Lisa McNulty and her husband are excited about their Christmas getaway to Sandals Great Emerald Bay Resort in Exuma, Bahamas. Then a hurricane blows through and destroys the hotel. Can Sandals and Expedia help fix this disaster, or will she be stuck with a ticket to nowhere?
Question: My husband and I had not been on a vacation in quite a while, so when a friend suggested that we all go away for Christmas I was all for it. We decided we should book with the Sandals resort in Exuma and go before Christmas. I was more than thrilled.
Because our friends live in a different state, we each did our own booking and airfare. They booked directly through Sandals, while I booked through Expedia. It was an all-inclusive vacation at Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, in a beachfront honeymoon walkout butler suite, including airfare for two from Minneapolis, on Dec. 10 and returning on Dec. 17. The total package cost was $7,879. This booking was done on July 13, 2016.
In October, a hurricane destroyed the resort. Sandals closed until Dec. 18. However, they did rebook us at the Sandals resort in Antigua. Because our fellow travelers booked directly through the resort, they were rebooked in Antigua and all of their airfares were taken care of without incurring extra costs. But because we booked through Expedia, the resort said that they would refund our change in airfare.
We had to do the change through Expedia and to email Sandals the receipt. I contacted Expedia and changed the airfare, but I had to pay the original $200 change fee plus the difference in airfare which, for the two of us, came out to an additional $899. Now I’ve spent the last month sitting on the phone for hours trying to be reimbursed. Expedia said to talk to the resort, and the resort said to talk to Expedia. I’m truly getting the runaround.
I would like to be reimbursed for the $899 change in airfare. It is not our fault that the resort closed due to hurricane damage. Could you please help? — Lisa McNulty, Chanhassen, Minn.
Answer: We hate to hear about natural disasters that affect people’s vacation plans, especially when a travel agency such as Expedia won’t help with making the changes necessary to save your vacation.
In this case, you did the right thing by first contacting Expedia and then taking up Sandals on their offer to redirect your vacation to Antigua. You can find a contact list for Expedia on our website. However, neither party took responsibility for reimbursing you for the change in flights.
You were concerned about saving your vacation, and Sandals was able to rebook you to its Antigua resort, but this required a change of itinerary with Delta Air Lines and a change fee of $899. There’s nothing written in Sandals’ booking and cancellation policies about a hurricane closing a resort, so you needed a little extra help in order to save your vacation.
While this booking didn’t happen during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, it’s a reminder that travel arrangements made for any time during the year can be affected by natural disasters. We wrote in October about how natural disasters can bring out the best and the worst in travel providers.
Unfortunately, the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort was not scheduled to reopen until one day after your vacation was scheduled to conclude, and you were out the cost of changing your flights to the new destination.
You reached out to our advocates, who contacted Expedia on your behalf. Shortly after, you heard from an agent at Expedia who said they contacted Sandals on your behalf and arranged for a refund of $899 to your credit card.