Families who spent thousands of dollars for a trip to the Philippines are being told that their flights were never booked and they don’t know where their money went.
Action Line started getting complaints about Diplomat Tours and Travel last week.
In some cases, customers told us they showed up at the airport thinking they had tickets, only to find out they weren’t booked.
Others have flights coming up but their airline tickets have not been paid for and they can’t get a hold of the travel agency.
The state wants customers who have lost money to step forward and file their complaints with the Department of Commerce and Consumers Affairs.
KHON2 went to Diplomat Travel in Waipahu and found a customer who said she paid more than $2,500 in cash two months ago for a family trip to the Philippines.
She did not want to be identified, but showed us her receipt.
When she called the airlines, she was told the tickets have not been paid for. Now, she’s been trying to meet with the travel agency’s owner.
“We came here again yesterday,” she said. “(But the owner’s) not here. She said she’s downtown and she texted my husband, ‘Come tomorrow anytime at my office,’ so we’re here. She’s not here.”
The sign on the window now says DITT, or Discount International Travel and Tours. The office was open, but there was no one inside.
There was a note on the door with a phone number to call, but when we called, it just referred us to the office number.
We also went to the owner’s home address and the person who answered the door told us that she’s in the office.
We found out that Diplomat Travel’s license expired three years ago, so it should not be doing business. But one of the people under that license has a separate one for DITT, and is using the same business address.
“You want to be extremely cautious about doing business with that other entity, because the likelihood of you also falling victim is potentially high,” said Greg Dunn, president and CEO of Hawaii Better Business Bureau.
The Better Business Bureau has been receiving complaints and Dunn tells us one of the worst things you can do when booking travel with any agency is use cash.
“Unfortunately, once the cash leaves your hands, you lose control of it and so getting your money back from these folks is gonna be incredibly difficult,” said Dunn.
Dunn says a credit card is always best because if anything goes wrong, the credit card company can usually refund your money.
A DCCA spokesman says it’s gathering information from customers which will then be sent to the Regulated Industries Complaints Office, or RICO, which handles the investigations.