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Friday, July 11, 2014

Christopher Elliott: A voucher is not enough for losing a vacation day

BY CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT

Each person was offered a $50 voucher for the inconvenience, but it could not be used during our vacation. It had to be used within one year for future Apple vacation travel.

A few days later, we were notified that one entire day was being removed from our schedule. Our 6:30 p.m. flight was rescheduled for 10 a.m. the next day. So we no longer have the 8-day, 7-night vacation I paid for. Apple offered us $50 again.

When I made my annoyance known, they told me I should have taken the insurance for another $650 — then we could have canceled our vacation.

How dare they just remove an entire day from our plans? We had arrangements to meet with another group of friends. This will now have to be canceled. Apple vacation has been very callous in their behavior. Our family was looking forward to a delightful travel time and they have made this very distasteful.— Sandra Sitarski, Ambler, Pa.

A: When an airline changes its schedule, you're entitled to either a refund or a flight of its choosing, under its contract. But when you've bought a package vacation, it's not that simple. There are hotel rooms and activities to take into consideration. Apple's $50 offer was reasonable but too restrictive, because it required you to buy another trip.

Deleting a day from your vacation was more problematic. I agree with you that a $50 voucher doesn't cut it. Nor does Apple's "told-you-so" attitude about travel insurance. Its contract (www.applevacations.com/ftc) is mum on this issue, making it difficult to figure out exactly what your rights are. It's possible that you have no rights at all.

I noticed that some of your contact with the company was by phone. A brief, polite e-mail or even a letter might have yielded better results. (Here's a tip: Apple's employee e-mails use the domain @applevac.com, not Applevacations.com. E- mail addresses are first initial, followed by last name, all written together.)

I think Apple owed you something for the loss of a vacation day. I contacted the company on your behalf and asked it to have another look at your case. A representative acknowledged the frustration of having to reschedule twice and agreed to refund you $100 per person for the trouble.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. You ca n read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

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