James Lockery and his wife couldn’t wait for their Viking River Danube cruise last Christmas. What better way to start the holiday season than touring the cobblestone streets of Passau, Germany, browsing the famous Christkindlmarkt in Vienna, and sampling the delicious pastries in scenic Budapest on an eight-day adventure.
Lockery booked their cruise in mid-August 2015, but did not purchase cancellation insurance. What could possibly go wrong?
Sadly, a lot. His wife suffered a heart attack a month before their departure and passed away.
On Nov. 6, almost a full month before his scheduled departure, a grieving Lockery phoned Viking, told them of his wife’s untimely death, canceled the cruise and requested a refund. He even sent Viking an email with his wife’s death certificate attached, and explained that he was unable to contact Viking any sooner since he was dealing with the shock of his wife’s unexpected death and was making arrangements for her funeral.
Imagine Lockery’s surprise when he received an email back from Viking stating that he would not receive any refund since he did not cancel 30 days prior to departure. Viking’s cancellation policy clearly states that no refund will be made if cancellations are received 29 to 0 days before departure.
Lockery’s cancellation was made 29 days before departure. Missed it by that much.
Thinking that someone at Viking was merely following company policy and not looking at extenuating circumstances, Lockery located the names of Viking’s director of operations (Stefanie Maldonado) and CEO (Torstein Hagen). On Nov. 19,, he sent an email to Maldonado, with a copy to Hagen, requesting that they review his refund request on an individual basis. Ms. Maldonado never replied to Lockery’s email.
Not to be deterred, Lockery attempted once again to get his refund by contacting Hagen directly by email on Nov. 30 and again on Dec. 14. Lockery received no response to either email.
A very frustrated Lockery contacted us. Within five days after receiving a refund request on his behalf from our advocate, Jessica Monsell, Viking refunded all of Lockery’s money, an amount just shy of $5,000.
While Lockery’s story has a happy ending, Viking’s actions make us wonder about how it arbitrarily enforced its policies. Even without cancellation insurance, shouldn’t Lockery have received an immediate refund? Why add insult to injury?