Maple Ridge families still owed almost $4,500 for cancelled school trip

Caught in dispute between travel agency and insurance company

Ghada and Tara Yassine

Ghada and Tara Yassine

Maple Ridge families which had school trips cancelled when the COVID-19 pandemic stifled international travel have still not been reimbursed.

In the case of Ghada Yassine’s family, she is out almost $4,500 for a trip booked through Maple Ridge secondary that her daughter Tara was never able to take.

There were about 30 families of MRSS students in Grades 11 and 12 last year impacted.

They booked a spring break trip to France and Italy through Explorica, and were required to purchase the travel insurance for $260 as a condition of booking the trip. The total bill was $4,700.

It had to be paid by February, in advance of the March trip. The kids worked at fundraising, said Yassine, selling chocolates and frozen foods.

“The girls worked hard on fundraising, selling to family and friends,” she said.

On March 13, the Canadian government issued an official global travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel, and school boards cancelled trips abroad.

When the trip was cancelled, she was initially told by Explorica she would be reimbursed her costs, less the price of the travel insurance. So she is owed $4,440.

Some seven months later, she has still not been reimbursed.

“We’re starting to lose hope of ever seeing a penny,” Yassine said.

With Tara going to university next year, that money would be great to invest in her post-secondary education, she added.

Parents are caught in the middle of what appears to be a dispute between Explorica and Arch Insurance. Arch told Yassine in writing, as recently as Oct. 2, that it is missing important information needed to completed the adjudication of claims relating to Exlorica trips, and that Explorica has not provided documentation verifying dates on which trips were cancelled.

READ ALSO: WestJet to offer full refunds for flights cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

“This information is relevant to your claim because there appears to be evidence that certain school trips, and/or components thereof, may already have been cancelled by Explorica or its suppliers (without notice to you or the schools) before the schools cancelled their trips with Explorica. This could mean that Explorica’s cancellation schedule is inapplicable and there are refunds or additional amounts owing to you, that have not been appropriately paid, or passed on to you, by Explorica,” said the letter, singed the Arch Insurance Team.

Explorica said, in a letter dated Sept. 23, that it has sent Arch Canada all information needed to process claims, such as group information, travel dates, amounts paid, and the school board cancellation letter.

“We are actively working with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO), the regulatory body that oversees Canada’s travel industry to work towards a resolution,” said the letter, signed David Conklin, GM of WorldStrides Explorica.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 case at Baillie House in Maple Ridge

The company has a website stating its position on trip refunds.

Irena Pochop, spokesperson for School District 42, said the district is not involved in the dispute.

“The school district did seek advice, but at this point it is unfortunately a dispute between the two companies involved,” said Pochop.

There has been a national class action lawsuit launched against Arch Insurance on behalf of families across Canada, over its alleged refusal to provide refunds following school trip cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit has been launched by Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. There are other class action lawsuits that have been launched.

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