Traveler desperate for $1,443 refund from Pacific Holidays

Pacific Holidays canceled Helene Rosenthal’s tour of the Baltic after the COVID-19 outbreak. But months later, the refund it promised hasn’t shown up in her account.

  • Sunday, April 4, 2021 1:30am
  • Life

Q: In 2019, I booked a tour of the Baltics through Pacific Holidays, a tour operator. Pacific Holidays canceled the trip because of COVID-19 in March 2020. In July, a Pacific Holidays representative promised me a full refund.

I have since developed metastatic breast cancer and can no longer travel. I have contacted Pacific Holidays numerous times, but so far I have not received a refund. I’ve paid $1,443 for services charged and not received. Please help me and intervene in this dispute. Thank you for your help.

— Helene Rosenthal, Bedford, Massachusetts.

A: I’m so sorry to hear about your health challenges and hope you are on the road to recovery. But your medical issues have nothing to do with this refund. If Pacific Holidays promised a refund, you should receive a refund — no matter your personal circumstances.

Your situation is a little complicated. According to the correspondence you shared with me, Pacific Holidays postponed your Baltic trip to October, and you accepted the new itinerary. But then when you developed health problems, you asked for a refund. Pacific Holidays granted you a refund in writing.

After three months of silence, you decided to dispute the charges on your credit card. Unfortunately, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you only have 60 days to dispute a charge, and those 60 days started in September 2019. Banks may make an exception, but yours didn’t. And that brought you to my doorstep.

I think that you handled this by the book. You kept your correspondence in writing and saved all of your emails. You might have appealed your case to a company executive. They’re pretty easy to find online. All email addresses at Pacific Holidays are firstname@pacificholidaysinc.com. A brief, polite appeal to one of them might have fixed this for you.

I contacted Pacific Holidays on your behalf. It refunded your tour minus a $600 cancellation fee. Why? Since you accepted the rebooked tour and then canceled because of your illness, a cancellation fee would apply. The fee “covers our many hours and many weeks arranging this trip,” a Pacific Holidays representative told you.

I reviewed your correspondence with the company, and it looks like Pacific Holidays promised you a refund for your tour — but not a full refund. That leaves some room for cancellation fees. I’ve seen this before. When Pacific Holidays initially canceled your tour, you could have asked for a full refund. But when you accepted the rescheduled tour, the usual terms applied. But a partial refund is much better than none.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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