By Kati Weis

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Laurie Daniels, of Aurora, is taking extreme measures to get back thousands of dollars of her own money, after her dream trip to Italy was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She says Trafalgar, an international travel company that makes tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually, according to public records, is not only “holding money hostage” from her, but dozens of others across the country.

(credit: CBS)

Daniels and her friend had planned a “last hoorah” trip to Italy, to celebrate their upcoming retirements. Together, they paid about $12,000 for the trip. Daniels said she picked Trafalgar, because she had gone on great guided tours through Europe with the company in the past.

“I thought it was a great company,” Daniels said. “But if I’m ever in a position to travel again, it won’t be with Trafalgar.”

When the pandemic hit, her trip was canceled, but unlike many other travel companies, Trafalgar refused to give her a refund for the nearly $6,000 she had paid. Instead, Trafalgar offered her a voucher for trip credit on a future vacation, but in these uncertain times, Daniels didn’t want to book again.

“There’s no guarantee of when this is going to end, and when it’s going to be safe to travel,” Daniels said.

CBS4 Investigator Kati Weis interviews Laurie Daniels. (credit: CBS)

Even though Daniels had also purchased travel insurance, the company still refused a refund. So, Daniels filed a credit card dispute, saying she didn’t get the goods and services she paid for.

“(The dispute) is in arbitration now, Visa Corporation and Chase are both backing me,” Daniels said.

Daniels also said when Trafalgar refused her refund, the company sent her a different set of terms and conditions than the set she agreed to when she booked the trip. The terms she agreed to upon booking have a different, less thorough, cancellation policy than the terms the company sent her when it refused her refund.

The terms, dated before the pandemic, do not mention a “no refunds” policy.

“They’ve been very sneaky about it, because when you ask for a refund, they’ll come back and tell you, ‘here’s what your contract says, here’s the terms and conditions of your contract, and the reason we can’t give you a refund,’ but the terms and conditions that they quote and give you are not the ones that are in your terms and conditions when you sign up, they’re re-written,” Daniels explained.

Daniels’ isn’t alone. There’s a public Facebook page where dozens of people are upset about not receiving refunds, and there are several unresolved complaints on the Better Business Bureau website also expressing frustration about lack of refunds for thousands of dollars in trips.

“Mine is a little drop in the bucket compared to I’m sure what they’re holding and refusing to return,” Daniels said.

Daniels’ friend was finally offered a refund two weeks ago after she dropped her credit card dispute, but had to give up personal information before the company agreed to it.

“Trafalgar is now slowly returning money to those who write a letter, and they’re basically being forced to give up HIPAA medical information, and say why they can’t travel in the next couple of years, and give some sort of acute reason,” Daniels said.

(credit: CBS)

Daniels says her friend won’t get that money for another 90 to 120 days.

“It’s a matter of them just holding money hostage from people for as long as they possibly can,” Daniels said.

Daniels’ local travel agent, who helped book her trip, confirms to CBS4 that out of about 10 travel companies with which her clients had trips booked, Trafalgar was the only company not to immediately offer a full refund due to pandemic cancellations.

The president of the U.S. division of Trafalgar declined an interview about why the company is refusing to offer refunds for some clients.

Instead, a spokesperson for Trafalgar sent CBS4 the following written statement:

“Trafalgar is working closely with its guests and global travel partners to navigate through this unprecedented time, including the creation of the Future Travel Credit program, which offers seamless rebooking to any trip from now until 2022. We are a company built on the tenets of hospitality and understanding there may be situations that require a more personalized approach, have made exceptions for extenuating circumstances. We look forward to welcoming guests back in 2021 and encourage those with existing bookings to contact our guest relations department to discuss alternative options.”

Kati Weis

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