It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for a group of Kingston, Ont., high school students—Spring break in Italy.
For Pareza Tahamtan and her friends, that dream was short-lived, as the trip was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They realized it’s too dangerous for around 30 kids to travel across the world,” said Tahamtan, a grade 11 student at Holy Cross Secondary school.
Tahamtan says she worked several jobs to pay back her parents the $3,500 for the European trip, and they have yet to be refunded.
“It’s very disappointing that the money isn’t getting returned to people,” said Tahamtan.
Her mother, Merola, says they were told in March by the travel company, Explorica, that they would be reimbursed within four to six weeks. Eight months later and she says they have received nothing.
“We’re just hopeful that it, you know, sooner than later, we can get our money back,” said Merola Tahamtan.
This group from Holy Cross Secondary School is one of several schools across Canada who say they’re still waiting to be reimbursed for trips arranged through Explorica.
“At the beginning, there was no issue. The insurance company and the Explorica company identified we would see our refunds within eight to 10 weeks,” said Jeff Keizer, a parent from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
“I want my money ASAP, $3,300 is not chump change for me,” said Melissa Smith, a parent from Burlington, Ontario.
According to Explorica’s Insurance Policy, customers are covered if the school board cancels the trip.
If the board determines there is a risk of harm to an event directly affecting the destination.
Explorica uses underwriters for insurance, such as Old Republic Insurance and Archer Insurance, and so far, neither company is paying out insurance claims, according to Lauren Baker, a lawyer with Sotos Class Actions.
“There’s a lot of finger-pointing in terms of money owed. But who is actually responsible for giving this money back to people?” said Baker. “People are entitled to these payments.”
Baker, along with several other lawyers, is handling a class-action lawsuit filed by many families who have yet to receive reimbursement from Explorica.
Sotos Class Actions has also created a website where class members can register for class action updates.
In an email sent to Global News from Explorica, the company says, in part, “we are doing everything in our power to help our customers whose trips were cancelled.”
“We stand by our position that Explorica has fulfilled its portion of refunds owed to customers under our program terms,” the statement adds.
On Thursday, the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic School Board director of education, David DeSantis, addressed the spring break trip refund.
“I am disappointed to learn that the families of students who had purchased tickets for school trips have not received their refunds after these trips were cancelled due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions,” said DeSantis.
The School Board is now drafting a letter to these companies to demonstrate support for the families involved.
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