U.S. troops ordered to stay up to four additional months in Iraq won't lose
money spent on travel reservations if tickets were purchased from an American
Though no one knows for sure, the Army believes almost 10,000 of the troops
from the Germany-based 1st Armored Division had planned to fly to the States
after returning from Iraq. Many already had made reservations, or their
families had booked tickets for them. Their orders to stay mean any stateside
reunions need to be rescheduled.
The refund deal was the result of meetings between Army officials, management
of military contractor SatoTravel and major U.S. airlines.
"They're going to refund that as long as the individuals get with Sato before
the travel date," said John Allred, leisure contracting officer representative
with the Army's Installation Management Agency in Europe. "If they wait until
afterward, then it's a no-show and they're not entitled to a refund. That's
Though the agreement was reached through SatoTravel, Allred said he expects
that the U.S. carriers will honor the refunds however travelers booked them.
Troops or families will need a copy of their leave revocation statement or a
letter from their commander. There will be no penalties, Allred said.
If troops or their families reserved seats aboard planes, trains or cruises
through European carriers, things are less clear. SatoTravel has pledged to
intervene on troops' behalf to help recoup those costs if tickets were
purchased through it.
But each case is unique. If the traveler bought cancellation insurance, there
should be no problem; the insurance company will cover the cost. Otherwise,
SatoTravel will try to convince the carrier that a refund is necessary or just
a nice thing to do.
Troops or family members who purchased tickets from a European carrier and
using an agency other than SatoTravel, though, will have to grapple with
"If they've gone outside of Sato, they can't help," Allred said.
Ann Strawhorn, a spokeswoman for SatoTravel, said that it tries to book its
clients on U.S. carriers unless a customer requests otherwise. European
operators are more likely to rebook the trip on a future date than to refund
"We're dealing with every individual traveler on a case-by-case basis,"
Strawhorn said. "We've seen this so many times, and that's what we're here
No one is certain just how many times that is, but it's become routine.
"They have been getting a lot of requests for refunds," Strawhorn said. "They
really don't know [how many]. We have so many agents working on this. … People
like to make their travel plans in advance, because sometimes the earlier they
book, the better fares they get."
According to the Army, about half of the 18,000 Germany-based troops on
extended Iraq duty had planned to fly home on leave.
"The gauge was about 50 percent of them were interested in travel, block
leave or R and R [rest and recuperation] travel back to the United States,"
Allred said. "That's a significantly high number."
Many of the remaining half are expected to travel within Europe. Despite
those figures, a contract manager with SatoTravel, Andrea Tantillo, said the
refund process is not overwhelming.
"It's running very smoothly."
Sound Off...What do you think?
Join the discussion.
This article is provided courtesy
of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as
a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and
has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and
1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been
in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen
in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf
War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the
Stars & Stripes Website
Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.