Refunds frustrate retirees after storm forced cancellation of trip

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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A scenic Valentine's Day trip through the Sierra sunk into the winter snow after bad weather derailed their train trip. They called on 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney to help dig them out.

PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) -- A scenic trip through the Sierra is a reminder of our unpredictable winter weather. A group of retirees called on 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney to help dig them out.

Barbara McWilliams expressed excitement about her planned vacation.

The Petaluma woman had just retired and this was her treat to herself.

"Looking forward to do something a little different," she said. I had to go out and get some mittens, some hats."

A photo from the Highway Patrol shows the snowdrift piled high after a Valentine's week storm.

Crews did what they could to keep the roads open.

No such luck with keeping the train tracks cleared. The trip had to be cancelled.

Barbara said Key Holidays, the Walnut Creek company she booked with, promised refunds would be processed shortly which she assumed would be in weeks.

But weeks turned into two months and Barbara became anxious.

"I hadn't gone on vacation. I didn't have any money to do anything else. So I felt I was kind of left out in the cold."

She contacted 7 on Your Side and we reached out to Key Holidays.

Barbara received her refund in May. But the refunds for two others who also contacted us were delayed.

Travelers in California can sometimes get their money back through the State's Travel Consumer Restitution Fund.

It's funded by travel agents through a program established by the state legislature in 1995.

That's how one of our viewers received her refund. The other finally got her money back from Key Holidays in August.

All the refunds were appreciated.

"Retired you're living on a limited income. You're not making the money you used to make," said Barbara.

A trip organizer says the number of refunds that had to be processed caused delays. Key Holidays declined to say how many refunds were given.

Written and produced by Randall Yip