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Suntrips Trip Refunds Part Two

Suntrips Trip Refunds Part Two
CBS 13/UPN 31
Originally Posted: http://cbs13.com/seenon/local_story_097005327.html
April 6, 2006


So now we have two companies: the old Suntrips and the new company. The new company gets the Suntrips name and the website.

The old company cancelled trips and now owes a whole lot of money back to their customers. Last night we told you about a Tracy woman waiting for her Suntrips refund, but she and others may not want to hold their breath. This could get tangled into a knot of lawsuits, and possibly bankruptcy.

"I was told the check would be issued, and it wasn't," said Dulcey. That was months ago, and Dulcey Rood is still waiting for her $300 Suntrips refund for the family's annual trip to Mexico.

She and her family have built their own backyard resort and plan no more Mexico trips but she still wants her money back.

"The fact that when I called the company, and they told me it wasn't any of my business, when they owe me money, I was frustrated,” said Dulcey.

"I started to get pretty alarmed," said Gina Delorenzo, Suntrips customer.

Guess what? Others are waiting for a refund too. Gina Delorenzo of Oakland is waiting for almost $2,000 back. She and her family just wanted out of our endless winter. "We were really in the mood for a nice, sunny vacation," said Gina. What she's got though, is the foul financial forecast swirling around Suntrips' old owner, FS Suntours -- and the travel agents who booked all these vanishing vacations are waiting on their commissions.

Kullar Bhular of Infinity Travel says he's in the same boat as his Suntrip customers. "They were saying, 'oh, it is going to come from our Atlanta office, and it will come, and it will come, but it never comes," said Bhular.

Here's the big problem: Suntrips' holding company discovered that it lost $24 million last year, and arranged a sale but the buyer got a look at that bottom line, and changed the deal.

"The company that bought 'em says, 'oh, we're only buying the assets, not the liabilities’," said Al Anolik, attorney for the travel agents. "It's telling the world in public, 'I don't owe anybody'," said Anolik.

Travel agents are afraid FS Suntours will sink under its liabilities, and they'll lose those commissions, so they've hired Al Anolik to start the legal tangle with a class-action lawsuit on their behalf. Meanwhile, agents and travelers-to-nowhere agree the company shouldn't have kept selling trips once it knew it was being sold in late January.

"They should not have taken those bookings right when they knew they are not going to be in business. It's a case of operating under false pretenses,” said Anolik.

We've been in contact with FS Suntours, the old Suntrips for several weeks now, they tell us everyone in the company is focused on getting those refunds to customers but they can't tell us when they'll be in the mail. The concern is they'll file for bankruptcy leaving customers high and dry--but even if that happens, you may not be hosed.

There is a "fund of last resort", for travelers who've lost money because of a botched or canceled trip. It's called "the Travel Consumers Restitution Fund", and it can cover losses up to $15,000 dollars. The fund is paid for by California's travel agents, and there is a $35 processing fee. You get that money back if they approve your claim.