!

As we have pointed out in prior articles, when you use cash, debit or check to make large purchases, you are not protecting your investment. The protections that you automatically receive under the FCBA when you make a credit card purchase are not extended to other forms of payment.

The murky news

I have sent Uncommon Journeys/Kyte repeated requests for clarification and have received no further response. I hope that there will be a successful resolution to your case and in the other cases concerning this company. But the situation remains unclear, and a small claims lawsuit may be in your future.

(Note: Cathy Elliott is not related to Christopher Elliott — at least, not that we’re aware of.)

March 2018 update: Since this article first appeared in early 2017, our advocacy team has continued to receive a steady stream of complaints from disgruntled customers of both French America Line. We have not heard from Christopher Kyte again. We recommend that any traveler who is expecting a refund from either of these companies file a chargeback if at all possible. 

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend