More travel agency customers come forward with no trips, heartbreaking stories

Problems with a Waipahu travel agency grow as more customers find out they’ve lost thousands of dollars for a trip to the Philippines.

Action Line has been receiving complaints about Diplomat Tours and Travel since last week.

After our story aired Wednesday night, more customers have called Philippine Airlines and discovered that the flights they were booked on were never paid for, so their reservations were canceled. Victims are urged to file complaints with the state and the police department.

We went back to Diplomat Tours Thursday and found customers with heartbreaking stories, hoping to get their money back.

“Oh Lord, please,” Mildred Manaois said. She’s been trying to get a hold of the owner of the travel agency since she called the airline Thursday morning.

“I called the hotline for PAL, Philippine Airlines, and then they tell me your booking was canceled,” she said.

She paid nearly $4,600 in cash for a family trip to the Philippines so they can go to her father-in-law’s funeral. She received a text from the agency owner saying, “I’m sorry about your dad. Don’t worry now about your tickets.”

Another couple also came by the business and told us they spent more than $5,000, also in cash, for a family trip that was supposed to be in a couple of weeks.

Customers tell us the travel agency always encouraged them to pay in cash because it’s 20-percent cheaper if they pay the whole thing up front.

Russell Tupinio’s aunt also lost money from Diplomat Tours, so he reached out to people on social media and found out there are many others, “right now 40 to 50 people already.”

We’ve learned that Diplomat Travel’s business license expired three years ago, but the woman running the business also has a license under DITT, or Discount International Travel and Tours. The receipts customers showed us still say Diplomat Tours.

Customers tell us they’ve dealt with the company before so they trusted the owner.

“If you dealt with an individual before you want to make sure that the license is still current,” said Daria Loy-Goto, Complaints and Enforcement Officer with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

For now though, the state wants customers to file their complaints with the DCCA and the Honolulu Police Department.

Once complaints are received, “what the investigation is going to ferret out is a possible licensing law violation and if there’s sufficient evidence for our office to take action,” explained Loy-Goto.

An attorney told us he was contacted by the owner of Diplomat Tours, and said the woman is trying to get a loan and plans to pay all the customers back.

He didn’t explain why she lost the money in the first place.

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