When Anita Alexander’s tour operator cancels her trip to Spain and Morocco, she wants a refund. But the company wants her to accept a credit. Who’s right? 

Q: A group of friends and I booked a tour to Spain and Morocco through Tripmasters, a tour operator, in 2019. Our flights were on Delta Air Lines

In March 2020, Delta rescheduled our return flights to Minneapolis because of COVID-19. This revised itinerary stopped in Boston with no return flight to Minneapolis. Delta issued a travel waiver offered to reschedule the flights without penalty. 

In April, I canceled our hotel reservations via email, spoke with Delta to cancel our flights and found out the tour operator made the flight reservations and owned the booking. Tripmasters also notified us that our hotels and the flight between Spain and Morocco were mostly nonrefundable.  

I’ve contacted Tripmasters numerous times to request a full refund. A Tripmasters representative says we can only reschedule. In late April 2020, with COVID-19 raging in Spain, travel restrictions imposed and continued closing of hotels and tourist locations, we knew this trip was impossible.

Can you help us get our $5,565 back? — Anita Alexander, Arden Hills, Minnesota

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A: I’m sorry to hear about your canceled trip. Yours was one of hundreds of thousands of similar tours canceled during the pandemic — with one exception. Delta had changed your schedule, which means your flight was fully refundable. Under Department of Transportation rules, if an airline makes a significant schedule change or cancels your flight, you get a refund. So your tour operator’s later claim that you could only reuse your ticket credit may not have been entirely accurate.

You have some options. You could contact the airline directly to ask about your refund — I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Delta Air Lines executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. You could have also contacted your credit card company to see if a chargeback was a possibility. Sometimes it is. And you could have reached out to your state attorney general or the Department of Transportation for help.

I shared all the contacts for those agencies with you and also recommended that you put everything in writing with the tour operator — no phone calls. Having your communication in writing shows that you gave Tripmasters an opportunity to fix the problem before appealing it to someone else.

You followed my advice, and after some correspondence with Tripmasters, you contacted your state attorney general. Separately, you also sent emails to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Trade Commission. Wow — that’s what I call dedication! 

It took another eight months, but you finally received a full refund from the tour operator. Congratulations on your successful self-advocacy.