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Some seniors receive partial refunds from defunct travel company, after Better Call Behnken investigation

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Some Tampa Bay area senior citizens found a pleasant surprise in their mailbox: refund checks, even if it was for only part of the money they are owed.

“I was so excited,” said Claire Gorman. “We were all so excited. But we plan to keep fighting for the rest of the money.”

Gorman was among a group of 39, mostly senior citizens, who forked over tens of thousands of dollars to Advantage Cruises and Travel, based in Pinellas Park.

The Pinellas Park company abruptly closed and declared bankruptcy earlier last month, less than a week after it collected refunds from vendors such as a cruise company and airline.

Numerous other customers from Pinellas and Hillsborough County turned to Better Call Behnken to add their names to the list of confused customers.

So far, Better Call Behnken has heard from only the Largo group about refunds.

That group had paid for a British Isles trip aboard a Princess cruise ship. When the trip was canceled because of COVID-19, they say they were promised a refund, but it never arrived.

The group then received a letter from an attorney stating the company is filing for bankruptcy, the letter said, and the attorney said his office would not be handling any refunds.

But something changed after two Better Call Behnken reports. Gorman said she received a check for about half of the money owed to her. Some received full refunds, and some were told their credit card companies would receive a refund.

In some cases, customers were told they would have to go through the bankruptcy to receive the rest of the money. The letter, signed by the company owners, said, “sorry for your loss.”

Joan Byrne, a director with Parks and Recreation for the City of Largo, said the city has no liability because they did not collect any money or receive any money for this trip. They were supposed to receive a sales commission, but that did not happen, she said, since the trip was canceled. She said some seniors have had luck getting money back from their credit card company.

But Gorman said she and her friends have had no luck with their credit card companies or the company they paid for travel insurance.

Princess Cruises sent this statement to Better Call Behnken:

“Princess Cruises provides refunds back to the original payment made for the cruise vacation. Princess did refund the full amount of $6,518 back to the original form of payment (the travel agency’s Amex card) on 5/29 for Claire Gorman. Princess has been in regular communication with Ms. Gorman and is working with her to provide the necessary documentation for her credit card company and to the lawyer handling the travel agency’s bankruptcy.”

Other customers, across the bay area, called Better Call Behnken to say they haven’t received any refund

The Florida Attorney General’s Office says it is reviewing complaints about this company.

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Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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