When Vantage Travel cancels Rick Knee’s trip to Africa, it rebooks him on a new tour. But now he can’t go. Is his money lost?
Q: Almost two years ago, I booked an Africa trip through Vantage Travel, which was supposed to depart in June 2020. Vantage canceled the trip because of COVID-19. The company registered me with the same group on a new tour, scheduled to leave in September. When I asked why Vantage didn’t give me any other options or offer a refund, a representative told me she assumed I would just go along with the group.
I requested a refund, but Vantage said it wasn’t giving refunds. I found out later that some customers did, in fact, receive refunds.
Vantage also canceled the September trip. In November, I had cervical spine surgery and quite possibly will have to have additional surgery down the road. In March, I was involved in a horrendous automobile accident caused by what the doctors believe was a heart attack. With this accident, I can’t leave North America, so a trip to Africa would be impossible.
I’ve asked Vantage for a refund or a change to a North American trip, but I can’t get through to anyone. Can you help me? — Rick Knee, Davie, Florida
A: I’m sorry to hear about your health problems. I think Vantage should have offered you a full refund after canceling your first trip to Africa. Most reputable tour operators offered full refunds when they had to cancel their trips. But you would have had a limited time to either accept the tour or get rebooked on a future tour. So when the representative told you that Vantage “assumed” you wanted to go on the September tour, that’s probably what happened.
It’s difficult to determine the sequence of events because your paper trail of correspondence with the company is incomplete. It looks as if a lot of your communication happened by phone. Companies keep recordings of these calls, but they aren’t accessible to you without a court order.
After you accept the credit — either directly or indirectly by not responding to an offer — you’re stuck with it. But even then, there are ways out. Under Massachusetts state law, a tour operator must offer a refund when it cancels a trip. You could have tried to invoke that law after Vantage repeatedly canceled your trip, since Vantage is a Massachusetts company.
I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the Vantage executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. I see you tried to send an email to the CEO, but you might have first tried to contact someone at a lower level with a specific request for either a refund or an itinerary change. It was difficult to determine what you wanted, based on the letter you sent to Vantage.
I suggested that you send a more focused email to Vantage. Separately, I contacted Vantage on your behalf.
It turns out Vantage has a standard policy that guests can move their trip to either a different departure date of the same trip or a different trip altogether up to 121 days before their scheduled departure date without penalty. No special approval is needed.
Vantage changed your tour as you requested, and you agreed to accept its offer.