Gate1travel - Misguided by customer representatives, lost hundreds in additional charges as a result
I am a travel writer and photographer, and have previously used Gate1 Travel, not just for myself but also to book tours for my family. Because of positive experiences in the past, I had no qualms about recommending Gate1 to others.
But making the arrangements for a tour that starts this summer has been quite an exasperating ordeal, to say the least, and it all could have been avoided if they had properly trained representatives with accurate information. We booked a 2017 summer trip back in November of 2016. Because I knew there might be issues with scheduling, signed up for the travel insurance with the cancel for any reason option. Seeing it on our online reservation, I rested with the peace of mind that we were covered.
By April, it had become clear that one member of our group would be unable to join the trip. No problem, I thought, this is why we opted for insurance. So imagine my surprise when I called Gate1 and was informed that because they never charged us for the insurance, then we are technically NOT insured. After getting over the initial confusion, I asked what my options were.
First, I was told that I can send in a payment for the insurance to activate it, then once activated, I could go ahead and use the cancel-for-any-reason option. Multiple times, I asked if this was acceptable because it sounded suspicious to me. Finally, the representative came back and apologized for the suggestion, admitting that doing so would constitute insurance fraud. Again, I asked what my other options were.
I was told that my only other option would be to put that passenger on a separate reservation (with a $50 change fee) on a different trip in the future on order to preserve the rest of the deposit. This did not make much sense because it is unlikely for us to know what personal schedules will be like a year or two in advance. Picking a random future trip only means more change fees if plans change. I thanked her for the suggestion and said I would call back with a decision.
A few days later, I called back and once again had to explain the situation about the insurance. Once again, I was told that we were not insured, and that really, our only option would be to either cancel that one passenger and lose the entire deposit, or transfer his reservation to some future trip for a $50 fee. So we went ahead and canceled it for the one passenger in our group. After doing so, they adjusted the insurance charges and in effect also removed his insurance listing on the reservation.
I told the representative that, since we technically didn't have any insurance to begin with, then would she just please eliminate all the insurance charges from our reservation and we would just take care of purchasing separate trip insurance on our own. She told me that she could do so but it would incur a $50 change fee because Gate1 Travel charges $50 for every change you make to the reservation. But she said, in just about these exact words, "We can refund you the insurance charges without any additional fee, and it would just require a bit of a workaround." The workaround she suggested was this: first, send in full payment for the trip in order to activate the insurance. Then we would have a 10-day review period within which we could cancel the insurance.
So she said once we received confirmation of payment, to call within 10 days to request a refund. Twice I asked her to confirm this, and she did. When I finally called Gate1 Travel within 10 days of payment to request cancellation of the insurance, imagine my completely surprise when I was told that no cancellation would be permitted because the 10-day review began back in November. If this was the case, then why was I told that we were not insured?
If the insurance was already effective then, I could have availed of the original cancel-for-any-reason rider, which I now cannot do because they eliminated our passenger's insurance when he canceled. And if it was no longer possible to cancel the insurance, then why did the previous representative even offer to cancel them for a $50 fee, or even suggest that "workaround," twice confirming to me that I would be able to cancel within 10 days? The frustration and exasperation comes from the fact that I only did as directed by the representatives I spoke to on the phone. I did my due diligence, I reached out to Gate1 for guidance, and was steered wrong almost every step of the way.
It left such a bad taste in my mouth that, whereas previously Gate1 Travel was where I first turned to for land tours, I will now eagerly explore other travel agencies that offer the same services. I spent a lot of time going back and forth with Gate1 representatives, staying on hold during workdays, only to now realize I wasted valuable time not just consulting with them but also trying to figure out options based on what was erroneous information from them. Whether the incident was due to customer representatives that were either intentionally misleading or carelessly untrained, the end result is the same: unnecessary additional costs to us, along with much aggravation and frustration.
This is the last time I am using Gate1, and I will caution my friends and family to steer clear as well. If you absolutely must book with them, I suggest you sign up for only the land tour and book your own flights, transport, insurance, and even optional tours.
Product or Service Mentioned: Gate1travel Travel Protection Plan.
Reason of review: Poor customer service.
Monetary Loss: $395.
Preferred solution: Let the company propose a solution.