TUCSON, Ariz. — Roland Cooley says he paid $4,000 last year for his daughter Safia to travel overseas. She's is one of six seniors at Empire High School in the Vail School District who paid for a 9-day trip to Japan.
There are 16 other students who were on the list and set to leave on March 9th.
When news of the coronavirus hit, the school officially canceled the trip. Now, Mr. Cooley says he wants a refund and claims he was promised one by the schools principal. Cooley was offered a travel voucher by the travel company, but he says his daughter can't use it because she will be in college.
"My daughter is very disappointed she was looking forward to this for a year. It is transferable, but it creates problems with us trying to sell this thing to somebody else when we had no choice on when it was canceled. Empire canceled it without having a meeting with the parents without talking to the parents," Cooley said.
The family also bought travel insurance and were hoping to resolve it, but they called and found out the insurance doesn't apply to the situation.
"They tell you well , you have to have lost your passport they day before, have a death in the family or a person in your family has to be military and have orders to leave,"Cooley said.
KGUN9 reached out to Empire high school about a solution to the problem and officials responded with the following statement:
"The school worked with EF Tours to reschedule the trip for June of 2021. Six high school seniors were registered for the trip. They were given the option of attending the trip in July of 2021 or receiving a travel voucher to an EF Tour on a different date. The Vail School District strives to provide students with rich educational opportunities like this international trip. However, the Vail School District’s top priority is the health and safety of students. Vail takes every possible measure to keep students out of potentially dangerous situations.
Within 24 hours of contacting EF- Educational Tours about the story, a spokesperson responded and said the company decided to expand their "Peace of Mind program" because of the coronavirus. The company sent a statement saying:
"The travel voucher is good for any of EF’s independent products. So, for example, a graduating high school senior could take a college trip with EF Ultimate Break, the same student could travel to study a language at any of EF’s International Language Campuses around the world, or the student’s parent could take a trip with EF Go Ahead Tours, the adult travel division. The health and safety of our travelers and staff has been our top priority for more than 55 years. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and are in constant communication with our offices in the affected areas and around the world. In addition, we are actively following the guidance of all relevant health authorities."
The Cooley's can now use or transfer the travel voucher for any EF tour in the world without limitations.
While a full refund is not possible, a new and more flexible option is now available. The family has until September of 2021 to use the voucher.
EF Travel Cancellation Policy: The cancellation policies outlined below take into consideration the costs EF incurs long before groups ever depart. Notice of cancellation from an EF tour will only be accepted from the traveler, his or her legal guardian, or the Group Leader. The date of cancellation will be determined by the date on which EF receives notice. Cancellation refunds can only be made to the person whose name appears on the account. In order to qualify for refunds in accordance with EF’s standard cancellation policy, all payments must be received on time. EF’s standard cancellation policy*– 150 days or more prior to departure: Full refund less the $95 non-refundable deposit, all non-refundable fees, Global Travel Protection, and a $300 cancellation fee.– 149 to 110 days prior to departure: Full refund less the $95 non-refundable deposit, all non-refundable fees, Global Travel Protection, and a $500 cancellation fee.– 109 to 45 days prior to departure: Full refund less the $95 non-refundable deposit, all non-refundable fees, Global Travel Protection, and 50% of the program price.– 44 days or less prior to departure: No refund will be issued.
For more information about EF on coronavirus, visit here.