Couple close to saying aloha to vacation refund

A woman bought insurance for her vacation. But when she had to cancel her trip, she couldn't get her refund.

February 10, 2011 6:18:09 PM PST
With travel chaos that can result from severe weather or political upheaval, it may be wise to buy travel insurance. But how likely are you to actually collect money on a claim?

Here's an example of something that should never happen, but it did. A woman in San Jose bought a rock solid insurance plan, but when she had to cancel her trip, she still couldn't get her $6,000 back.

Ruth Burnias and her husband decided to splurge on a tropical getaway to Maui along with another couple.

"We took a trip every year with friends and I was always in charge of booking everything," she said.

As usual, Ruth went on to Expedia and booked a package for both couples to stay at the Grand Wailea Resort and she paid the full price of $6,400. They were all set to go, until suddenly Ruth wasn't feeling so well.

"I realized if I'm going to go I'm going to end up staying in the hotel all four, five days. It just wasn't worth it," she said.

No problem though. Ruth had purchase Expedia's package protection plan and she could cancel the trip and get her money back -- or so she thought

"I was told I could cancel, but I'd have to rebook at that very moment for a future date," she said.

Ruth was told she had to rebook, and do it quickly. However, she had an unending nausea and weeks later she found out why.

"I found out I was pregnant. I sent them a letter from my OBGYN confirming I had been pregnant at that time," she said.

However, Ruth says she was told that canceling due to pregnancy wasn't covered by the insurance.

"They said unless there is a death in the family or a hospitalization, there was nothing you could do," she said.

Not only that, Expedia said Ruth's package deal called for four travelers, not two. The other couple had to pay for a whole new trip if they still wanted to go.

"They go on to the trip and we had to stay back and had to fight Expedia for the money," she said.

Now Ruth was out $6,400. She kept calling Expedia, it referred her to travel insurance carrier Berkeley Care. She says everyone told her no refunds or credit.

"Every few months, I would call hoping I'd get a different answer," she said.

While all this was going on, Ruth gave birth to Yazmin and three years later, Ruth was still fighting for her money back.

"I was told I'm sorry that's been canceled you lost your money. After some point it was, it's been too long you waited too long," she said.

7 On Your Side did some checking and found the Expedia protection plan should indeed have reimbursed Ruth's money after all. A plan summary says, "You are allowed to change or cancel your trip for 'any reason' one time prior to the trip. If canceling, you will receive a full refund for hotel and car, and a credit with the airline."

So we contacted Expedia, it looked into her case and sure enough, agreed the insurance should have paid off.

"Miraculously from the time I made the phone call to 7 On your Side, Expedia contacted me," she said.

Expedia said its agents never cancelled Ruth's trip and "didn't go as far as expected to assist when she called." Expedia apologized for the inconvenience and refunded all of Ruth's money -- $6,462.

"It felt good. It felt even better to especially get the money back", she said.

Expedia says this was a case of miscommunication, but still, it's always good to read the terms of your travel insurance before you buy and make sure it covers everything you need.

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