Can I reschedule my Vantage Travel Africa tour, or will I lose my money?
Q: Almost two years ago I booked a trip to Africa through Vantage Travel, which was due to depart in June 2020. Vantage canceled the trip due to COVID-19. The company re-registered me with the same group, which was due to leave in September of the same year. When I asked why Vantage hadn’t offered me other options or a refund, a rep told me she assumed I was just going to follow the group.
I asked for a refund, but Vantage said it wasn’t refunding. I later found out that some customers had actually received refunds.
Vantage also canceled the September trip. In November, I had cervical spine surgery and will likely need another surgery later. In March, I was involved in a horrific car accident caused by what doctors believe was a heart attack. With this accident, I cannot leave North America, so a trip to Africa would be impossible.
I have requested a refund or change from Vantage for a trip to North America, but I cannot reach anyone. Can you help me? – Rick Knee, Davie, Florida.
A: I’m sorry to hear about your health issues. 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 limited time to accept the tour or to book a new tour. So when the rep told you that Vantage “assumed” you wanted to go on the September tour, that is probably what happened.
It is difficult to determine the sequence of events because your written record of correspondence with the company is incomplete. It seems that most of your communication has been over the phone. Companies keep records of these calls, but they are not available to you without a court order.
After you have accepted credit – directly or indirectly by not responding to an offer – you are stuck with it. But even then, there are solutions. Under Massachusetts state law, a tour operator must offer a refund when they cancel a trip. You could have tried to invoke this law after Vantage canceled your trip multiple times because Vantage is a Massachusetts company.
I list the names, numbers and email addresses of all Vantage executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/vantage-deluxe-world-travel/. I see you tried emailing the CEO, but you may have first tried contacting someone at a lower level with a specific request for a refund or a change of itinerary. It was difficult to determine what you wanted, based on the letter you sent to Vantage. I suggested you send a more targeted email to Vantage. Also, I contacted Vantage on your behalf.
As it turns out, Vantage has a standard policy whereby customers can move their trip to a different departure date of the same trip or to a completely different trip up to 121 days before the scheduled departure date without penalty. No special approval is required.
Vantage modified your visit as you requested and you accepted their offer.
Christopher Elliott is the Advocacy Manager for Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]