Canceled high school trip leads to confusion among parents over refund

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CUBA CITY, Wis. (WMTV) - Parents across the country are upset after a Colorado-based travel company canceled a high school music trip to Europe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Voyageurs International Ltd. canceled high school music trips around the country, leaving some parents questioning the amount of money they were refunded.

"Everything was paid for and with the pandemic there were questions, of course," parent Linda Brant said.

Brant signed up to chaperone her daughter's summer trip long before COVID-19 hit the United States.

"So I started being concerned, what's going to happen with this trip," parent Dan Bowden said.

About 300 high school students across Wisconsin planned to go, including Bowden’s two daughters. The trip costs more than $6,200 per person. But with travel restrictions put in place nationwide, the trip was canceled. Colorado-based travel agency Voyageurs International Ltd. sent parents a notice on March 17.

"The letter explained that due to the coronavirus, the trip was going to be canceled,” Bowden said, “which we certainly understand, but they were going to hold $1,900 of our payment as a cancellation fee.”

Parents had to sign a travel contract for the trip. According to that document, parents would be able to receive a refund of a certain amount, based on when the cancellation date took place. Because the trip was cancelled after March 1, parents were refunded everything, except $1,900.

"I totally could understand there being some fees nonrefundable, $500-$700 per person," Brant said. "I guess I want to see what is non-refundable, that they're stating they can't get back that equals the $1,900 that they're retaining."

NBC15 News Investigates called Voyageurs International Ltd. and listened to an automated message:

"Hi, if you are calling as a participant to a summer 2020 tour, please note that your refund check will be posted to you no later than April 1. We are unable to take your call right now as Denver and the surrounding areas are under mandatory lock down that will end in two weeks. If you have questions or concerns regarding a cancellation fee, please put your questions or concerns in writing and mail it to 3726 Pierce Street Wheat Ridge, Colorado 80034-0173. Thank you for your understanding and have a nice day, please stay healthy.”

NBC15 News investigates was able to speak with Voyageurs International Ltd.’s lawyer, John Flanders.

Flanders explained that the decision to cancel happened after Pres. Trump issued a travel advisory on March 14, and the refund amount coincides with the contract. He also stated costs to the company includes overhead, paying employees, rent, taxes and non-refundable deposits.

Flanders said the company has been providing this experience to kids for decades and feels terrible for canceling.