NBC4 I-Team

‘Secret' Travel Fund May Help Travelers Recover Lost Money

NBC Universal, Inc.

During the pandemic, the NBC4 I-Team received more travel-related complaints than ever before. But many don’t know that there’s a fund set up in California that may help travelers recoup lost money.

Tere Marquez’s first vacation without her kids - to the Carribbean - was going great. That is, until the airline canceled her flight home to LA.

“I started crying,” said Marquez. “I was like, ‘What do you mean we don’t have a flight home?’”

Marquez called the airline and the online travel agent she used to book the flight. The only option they gave her to return home: leave a day early and connect through Germany with a 13-hour layover. It’s an option she called “crazy.” So instead, Marquez paid $1,900 to book a new flight home on a different airline. So tried to get reimbursed for the new flight, but both the airline and travel agent wouldn’t budge.

“It was tough,” said Marquez.

She didn’t realize it, but she could have tried to get her money back by filing a complaint with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation, or the TCRC. It’s a private company, but it was set up by the state legislature 25 years ago. The idea behind it is to provide consumers some financial recourse when a travel agent fails to deliver or goes belly up.

“It’s especially good right now, in this time, I think,” said Vicki Scheck with ScheckTrek Travel. “It provides consumers with another layer of protection.” The TCRC is funded by all travel agents registered in California, like Scheck. They’re required to pitch in about $100 a year.

The TCRC pot is quite sizable - about $3 million. And it doles out just a fraction of that every year. The TCRC told the I-Team it receives about 57 claims a year, and approves 72% of them. The average claim paid is roughly $3,000. The pandemic did spark more claims last year - 199. TCRC said it paid 62% of those.

Scheck’s never known a traveler who’s filed a complaint with the TCRC.

“The travel advisors I know are fantastic,” she said. “And they’re totally behind their clients.” But she thinks it’s good to have around, and encourages travelers to use it.

“Most travel advisors support this,” said Scheck. “Because when there is a bad apple, it really casts a shadow over all of us. We want those people who get hurt by that to have some recourse.”

The TCRC has some rules, like:

  • The agent you’re filing a claim against must be registered in California.
  • Claims are capped at $15,000 per person.
  • There’s a $35 fee to file a claim.

To file a claim, click here.

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