Why are some travel companies, like Tauck, ruining travel during the pandemic?
Here is my story. Please feel free to copy it or repost it.
Stories, a small wooden black and red train with a cotton ball smokestack, and a crystal heart on a blue velvet ribbon. These are all my daughter has left of her father, aside from the flag that draped his coffin.
Eric was a US Air Force F-15 fighter pilot and then an experimental test pilot. His job—keeping all of us safe—resulted in his death 36 days after a plane crash. Our daughter was 10 years old when she watched him die.
Now an adult, my daughter still enjoys stories about him. Every Christmas I tell her about our adventures living abroad, especially the ones about our visits to the German and Austrian Christmas Markets. That’s where the wooden train and crystal heart were purchased. For over two decades, I have promised to take her to this magical event that occurs in villages and cities in Germany and Austria, where Christmas is something tangible that you can touch and smell and taste. We planned to bundle up against the cold with a steaming mug of mulled red wine and savor sweets like chocolate-covered marzipan and lebkuchen. Ah, the lights and fairytale villages and friendly people! We talked about it and planned our trip, finally making it a reality about three years ago. We booked a trip with travel company Tauck and paid in full in November 2019. And then came COVID.
We tried not to lament when Tauck cancelled in December 2020. We recognized our privilege and it seemed wrong to whine when people were dying. The entire world was suffering. We understood grief because, in a very fundamental way, this trip revolved around that.
Tauck had rolled our trip to 2021 and as December neared, we dared to hope we would be able to go. We were vaccinated, including boosters, and we registered for COVID testing before our departure. Tauck assured us the trip was a go, mere weeks before our departure. And then, the day before my flight left to fly to my daughter, Tauck cancelled. Again.
Our Lufthansa flights still departed as scheduled. Our trains still ran on time. Our hotels before and after the trip were still a go, and our COVID test in Nuremberg had already been scheduled and paid for. None of it was refundable. Did Tauck care? No. It was not their responsibility, they insisted. At least, I consoled myself, Tauck would refund the $11,000+ that I had paid them for the trip.
I was shocked when Tauck informed me they would be keeping $1,398 of the money I had directly paid them. They claimed it was travel insurance, though Tauck never told me they would keep almost 10% if THEY were the ones who cancelled. They did not provide a product at all. Why should they be allowed to keep anything?
When I asked Tauck to book us on the same trip for December 2022, I was told all spots were sold out. Gone. Tauck attempted to force us on a different trip at quite different times, but my daughter’s graduation would not have allowed it. Tauck did not care and guest relations representative Courtney made a big show of putting the money in a “dream account” with a one-year expiration. I am not interested in any other tours except the one we purchased. She was curt and informed my daughter that we were “nobody special.” I invite Tauck to listen to the recording of the call.
I am hopeful that one day, but likely without me, my daughter will visit the Christmas Markets. I would have loved to walk the cheery streets and reminisce about her incredible father, but the money is gone (about $8,000 including flights, trains, and the money Tauck stole) and it is unlikely I will be able to save it again.
I lived in Europe for years as a military “brat” and then as an officer’s wife. I adore Europe, but I am cautioning Americans not to plan a trip. Sure, there are a few lucky souls who have made it, but COVID is likely to be around for years, and most people can’t afford losses from unethical travel companies like Tauck.
I’m sad for those in the travel industry who are stepping up and doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the companies being greedy and uncompromising will force people to stay at home and they will give the whole travel industry a bad stench.
Tauck has a saying that they “leave the light on,” but in our case they picked our pockets, sold our spot to someone else, and left us alone in the dark.