Dynamically packaged Rocky Mountaineer bookings cancelled as a result of Covid-19 could leave agents and operators “swallowing substantial losses” due to the supplier’s refunds policy.
Agents said the Canadian operator is “hiding” behind a force majeure clause to claim it isn’t liable for refunds.
Multiple agents and tour operators told Travel Weekly they are footing the bill on these refunds because, as package organiser, they are obliged under the Package Travel Regulations to refund customers. All asked to remain anonymous.
Most suppliers are offering a cash refund as an alternative to vouchers, even if it can only be claimed at a later date. But Rocky Mountaineer confirmed its notes must be used by November 30, 2021, for travel up until the end of 2022, or money will be lost.
One agent said: “We are refunding the money at a substantial loss because it’s the law and ultimately we are the ones owing the customers.” Another agent said some businesses would be “significantly out of pocket, with zero chance of getting money back”.
Agents said Rocky Mountaineer was not the only supplier making refunds difficult. However, one said it was “the only operator” offering “no chance of getting your money back”.
Some fear businesses will fail as a result of suppliers not refunding.
Rocky Mountaineer defended its stance, saying “the pandemic and governmental restrictions” constituted a force majeure event.
It is offering future travel credits, worth 110% of the original fare, to be used within two years, and is pegging 2021 and 2022 prices at 2020 rates.
A spokeswoman said: “Rocky Mountaineer would like nothing more than to be providing the rail tours we had scheduled; however, this is not presently possible given the Covid-19 pandemic and the governmental restrictions imposed in response.
“The health and safety of our guests and team members are, and always will be, our top priority. To those guests who have booked one of our rail tours, Rocky Mountaineer remains committed to providing them with the experience, when it is possible and appropriate to do so.
“For guests booked on a suspended departure, they will receive a future travel credit valued at 110% of monies paid (pre-tax value). To ensure these guests have the time and flexibility to make their travel plans, they can use the credit for travel in 2021 or 2022.
“We are also holding the 2021 and 2022 rail prices at the 2020 level, so guests will not experience any inflationary price increase for the rail portion of their itinerary. For those who choose to rebook a similar package in 2021, within 14 days on either side of the original travel date, we guarantee they will not pay more for the new package, including third-party hotels, tours and attractions, due to the later travel date.
“These are, without a doubt, difficult times for everyone. We hope our agent partners and guests understand we are doing what we can during this challenging situation, and that they can take comfort in knowing that, when this crisis passes, the Rocky Mountaineer team looks forward to welcoming them onboard.”