By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
updated 9/16/2008 9:29:58 AM ET 2008-09-16T13:29:58
travel troubleshooter

What are your rights when a tour operator fails to deliver part of your vacation package? I booked a one-week vacation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, through Apple Vacations recently. It included accommodations and transfers to and from the airport.

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But when we arrived in Kingston, we discovered that the shuttle bus didn’t run from Kingston, but from Montego Bay. We had to pay $160 for a taxi ride from Kingston to the hotel. We also had to pay $75 to change our return flights to leave from Montego Bay instead of Kingston.

I immediately contacted Apple Vacations at the resort, but they were no help. I was referred to Apple’s headquarters in Pennsylvania, and I wrote an e-mail asking to be reimbursed for my expenses. They refused. Is there anything you can do to help?
— N. M. Johnston, Cincinnati

A: Apple should have picked you up from the airport and taken you to your hotel, as promised. If it failed to do that, the company should cover your cost of transportation to your hotel.

But did Apple know you were on your way? I contacted the company, and it says it didn’t. When Apple reviewed your file, it discovered a “glitch” in its reservation system that would confirm a passenger has transfers from any airport in Jamaica, when in reality, all of Apple Vacations’ Jamaica services originate solely from the Montego Bay airport,” according to Sandy Babin, Apple’s vice president of marketing.

Babin says if your travel agent had advised Apple that you were flying out of Kingston, the company would have confirmed that transfers were only available to and from Montego Bay. But I don’t think your agent could have known that Apple was experiencing computer problems, and unless your travel professional booked a lot of Apple tours to Jamaica, it wouldn’t have been possible to know the company only offers transfers from Montego Bay.

I might have been a little reluctant to pay for a taxi or a ticket change. In addition to Apple Vacations, you should have contacted your travel agent (who, after all, took a sizeable commission when you paid for your vacation) and the hotel you’re supposed to stay at, which might have been able to recommend a less expensive way of getting to the property.

I definitely wouldn’t have taken an initial “no” from Apple Vacations as a final answer. You could call back and ask to speak with a supervisor or e-mail someone at a higher level at Apple Vacations. Here’s a hint: e-mail addresses are first initial, followed by last name — all one word — @applevac.com. Happy e-mailing!

If none of those steps are successful, consider a credit card dispute or a trip to small claims court. With such a small amount at stake, odds are the company wouldn’t have sent a representative to court and would have lost by default.

Apple Vacations apologized for the transfer problem and sent you two $150 vacation certificates.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the host of “What You Get For The Money: Vacations” on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

© 2008 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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