(Pierre) – The cool South Dakota climate has many college students making a break for the border this spring. But before you pack up your trunks and your tanning oil, review your Spring Break tour package carefully.
Attorney General Mark Barnett warns, “South Dakota kids head south of the border every year. Some get the trip they expected, but others end up being scammed.”
To avoid a Spring Break bust Barnett has some suggestions.
Check out the operator. Ask the operator to send you information about the business and the names of satisfied customers. You can call the American Society of Travel Agents at 703-739-8739 to see if the operator is legitimate.
If the trip involves a charter flight, call the Department of Transportation Public Charter Licensing Division at 202-366-2396. They will let you know if a flight has been properly chartered from your departure city to your destination.
Read the fine print. Get a copy of the contract. This will tell you the condition under which the operator can change flight schedules, hotel accommodations, and the rules and penalties for cancellation.
Understand your rights. You have the right to cancel your charter package without any penalty if the operator makes a “major change.” These major changes can include a change of departure or return date, a hotel substitution not listed in the charter contract, or a package price increase of ten percent or more.
Pay by credit card. If you must pay by check, make sure it is payable to an escrow account and call the bank handling the escrow account to verify its validity. Be wary of charter operations that won’t provide account information.
Expect flight delays. Law allows for a charter flight to be delayed up to 48 hours if mechanical difficulties occur. The operator is not obligated to compensate you for any of your expenses in the event of a mechanical delay. Check the contract to see if the operator will pay any costs (lodging, car rental, etc) associated with a flight delay not related to a mechanical difficulty.
Questions about travel packages can be directed to Consumer Protection, 1-800-300-1986.