Agent Wins Cruise Suit

Travel agent successfully sues Princess for unpaid commissions.

By: Kevin Brass

A Los Angeles travel agent has successfully sued Princess Cruises for unpaid commissions on a canceled cruise and the Association of Retail Travel Agents is taking note.

Last December Cecilia Pedroza of Pedroza Travel booked six clients on a May 14 cruise aboard the Grand Princess from Barcelona to Venice. It was a cruise-only package; she arranged separate airfare deals for the clients.

But several weeks before departure, Princess canceled the itinerary, Pedroza said.

Princess eventually reimbursed all of the clients’ expenses, including a discount on future travel. But Princess refused to pay Pedroza’s service fee or commission.

Although final payment for the cruise was never made, Pedroza argued in her suit that she had earned the commission by booking the passengers.

“How could they make final payment when they canceled the cruise?” Pedroza said.

Last week a small claims court judge ordered Princess to pay Pedroza $2,475 in commission and $750 in attorney fees.

A Princess spokeswoman said last week that the case is unusual, but not precedent-setting.

Julie Benson said Grand Princess’ itinerary was changed because it was redeployed from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

“Our policy is to pay the commission on receipt of the final payment and when the customer sails, not at the time of the reservation,” said Benson.

“Just because someone has booked a cruise doesn’t mean they will necessarily turn into a passenger,” she said.

Although attorneys are not allowed to represent parties in small claims court, ARTA attorney Alexander Anolik filed a declaration in support of Pedroza’s claim.

“For acts of God, such as inclement weather conditions, the cruise line has a right to change an itinerary,” Anolik wrote.

“However, if they change itineraries due to low passenger load factors to save money, then they must compensate affected parties for their actions,” he wrote.

ARTA plans to send copies of the argument to members who may also feel entitled to commissions on canceled itineraries, Anolik said.