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SOTC to pay for 2006 tour fiasco

Not all holidays are relaxing, and a Walkeshwar-based family of six allegedly had a nightmare of a tour to Malaysia and Singapore that they had booked with travel company SOTC in 2006.

In its judgment (a copy of which is with Sunday Mid Day) a bench comprising President SB Dhumal and member SS Patil directed SOTC to repay
Rs 20,000 to each of the complainants, with 9 per cent interest till date of payment.

What happened
In 2006, the family — Sandhya Vakil, Vasant Joshi, Suganda Joshi, Smita Govilkar, Mugdha Sarnaik and Chitra Datar — paid for SOTC’s Bhraman Mandal Trip to the Far East (Malaysia and Singapore) for eight days, which was to begin on April 29, 2006. In the first week of April, they paid an additional sum of Rs 11,200 per person after they were informed that the tour price had gone up. In total, they had paid Rs 2,98,200 so far.

When they received the tickets, it said that they had been booked on a five-day tour, whose dates didn’t match with their booking. Vakil and Govilkar immediately approached SOTC in Mumbai . Tour operator Brinda Sonawala managed to persuade the family to join another tour, as their tour had been cancelled. The family agreed to go on an 11-day tour, which included Bangkok and Pattaya. They paid Rs 24,000 extra per person, but this trip, too, was badly planned. For the 4 am flight on May 3, 2006, they received their tickets and paperwork only the previous night. The travel insurance policies the two senior citizens — Vasant and Suganda Joshi — had not been cleared.

When they arrived in Bangkok, they were made to wait for an hour at the airport before they were sent to a substandard hotel. The judgment mentioned many complaints, including that they were made to pay for acitivities and food, and were not allowed to visit Petronas and KL Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which was part of the itinerary. They also complained that SOTC purchased $500 as Forex in their name without permission. 

The company, which will have to repay the amount as per the judgment, in its statement had denied the complaints and declined to refund the full amount. It said the cancellation of the eight-day tour was justified in the terms and conditions that the family had signed. 

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