AUSTIN (KXAN) — KXAN is learning more about the large group of UT Austin students who went to Cabo San Lucas for spring break.
Earlier this month, The University of Texas announced that 49 of those students have tested positive for COVID-19 since they returned. Austin Public Health says even more are in the process of being tested and have been under quarantine since they got back.
Some parents tell KXAN there was some concern about the young adults going on the trip, but students had paid in advance and were told they wouldn’t be issued a refund if they chose not to travel due to COVID-19 concerns. Therefore, some felt if they didn’t go on the trip they’d be losing money.
One parent whose son was supposed to go on the trip shared email correspondence between the student’s family and JusCollege. Her son did not end up going on the trip and still hasn’t received any kind of a refund.
In an email sent on March 11 — a couple of days before the trip was scheduled to begin — the student’s mother expressed concern that it was dangerous for students to fly and be in big crowds. She also wrote that she was worried the students might get quarantined in Mexico, should borders shut down.
That mother shared a company response from March 13, the day the students were set to leave, stating that JusCollege believed, “There is no compelling reason to reconsider travel to Mexico at this time due to coronavirus.”
The company went on to say in that email that it had not canceled and had no plans to cancel any of its upcoming spring break trips. It then went on to say refunds would not be available for any cancellations. It said everything had been paid for and preparations had already been made at that stage.
Several days after the trip was scheduled to end, the company responded to the family’s continued emails, saying it was working with its vendors, “To try and get as many concessions as possible to pass onto you.”
The company’s email went on to say its goal is to have refund and credit options available soon, and it added that it would give the student options to postpone his trip.
The student’s mother says so far, no type of refund has been issued.
In a “COVID-19 FAQ’s and Updates” page on the company’s website, JusCollege now says some spring break trips have been canceled. The company was offering spring break 2020 trips through April 10th.
KXAN made multiple attempts to get more information from JusCollege about the Cabo San Lucas Trip UT students went on, and eventually received a response days later.
“We take the safety of our customers very seriously, and always follow US government regulations and guidance from the state department when making travel recommendations. As a distributor of travel services, we are working tirelessly with airlines and hotels to get the best possible outcome for our customers — whether that’s a credit or partial refund. Refunds are made at the discretion of the hotels or airlines we work with, who are holding the vast majority of our customers’ funds. We apologize for the delays and will continue doing everything we can to help at this difficult time,” a spokesperson for the company wrote.
When asked for comment on its claims that the students would be safe, a JusCollege spokesperson replied in a statement, “We take the safety of our customers very seriously and are working with public health authorities to assist where we can. JusCollege always follows US government regulations and guidance from the state department when making travel recommendations, and Mexico was not under a federal travel advisory at the time the trip departed.”
The statement went on to say, ” It was an unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation, and our communications to our customers were being updated in line with the changing US government guidelines. Our thoughts are with the students who are ill and the healthcare providers and public health officials who are working to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”