It was an important trip to Hon Lam, but his doctor said he couldn’t go. When he couldn’t get his money back, despite buying travel insurance, he called Kurtis.

Lam stood in his living room, staring at a framed photo of himself and his wife, before they moved to the United States.

“It’s a really old picture,” he said with a grin.

Now in his 70s, suffering from pancreatic cancer, he wanted to return to his homeland with his wife and son, Daravuth.

“I wanted to visit my relative and cousin for the last time,” he said, “in case something happens to me.”

A cancer complication and doctor’s orders, however, kept him from going.

“I was so sorry I [could] not take my wife and my son,” he said.

The Lams spent $3,060 for the three plane tickets to Vietnam. Fortunately, they bought trip insurance.

But the trip insurance company only refunded them $1,350, saying they had to get the rest of the refund from their travel agent, Sunlight Travel of San Jose.

The Lams said Sunlight hasn’t returned their money in more than five months.

“It’s unforgivable,” said Daravuth, sitting next to his father. “It’s not what they should be doing to other people.”

“If you want to pay a very high premium,” said CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, “There are policies that will allow you to cancel for any reason.”

But some trip insurance policies will only refund the money customers can’t get back on their own, Greenberg said.

In this case, most of the plane ticket cost was refundable through the travel agency, minus a cancelation fee — a fee the trip insurance had already covered.

When CBS13 contacted Sunlight Travel, the travel agency apologized, saying, “[We] believe there was a miscommunication.”

Sunlight agreed to finally send the Lams a check for the last of their money.

Hon is hopeful he’ll still be able to return to visit his homeland one last time.

“If my health allows me to do that, I’m happy to make my dream come true,” he said.

The Lams bought this trip insurance through their travel agent.

Customers should always book trip insurance through a separate, unassociated company, Greenberg said. Often customers can find better coverage for a better price.

Comments (7)
  1. damiantysdal says:

    This is actually a great example of travel insurance and trip cancellation coverage working.

    Trip cancellation coverage will reimburse you for pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs if you need to cancel for a covered reason.

    If you are able to get a refund from the travel supplier (airline, tour company, etc) and then collect insurance for the full amount, you are coming our ahead. The purpose of insurance is to make the insured whole for their losses.

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