CONTACT 2: Student trip cancelation creates airline ticket nightmare

Contact 2

ST. LOUIS– — When a group of St. Charles County high schoolers welcomed Irish exchange students at Lambert Airport in October 2019, they were already excited for their chance to do the same in Ireland less than six months later.

“To go see what their lifestyle was like, they were really excited,” said Julie Matthews.

Matthews’ daughter is a junior at St. Charles West. She was one of 24 area students scheduled to leave for Ireland on March 15th through the St. Charles sister cities program.

Then the pandemic hit.

“All of our kids were like, ok now what are we doing. It was chaos.” said Matthews.

The trip was canceled two days before they were supposed to leave. Julie says what followed was one frustrating phone call after next trying to find out how to get their tickets refunded.

“It’s really frustrating to not even know who to talk to about it or what loops to jump through to get to that exact person.” said Matthews.

You see, what makes this situation so complicated, is the way the tickets were purchased. The families gave their checks to Sandi Swift. She works at St. Charles West and organized the plane tickets through her travel services company. She then sent the families’ checks to Travel Planners International. It’s a host agency travel advisors and agency owners use to book flights and more. T-P-I then paid a consolidator, in this case Sky Bird Travel, for a block of seats it previously purchased at a discounted price from United and American Airlines.

“We’re not here to point fingers or place blame on anyone. We just want this resolved.” said Matthews.

And that’s where Contact 2 comes in. After more than two months of digging, we learned Sky Bird needed to request the refund from the airlines for the families to get their money back. Problem is, the group canceled the itinerary, not the airline. That complicates the refunds the group is entitled to. in fact, both the United and American flights the students were supposed to take, actually flew to Ireland. Remember, this was right at the start of the pandemic.

We spoke to both airlines. In a statement, United said: “we’ve extended ticket validity to 24 months from the date the ticket was issued.”

American said “the ticket can be used for any travel under the customer’s name until 12/31/2021.”

“Where am I going to send my 16-year-old daughter by herself?” asked Matthews.

That’s just one of the many frustrations these parents still have. The timing of this trip couldn’t have been worse. With COVID shutdowns rippling around the globe at the time, airlines were making and changing policies frequently. We’ll keep working to get them their money back. A representative for the Missouri Attorney General’s office tells us it is reviewing two complaints related to this situation. Which we’ll also follow up on.

Contact 2 has resolved consumer complaints totaling millions of dollars over the years. Those cases have not only brought peace of mind to the consumers who asked Contact 2 for help, but also shed light on allegations of deception and wrongdoing levied against businesses, contractors and government agencies.

Our team focuses on gathering the facts about what happened. The process involves seeking out both sides of the story. It’s not always what consumers want to hear, but we have an obligation to be fair to the entity accused of causing the problem. Working to clearly understand the details is an important part of the job. Sometimes these cases can be resolved quickly. Other times, Contact 2 will spend weeks or months getting to the bottom of the problem. We appreciate the patience of those who’ve asked us to help them.

While dealing with the complaints of individual consumers is a big part of the job for Contact 2, we’re also dedicated to informing consumers of the latest scams, rip-offs and fraud schemes. Technology has made it easier than ever for criminals to target consumers. Contact 2 monitors reports of this activity around the world to help arm the public with tools to protect their personal information and hard- earned money. We share that information with consumers on-air and online.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Report scams and rip-offs

Have a question for the FOX 2 Contact 2 team? If you have an issue with scams, bad customer service or getting ripped off then our reporters will investigate.


Call the Contact 2 hotline Monday to Thursday from 11am-1pm at 1-800-782-2222


Fill out this form.


Latest News

More News