On April 11, 2018, nine family members departed on a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Lisbon, Portugal. They planned to spend two days in Lisbon before embarking on a cruise which began April 14 and ended April 22 in Barcelona. Then, they’d spend a day in Barcelona before returning to Newark. Except for one thing.
My daughter, Katie met the group in Lisbon and everyone began exploring on foot. Within hours of arriving in Lisbon, Susan (another traveler) slipped on wet cobblestones and knocked into my dad bowling-ball style. He landed on her and sustained an inconsequential scrape and broken glasses. Susan shattered her ankle.
Susan is my dad’s significant other, and in her 70s. My dad is in his 80s. Susan needed to make an emergency flight home for surgery and my dad needed to go with her. My sister and Katie helped cancel, re-route and re-book dad and Susan’s tickets and they asked me to be the keeper of the documents that would be needed to help secure refunds for my dad’s and Susan’s canceled trip. I was home in Ohio. Months prior, Susan and Dad had also booked – and paid for – their next trip: a Greek cruise, which they also had to cancel, due to Susan’s inability to travel, so we’d be seeking refunds for those costs as well.
The other travelers began their cruise, Susan began her road to recovery and I began my adventure to get my dad and Susan their money back.
Before my sister hopped on the cruise ship, she emailed me countless receipts, itineraries and confirmations and rattled off rapid-fire instructions on who to call about which refund.
Back home in New Jersey, Susan underwent two surgeries. She couldn’t bear weight until May 30, about six weeks after the fall. Her surgeon told her not to expect a return to normal for a full year.
I fancy myself a master at making order from chaos so I felt I was up to the task of securing refunds but this was a challenge on every level. My dad painstakingly completed paperwork to file a claim with the credit card company, providing a pile of backup documents including letters from two of Susan’s doctors.
Meanwhile, I contacted the airlines and travel agents. I created 41 Word documents and charts in four directories to track the effort. I typed transcripts of every phone call, and there were plenty. My dad mailed me 110 pages of documents relevant to the situation. Everything was made more complicated by the fact that dad and Susan each paid for part of their own expenses and some of each other’s on their own credit cards. Also, they used two different travel agents, but the same cruise company for the Spain trip and the Greek trip. And, although everything should have been insured through the credit card company, they didn’t want to refund anything until I could prove that the hotels, airlines, cruise companies, ground-transport operations, etc. did not provide refunds.
When more than a dozen separate refunds showed up on my dad’s credit card, I had to do plenty additional research to figure what each refund was for, so I would know what was left un-refunded. In many cases, some charges were partially refunded because of one fee or another so the refunded amounts did not match the requested refunds. At one point, the credit card company refunded part of Susan’s costs back onto my dad’s credit card and one of the travel agents said they could not talk to me any more because, basically, I had asked them too many questions and called too many times.
But I continued making calls, sending emails and trying to make sense of the math. On Oct. 22, nearly 4 ½ months after Susan’s fall, she and my dad received their final refunds. Because of fees, exceptions and loopholes, they will most likely never get all their money back, but I will keep the 110 pages my dad mailed me just in case I feel like trying again.