Emily Moerer’s Club Med vacation gets canceled when the pandemic hits. Then her rescheduled vacation gets canceled. Can she get a refund?

Q: We booked a weeklong vacation through a travel agent affiliated with American Express (Altour) for last spring break. We had accommodations at the Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, including round-trip airfare, for our family of four.  

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort closed two weeks before our departure, and our trip was canceled. Club Med offered us a future travel credit for the land portion and an air credit for the flights. Last May, we rebooked with Club Med for spring break 2021.  

Now the resort has not reopened, and our trip has been canceled a second time. They are again only offering us a future travel credit. For the airfare, which we booked through Club Med but is with American Airlines, we must use the flight credit before the end of this year.  

We have been trying to work through our travel agent, but we have gotten only delays and obfuscation. I’m not sure if it’s the travel agent or Club Med.  

At this point, we do not want to rebook, and we simply want a full refund of both the land and air portions of our trip. Club Med sold us a trip twice and canceled it twice. They have had $11,573 of our money for over a year. We feel it is not our responsibility to buy something else from them since they sold us a trip they cannot provide. We’ve told the travel agent that we want a refund, but she says they can only rebook. Can you help us get a refund? — Emily Moerer, Merion Station, Pennsylvania


A: Club Med can’t keep your money indefinitely. I think you deserve a full refund for your vacation.

I also think you were smart to work with a travel adviser. You had an extra layer of protection. Altour should have advocated for a quick refund or offered an acceptable alternative. It’s unclear what Altour did for you. If I had to guess, I’d say it wasn’t stalling but was probably overwhelmed with other COVID-19 refund cases. 

A lot of tour operators offered vouchers after the initial outbreak. And many customers accepted them, hoping the pandemic would be over soon. But this is the travel industry equivalent to “long COVID-19,” a condition where people continue to experience COVID-19 symptoms for longer than usual. It would have been easier if Altour had found a way to get your first vacation refunded. Then you could have booked a redo yourself when it’s safer, instead of scrambling to use your expiring flight vouchers.

By the way, your hard-earned money doesn’t expire. So why should your flight credits? 

You could have appealed this to American Express. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Amex managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. I also publish the Club Med executive contacts.

I contacted Altour on your behalf. It made arrangements for a full refund.