Travel agency won't return thousands of dollars from canceled SoCal student trip

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (KABC) -- A dozen Southern California families and students are out thousands of dollars after a trip to tour and perform music in Europe this summer was canceled.

The students were selected to participate in the Ambassadors of Music Tour, which involves performing music at concerts and festivals throughout Europe.

Like so many travel plans and events around the world, the summer tour was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But while many airlines and other businesses are waiving their normal cancellation fees and policies, the travel agency has notified the participants it is keeping $1,900 of the $6,400 in payments that were already made.

Rancho Cucamonga High School student David Stephens is among those feeling let down not just by the cancellation but by the additional financial hardship.

Stephens had been practicing and saving up for what should have been two weeks throughout Europe this summer.

"For five months I worked. I washed cars, I washed dogs, I did odd jobs around the house to raise a portion of the money to go to Europe," said Stephens.

Last week, Stephens learned the trip had been canceled after receiving a letter from Voyageurs International, the trip's travel agency.

As for the $6,400 he and his parents had already paid, they're only getting back a partial refund.

"They sent us a letter a few days ago and it said, we have to cancel due to the coronavirus, and due to our cancellation policy we're keeping $2,000 out of the $6,000 that you had to pay," said Stephens.

Voyager International is citing its cancellation policy for keeping the $1,900 from each student and parent that signed up for the trip. According to the contract that parents signed, the company has the legal right to cancel the trip if the U.S. State Department restricts travel to Europe for any reason.

"We would really like the full amount back because it is not like anyone wanted this to happen, like anyone initiated this as a public health emergency," said Stephens. "We should not have to pay for it."

Stephens and his parents have tried to reach out to the company but a voice message told them no one would be able to return their call until April 1.

Our ABC affiliate in Iowa did speak with Rick Netzer, music coordinator with Voyageurs International. He said despite the global pandemic the cancellation fee would not be lowered or refunded.

"Because it is unusual for all of us and we are devastated as are these kids that thought they were going to have time in Europe this summer," said Netzer.

But Stephens believes the refund would go a long way in helping families deal with the financial impact of the virus.

"With the whole economic crisis going on it's really hard for a lot of families because I am sure it's not easy to pay $6,000 - keeping $2,000 of it a lot of families could use that right now," said Stephens.
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