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Travel companies making it difficult to get refunds on cancelled vacations

The law says you’re entitled to your money back.

CLEVELAND — COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of people's plans.  Everything from travel to entertainment, to weddings and proms. 

So what happens when you pay money for one of these services and you or the company cancels? 

Can you get a refund? Legal experts say yes. But it’s not always easy, as Barb Balasz told us.

She was headed to Disneyland with her family in May. They had reserved a nearby condo through Airbnb the year before. But when COVID hit, they decided to cancel.

Even though she cancelled within the time frame allowed by the company, Barb says they gave her a very hard time.

"They asked me if I had any supportive documentation to support my cancellation. And I said, 'are you kidding me?'" she told us. "Why would I take a trip to Florida to stay in an Airbnb for seven days when most states are requiring you to be in a quarantine for 14 days?"

Airbnb's own policy says you can cancel if there are extenuating circumstances But it wasn't until Barb found the Florida governor's order prohibiting rentals during the outbreak that they agreed to refund her money.

Meanwhile, Kim Mayo Bailey and her husband had a similar experience with Norweigan Cruise Line, but they didn’t get as lucky.

The couple had booked a cruise to the Caribbean in April. But like Barb, when COVID hit, they tried to cancel. It was the last thing they wanted to do as they love cruising and were also celebrating Kim’s birthday.

But after seeing the debacle on that Princess ship, which was stranded at sea with COVID patients because no ports would allow them to dock, they were too scared to take a chance.

"Cruise ships are like big petri dishes of germs," Kim said. "I can't afford, nor my husband can't afford to be stranded and then not being able to dock."

Still, Norweigan wouldn’t give them their money back. They say the company would only give them a credit for a future cruise, which they had to use within two years.

As it turns out, Norweigan eventually cancelled virtually all of its cruises through February 27, 2021. But that still didn’t matter. And the couple didn’t want to make that commitment. 

Kim explained, “I don't know, honestly, when we will feel like cruising considering there is not a cure for the Coronavirus.”

Cases like that are why Attorney Craig Kimmel filed suit against Six Flags and Capital One.

Others have been filed against StubHub and various airlines.

Attorney Kimmel explains, "Companies are trying to keep money because they don't want to suffer losses as a result of the COVID-19 problems. And it's really not for them to make the decision.”

He says it's simple contract law. And companies can't hold on to your money.

"Obviously, if you can't make the next date or you have no desire to see the concert at a later date because of changed circumstances, you're entitled to your money back,” he added.

While some people choose to sue in these situations, if you can't afford a lawyer, you could go to small claims court. Attorney Kimmel says the judge might just be sympathetic.

Kim tells us she is considering that option. "I mean we're talking like almost four grand of our money that they're going to sit on for two years,” she says.

Here is the full response from Norweigan Cruise Line:

“We always strive to do right by our guests while maintaining the business policies and practices we have in place to help us manage through situations just like this. It is because of the very nature of unexpected situations that we strongly recommend that guests obtain travel protection insurance. As a convenience to our guests, we offer a few travel protection plans at time of booking, as well as during several follow up communications. The plans allow for coverage in many situations. Some plans offer guests the opportunity to cancel for any reason. In addition, as is common in the travel and tourism industry, we have developed cancelation policies. They are communicated to our guests at time of booking and can be found on our website here

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