Steven Meisel paid Aurora Expeditions a $5,000 deposit for an Antarctic tour back in 2019. Then the pandemic happened. Can he get his refund now?
Q: In 2019, I booked a trip to Antarctica through Aurora Expeditions, an Australian company. I reserved the tour through ExpeditionTrips, a Seattle-based travel agency. I made a $5,000 deposit and the trip was scheduled for late 2020.
Of course, all of these trips were canceled because of COVID-19. Aurora rescheduled the trip for November 2021, and we agreed to accept the reschedule.
But since that time, Aurora has rescheduled the trip two more times. Now, they are departing from Chile instead of Argentina due to COVID restrictions. That, combined with some recent health issues, made the trip much less desirable.
I’ve been working with my travel agency, and Aurora has agreed to cancel our reservation and return our deposit.
ExpeditionTrips says it will take Aurora up to 90 days to issue a refund. We arranged the cancellation on August 28, and they want until December to issue a refund. To me, that is outrageous. They’ve had my money since early 2019, and as we both know, had I been tardy in sending a deposit, they wouldn’t have been very forgiving. Issuing a refund should be merely the click of a button on a computer screen.
My travel agent has been nothing other than helpful and courteous. They tell me that they can’t issue me a refund until Aurora pays them. I get that. The issue is on Aurora’s end. I have not reached out directly to Aurora since all of my correspondence and communication has been with my agent. Can you help me get my refund? — Steven Meisel, Woodbury, Minnesota.
A: You’re absolutely right. Aurora has had your money for long enough and should return it quickly. And another 90 days seems like a long time, but that’s not as bad as it sounds.
During the pandemic, refunds routinely have taken 6 to 12 months, and sometimes even longer. That’s because companies, and particularly smaller businesses, would go under if they had to issue all of their refunds at once.
In a perfect world, refunds would take about a week. But during the pandemic, travelers had to cut airlines, hotels and tour operators a little slack. If Aurora could get you a refund within 90 days during the pandemic, that would be pretty average.
From your perspective, things look a little different. It’s just been way too long and you don’t want to wait any longer. You contacted me in mid-October, which was about seven weeks after Aurora agreed to refund your deposit. Your agency had been responsive and polite about your refund request. And you’re absolutely right — the agency is just your intermediary. It doesn’t have your money and can’t force Aurora to issue an immediate refund.
You can’t really force a refund any faster. You certainly could have reached out to an executive at Aurora to ask for your money. But in my experience, the accounting department moves at its own pace.
“The global conditions and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread and impacted the travel industry significantly,” explained Ashton Palmer, president of ExpeditionTrips. “While I am sympathetic to Mr. Meisel’s frustrations, I am confident that his refund will arrive accordingly. I am also very sorry to learn that Mrs. Meisel is unable to travel due to her medical condition. I certainly hope she returns to good health soon.”
Shortly after that — about eight weeks after Aurora promised your refund — you got your full $5,000 back.