EL PASO COUNTY — The Coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of Americans to cancel their travel plans, but News 5 Investigates found getting refunds from third-party booking sites may not always be easy.
One family spent more than $2,000 for a Cancun vacation, but said Expedia wouldn't give them their money back even though they purchased trip insurance.
"Around March when COVID-19 came out, we received an email that our vacation (in May 2020) was going to be canceled so we are going to be receiving a refund because the hotel was going to be closed until further notice," Vincent LaPapa said.
According to LaPapa, that refund never came. He says he only received excuses for why he couldn't get his money back.
"6 or 7 days prior to the trip, we called Expedia and we told them the hotel is closed still and we want a refund," he said. "Expedia said they aren't giving refunds and that we'll send a voucher."
LaPapa says another couple who booked through Expedia and didn't purchase travel insurance got their money back, so he didn't understand why he wasn't entitled to get his money refunded back to his card.
"It's not like we called and canceled the trip," he said. "They closed the hotel. Being told that you'll get a voucher and you can pick something else (is not acceptable). They (Expedia) got their refund from the hotel, so why aren't we getting a refund from Expedia?"
After phone calls and emails got LaPapa nowhere, he reached out to News 5 Investigates for help.
"I figured this is our last shot because we've done everything else," LaPapa said.
After weeks of back and forth communication between Expedia and Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross, the company returned LaPapa's money.
Tips for COVID-19 travel refunds:
If you booked through a third-party travel site, you will need to contact that site directly instead of the airline or hotel. If you booked directly through a hotel or airline, you should be able to work directly with those agencies.
Travel insurance should make getting a refund easier, but many companies do not offer refunds on travel insurance itself.
If an airline or hotel is only offering a voucher, make sure you know if and when that voucher expires. Some may only be good for 90 days or a year from now.
You may have additional protections if you purchased your trip via a credit card. Many credit cards offer travel benefits. If you are unable to communicate with your travel agency, you can always open up a credit card dispute. Most credit card companies will issue "conditional" credits pending a formal investigation.
Complaints against airlines and travel agencies should also be filed with the Colorado Attorney General's Office and Better Business Bureau.