Salisbury church group searches for refund after bus debacle
By WFSB Staff
SALISBURY, CT (WFSB) -
A church group said they were left stranded by a bus company at a New Jersey airport after flying to Mexico to help build a school.
Reverend Diane Monti-Catania traveled along with members of the Salisbury Congregational Church to Oxaca in July to build a school and feed the starving villagers.
To get to the Newark Airport, the group contracted US Coachways for a roundtrip bus service.
When the group planned to leave for airport, no one came. So Monti-Catania called the dispatcher several times, but no one answered.
"It just kept looping back, I couldn't get a person," she said.
However, two hours later, a bus did arrive and the group forgave the driver by leaving a nice tip.
Following the trip and long flight home, the congregation members were anxious to get home. However, no bus arrived at the designated meeting place.
Once again, Monti-Catania called the company, but got the same automated message and was never able to reach a person.
"We keep watching thinking that at any moment they'll drive, they'll come," she said. "And they didn't come."
After waiting two hours, the group knew they need a new plan. At 2 a.m., the only ground transportation option was to take taxis to the train station in Wassaic, NY. Relatives would have to pickup the 15 travelers and take them back to Salisbury.
"It was $1,200 additional dollars that we hadn't raised, so we had to just take it from the church," Monti-Catania said.
Since the trip in July, Monti-Catania has tried tirelessly to get their money back. She has tried to get a refund for the return trip, $699, and the reimbursement for the taxi fare.
After months of looking into the claim, US Coachways sent Monti-Catania a letter of denial and told her it was not the company's fault.
"US Coachways has a 24-hour operation. We had a vehicle on site and we made attempts to contact the consumer," letter read.
The letter also said the company did not receive any calls from Monti-Catania. A claim, which she denies.
"We were 15 people at 2 o'clock in the morning sitting outside the airport. So we weren't hard to find," Monti-Catania said. "You know if you just drove around the airport it wouldn't be hard to find us. They had my cell phone number on all of the documents. They never attempted to call me."
When Eyewitness News contacted the company, it said "because of the circumstances, as they are a church, we are going to offer a refund for the return trip."
Monti-Catania believes that Eyewitness News helped her.
"Hearing from your station motivated them to take a little bit of responsibility," she said.
Monti-Catania is filing complaints with the New York's Attorney General Office and will continue to try to get the cab money refunded.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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