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Thousands lose money on IE air balloon tours

February 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It was a hot air balloon ride that promised breathtaking views of Temecula's wine country at a discount.

The offer on the daily deal site Travelzoo seemed just the thing John Francis was looking for when he bought four tickets.

"When I saw the deal for $90, I knew it was a pretty good price compared to what I had seen and it seemed like a good opportunity," Francis said.

After he purchased the vouchers, he contacted SoCal Hot Air Balloon Tours to book his trip. He said after numerous tries, the trip never got off the ground.

"I tried scheduling the trip and one problem after another, one delay after another, and a little over a year later the company goes out of business," he said.

Eyewitness News tried contacting tour owners Thomas and Kami Brundage, but we only received an automated email reply saying the company was no longer is business.

Francis said after a year of going back and forth with the tour operators, he decided to ask for a refund. But instead of getting his money back, he said the owner gave him an earful.

"They sold more than 4,000 tickets through Travelzoo, but as I was looking I saw that they sold more than 2,000 others tickets through at least six other sites," said Francis.

On Monday, Travelzoo Vice President and General Manager Michael Stitt issued this statement:

"We are offering our subscribers a credit or refund, and intend to take all legal action possible against SoCal Hot Air Balloon Tours in order to recover our losses."

A Groupon representative said their customers will also receive refunds.

Francis said he will continue to use the coupon sites, but had a word of advice.

"If the travel plans don't work out before the stated deadline, get your money back from the company you purchased it through - the Travelzoos, the Groupons and the like," he said.