N.J. travel agency to pay for stranding customers

By Drew Smith | Dec 8, 2008

Anne Milgram (D)

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) -- Edison, N.J.-based USA Haj Mission Corp. has reached a settlement agreement with Attorney General Anne Milgram after failing to make airline bookings for its customers who were traveling to Mecca.

The company, doing business as Dar Al Muslimeen USA and Al-Yamama Company USA, has agreed to pay $23,055 in restitution to four customers and will enter binding arbitration to settle complaints from nine additional consumers who are seeking $29,355 in restitution.

According to Milgram, the customers bought travel packages to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage but instead ended up stranded at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

"Consumers in some instances were left standing at the airport, with no advance notice about any problems related to their trips," the Democrat attorney general said. "We expect companies to honor their contracts with consumers and adhere to our consumer protection laws. We are pleased that USA Haj Mission Corp. has agreed to provide refunds to consumers who were denied an opportunity to experience an important religious pilgrimage."

USA Haj Mission has also agreed to pay $131,000 in civil penalties if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement.

The travel package was supposed to include round-trip airfare from JFK Airport to Saudi Arabia, along with hotel accommodations and transportation within Saudi Arabia.

The customers arrived at JFK Airport in December 2006 only to learn the company failed to purchase airline tickets for them. The next day they were informed that the trip was canceled.

"The planned pilgrimage to Mecca, a highpoint for Muslims, turned into a nightmare for these consumers," said David Szuchman, the attorney general's consumer affairs director. "Consumers suffer fiscal and emotional loss when companies fail to deliver the products and services that are contracted for and, as in this case, we will take action against those companies."

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