Burnaby couple unable to change vacation despite Zika concerns
Published Sunday, December 23, 2018 5:43PM PST
One of the most joyous times in a Burnaby couple's life is also causing them a great deal of stress.
Rahela Nayebzadah unexpectedly found out she was pregnant with her second child, just days before the family was set to take off to Cuba, where the Zika virus could potentially harm a fetus.
She said when she learned about the pregnancy this week, she immediately contacted Sunwing Vacations to cancel or postpone her Cuban Holiday, but she didn't get the response she was hoping for.
"The customer service rep at Sunwing blamed it on me, saying, 'Zika has been in the media for a long time, so why did you get pregnant?' She placed the blame on me and that was very upsetting," she said.
She said the trip was planned in October and they had been looking forward to it.
"This vacation meant a lot to me," she said.
She knew Zika is an issue in Brazil, but did not know the same risks were also in the Caribbean, adding the fact that the travel agent never told her about it.
Mosquitoes that are infected with Zika can spread it to people. Generally, those infected with the virus will not get sick or only have mild symptoms.
However, an infection during pregnancy could cause severe birth defects.
An advocate for air passengers said generally, it is up to the traveller to do their own research but Nayebzadah may have a case.
"If the passenger was not told the full truth about where they were going by the airline or the travel agent, a simple full refund to the credit card or original form of payment is what would be appropriate," said Gabor Lukas with Air Passenger Rights.
Nayebzadah booked the Sunwing vacation package through Flight Centre, and both agencies said they would not be able to accommodate her request.
A spokesperson for Sunwing said the potential effects of the virus have been widely known since 2016 and any cancellations are bound by its normal terms and conditions.
"We appreciate that sometimes unforeseen circumstances can result in customers no longer being able to travel. For this reason, we always recommend that our customers take out our Worry Free travel insurance," spokesperson Rachel Goldrick wrote in an email to CTV news.
In an email response, Flight Centre said, "While we do our utmost to advise people…if they didn’t tell the agent they were planning on getting pregnant, or could possibly be pregnant, it would have been impossible for our agent to have known to advise them against travelling to Cuba for that reason."
Naybzadah is hoping the companies can compromise. She said she is willing to pay a hefty fine if they are able to delay the vacation.
"They're supposed to make exceptions; this is a medical emergency. The way they're acting, they are kind of saying that my fetus isn’t important, that me, as a pregnant woman, isn't important. I just think that's disrespectful."
The family was supposed to start their vacation on December 26.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Allison Hurst