November 28, 2022

Ilpuntontc

Just Do Travel

No refund from a canceled Canadian rail tour?

DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I need your help getting a refund of $6,339 for a Canadian rail tour from Rocky Mountaineer. Our package included airport, train and hotel transfers, with nights in Calgary, Banff and Vancouver.

Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter ...
Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter 

The trip, which we booked in February 2020 and was scheduled for May 2020, was canceled by the tour operator because of COVID-19. Rocky Mountaineer offered a 110% nonrefundable credit to use against a new booking that can be applied to the 2021 season and would have had to have been used by the end of November.

I would have preferred a full refund rather than credit for a trip we may not ever take. Rocky Mountaineer has refused our direct request for a refund. I filed a chargeback through my credit card, but Visa sided with the tour operator. Is there anything you can do?

— Kay Nelson, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

ANSWER: Rocky Mountaineer should have offered you the choice of either a full refund or a credit. That’s the standard for a COVID-19 cancellation. Many companies tried to keep their customer’s money anyway, with predictable results.

The tour operator’s cancellation policies on its site are one-sided when it comes to refunds. They tell you under what circumstances you can cancel and receive a partial refund, but they don’t address a cancellation by Rocky Mountaineer.

You have to dig deep into the company’s terms and conditions — and know a little French — to figure out your rights when it cancels a tour.

Section 12 says, “Other than as a result of force majeure, Rocky Mountaineer will repay the deposit or charges for the itinerary or, where appropriate, a reasonable pro-rata share thereof.” A force majeure is an unforeseen circumstance like a pandemic. In other words, if it’s an event beyond the control of your tour operator, and if it has to cancel, it gets to keep your money — and, presumably, will offer a credit.

It’s hard to argue with a contract you’ve already signed. But you could have reached out to someone higher up at the tour operator to plead your case. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the customer service contacts at Rocky Mountaineer on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/rocky-mountaineer/.