Travelers are out of luck as they seek refunds for COVID cancellations

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Prospective vacationers who had planned to soak up the sun abroad this month are putting their plans on hold amid an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, but say heeding advice from health and government officials government has led to an uphill battle with travel agencies for reimbursement.

Earlier this month, the federal government changed its official guidelines, advising people not to travel overseas given the uncertainty surrounding the new Omicron variant.

“We really didn’t feel comfortable making the trip. We didn’t want to carry [COVID]. We didn’t want to catch it. And so we thought we had to definitely cancel, ”said Kristie Duncan, who tried to cancel her family’s next trip to Mexico, which they had booked in November.

“We had no idea, to be honest, how difficult it would become. Honestly, we thought it would be very simple… and it certainly hasn’t been the case we’ve experienced.”

Kristie Duncan, seen here on a trip to Peru in 2017, had hoped to leave in just over a week for a vacation in Mexico but canceled due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. She couldn’t get a refund and she’s not alone. (Submitted by Kristie Duncan)

While they have various types of travel insurance, none of them appear to apply to the Air Canada Vacations package they booked through the redtag.ca online travel site.

“It’s come to an ultimatum point right now [going] during the trip and maybe spread [COVID] and get it, or cancel or not show up at the airport and lose all that money, ”she said.

“It is extremely frustrating, scary and stressful.”

“At the end of the day, watch out for the buyers. You are definitely rolling the dice at this point.– Martin Firestone, President of Travel Secure, a travel insurance company

In a statement to CBC, Air Canada said customers are eligible for a refund if their Air Canada Vacations flight is canceled. Otherwise, the company offers a number of coverage plans for customers when they book, including a plan that allows people to receive a full refund up to 21 days before their trip.

“We want our customers’ vacations to be an experience they can expect, despite the ever-changing environment created by the pandemic,” an Air Canada spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

Mark Randle and Cheryl Hutley took their last Alaska cruise in September 2019 and were hoping to do another in January. (Submitted by Mark Randle)

Mark Randle says he also faced resistance when trying to cancel the Caribbean cruise he had planned for later this month.

What he thought was a risk-free package he bought from Norwegian Cruise Line last March, as something to look forward to when travel becomes safe again, has now meant hours of calls to the cruise line and its staff. credit card company to try to get a refund or travel voucher.

“I don’t think it’s very reasonable for someone at this point, with the state of affairs of the pandemic in the world, not to at least offer us some type of refund or some type of credit. travel to future credit because we are not traveling, ”he said.

CBC also heard from other people who had booked vacations through Norwegian Cruise Line and were told they would not be reimbursed. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

“Buyer beware”

Some Ottawa travel agencies CBC spoke with said they had been busy during the holidays as the vast majority of their customers tried to cancel or postpone their vacations.

But Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a travel insurance brokerage in Toronto, said insurance will likely only cover if someone contracts COVID-19 before or during their trip, not if someone wants to. follow the advice of government and health officials.

“They are hardly out of luck unless the cruise line or the end user… gives them their money back. And I don’t think that will happen,” he said.

“At the end of the day, watch out for buyers. You are definitely rolling the dice at this point if you are buying and purchasing a trip, whether it’s a cruise, all-inclusive, or planning trips. summer vacation next year in Europe. All of these things, sadly and sadly, are somewhat on hold until we see what the future holds. “


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