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Bankrupt company leaves customers without bucket-list experience

By Adam Schrager, aschrager@wisctv.com
Published On: Jul 31 2013 05:53:54 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2013 09:06:34 PM CDT
MAUSTON, Wis. -

Helen McDonald knew what she wanted for her 75th birthday last spring.

"My kids said, 'What's on your bucket list?' and I said, ‘I want to go up in a balloon,'" McDonald said. "They all chipped in a number of dollars and everyone was all excited."

That was last summer and she's now past her 76th birthday without the Great American Balloon Company honoring her $175 ticket and those of the five friends who were planning to go with her.

Eight times, McDonald's group has booked a flight only to have it canceled. Now, she and numerous other Wisconsin residents are likely out of luck as the company filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this week.

"My bucket list is really confused right now," McDonald said.

McDonald and her friend Annette Olson recently contacted News 3 to see if they were being scammed.

Over the last two weeks, the company had not flown at all, and at least one rival balloon company said it had called the Great American hotline every day this summer and had never heard a recording that its sunrise and sunset flights were operational. Numerous emails and phone calls to the company have not been returned.

"We always (heard) a recorded message saying it's either too windy or too wet or there's some type of excuse as to why they're not going," Olson said. "Yet, a lot of these days have been perfect. No wind. No rain. I mean, it would have been beautiful for flying."

Now, the only options available to Olson, McDonald and others who may hold tickets yet to be honored include contacting the Great American Balloon Company's liquidator and joining the list of creditors or asking their credit card company to declare the purchase a fraudulent one, so they can qualify to be reimbursed. Federal law only requires credit card companies to reimburse fraudulent purchases if they are reported within two months of the exchange.

"It's frustrating, it's very frustrating," said Olson. "I'm a really avid golfer, so I take it out on the golf ball."

To get the information regarding the liquidator of the Great American Balloon Company, consumers are encouraged to call the company's reservation line at: 1-877-933-6359.

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