An Ontario woman’s plans to celebrate a milestone birthday in Jamaica have been ruined by a mistake she says was made by a Toronto travel agency.
“I was so looking forward to this getaway and it was nothing but torture,” Joan Russell told CTV News Toronto.
Like most Ontarians, Russell said two years of ongoing public health restrictions due to COVID-19 left her feeling isolated and in need of a change of scenery.
After spending her 60th birthday in lockdown, Russell has planned a belated celebration for herself on the white sand beaches of Negril.
“Negril. I wanted to go to Negril,” said the Vaughan, Ont. The resident said she told the travel agent who booked the $2,538 six-night trip.
A seasoned traveller, Russell said she had used travel agencies to book trips on her behalf in the past and had trusted them to book accommodation to her specifications – usually nothing less than a 4-star hotel in a quiet environment.
She had already booked with this agency and said she felt comfortable before crossing the destination off her “to-do list”. She said she had reviewed the booking details and was confident everything was in order before the trip.
With his luggage packed and morale high, Russell landed in Montego Bay on March 24. She boarded a coach bound for her destination.
Then the problems started.
She said the bus operator came with a clipboard to verify that all passengers on board had reservations.
“He asked me my name and said, ‘you’re not here.'”
Confused, Russell said she was told she didn’t in fact have a reservation at her hotel in Negril and was told to get off the bus.
Russell, who suffers from anxiety, said she felt like she was having a “nervous breakdown” following the startling revelation.
“Immediately, I am in panic mode. I went from zero to 100% panic,” she said.
With no seats at the busy airport, Russell said she spent the next few hours on the ground and on the phone with the travel company trying to find out what was wrong.
Some $200 in roaming charges later, Russell said she was told by the travel company that she had made a mistake. She didn’t have reservations at a hotel on the quiet shores of Negril, but rather at a property in Montego Bay that Russell said was best known for its party atmosphere, loud music and drinking all day long. daytime.
Disappointed, she said she tried to find a return flight and cut her losses. With none available – and the cost to eventually upgrade to his original booking far exceeding the trip’s original budget – Russell decided to accept his fate.
“Let’s call it a washout. I’ll just stay here and get through this,” she said.
And so she did for the next six days, which Russell says were far from pleasant.
“I’ve been through hell. I didn’t enjoy a minute of that. It was torture. For me, it was not my type of setting, of environment. Nothing. The days passed and I just wanted to be back home.
Joan Russell tries to enjoy her time in Jamaica after an alleged mistake by a Toronto travel agency derails her vacation plans. (Provided)
When she got home, Russell said she contacted the travel company to sort things out.
They discussed compensation and Russell said they agreed on an amount of $700, well under half the total value of the trip, but enough to cover roaming costs, the rest expenses and the event itself.
The travel company said they would send the money to her via wire transfer, Russell explained. She claims that she has not received this money or heard from the travel agency since this conversation.
Russell has since contacted Ontario’s travel regulator, the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), to file a formal complaint.
In an email to CTV News Toronto, TICO said the complaint itself was in the “early stages of processing.”
“Tico is committed to completing its process which will include requiring the travel agency concerned to provide its position in writing to TICO and to provide any supporting documentation or information requested to enable TICO to make its decision,” a spokesperson said.
Once the process is complete, Russell will receive a written communication from TICO summarizing the outcome and the regulator’s position on the matter.
Meanwhile, Russell said she felt victimized and wanted to seek justice following the confusion.
“I feel like a victim and I’m tired of feeling like a victim,” she said. “He said he was wrong, you are wrong, but you also have to follow that up by making the consumer whole again.
“That’s justice: you make the person whole. You don’t take and give them something they haven’t asked for.
Royal Travels told CTV News Toronto that it agreed to send Russell the aforementioned $700. She said Tuesday afternoon that she had received this money.