I refrain from writing too many negative reviews. In my opinion most consumer complaint posts tend to read the same and ramble on about tiny details – this one included despite repeated editing. But when a large and well known company’s process borders on fraud, it’s an issue that can be detrimental to the wallets of other consumers and put their hard earned vacations in jeopardy. I think that’s worth documenting and sharing.
Summary: Travelocity incorrectly booked my name on an airline ticket. They would not correct the error OR refund the money. I should have known better, but found a interesting loophole.
When I book travel I always start with a broad search on Kayak.com, which searches multiple airlines. After selecting Kayak then gives you a list of providers, for example Orbtiz, Priceline or the airline directly. I always, always recommend booking directly through the airline. Anytime you involve a third party, especially a large inaccessible company acting as a “travel agent,” it only creates a wall between you and your purchase. There’s ZERO advantage to buying through “CheapoAir” or similar if you can find the fare on the airline’s website. If you’re booking an eight person trekking tour to Asia a knowledgeable travel agent would be prudent, but flying yourself from A to B rarely requires professional assistance.
Earlier this year I found flights to Mexico on Orbitz, (via Kayak,) which bundled a United flight with Aeromexico for a rate cheaper than a single airline. All went smooth, and I thought I might find something similar with a hotel. I was wanting to travel somewhere over Christmas and had been tinkering with Travelocity’s “Last Minute Packages” for a few weeks. I’d find one I liked, for example two people to Montreal with flight/hotel for $700, and after selecting it then the following page informs me, “Sorry, our packages sell so fast yours isn’t available – but here’s the same thing for $1,000.” Screw that I thought. Try it for yourself on their site:
I should have heeded that warning, but I kept searching packages until I found Puerto Vallarta for three nights, flights and hotel for $995 over Christmas weekend. That was a very good price for two people over Christmas just eight days out. Having been to Puerto Vallarta before I knew the hotel offered in the old town was decent. I was happily surprised when I arrived at the booking page with no increase in price. (As if that’s something for Travelocity to be proud of.) I entered my details and credit card information.
An hour later my confirmation email had not arrived, so I called the special “Last Minute Package” number: 800-255-1068. I was connected to an international call center and a nice gentleman explained to me that the airline could not provide the fare I had just purchased. I begrudgingly listened to his recalculation, which brought the price to $1,300. I should have simply declined, but I was excited about going, sick of searching online, and $1,300 while not a great deal anymore was still acceptable to me. (Though the practice of arriving at that price was deplorable and I should immediately ceased all contact with Travelocity.)
This time I received my confirmation email providing the flight info and hotel confirmations. I hopped on the US Airways site to double check, and found my first name was listed as “JamesVan,” and “Dellen” as the last. This was due to the agent re-processing the package himself via phone, rather than me via the web. Wanting to mitigate any problems, especially traveling internationally, I called US Airways the next day to fix it. They said Travelocity must to change the name. I called Travelocity, who said there was no way to change a name without booking a new package, (for a higher price.) I asked for a supervisor, and spoke to Valentino who confirmed the only thing they could do was “Cancel and Refund.”
The next day I searched flights on Kayak and a few airline websites and realized now, (a day later,) I could purchase flights for now under $1,000. A quick call found my favorite condo in Puerto Vallarta was available, which I preferred over Travelocity’s hotel. My outbound flight was non-stop, so I booked flights and the condo on my own.
I called back Travelocity requesting Valentino in order to cancel. Valentino told me that “Cancel and Refund” did not apply, but my money could only be applied to a FUTURE package. I told him “You just said I could CANCEL, because I don’t care to fly with an incorrect name and nobody will fix it.” “Yes” he replied, “Cancel and apply to a new package.”
I became irritated, but Valentino stuck to his script and repeated the same points. Stalling a bit while considering my options I started Googling Travelocity and found head of customer relations Christine Bullock. I could take my problem to P.R., who might eventually issue a refund if badgered with my emails, calls and a blog story like this. Or I could dispute it with my credit card. Being a busy time of year though I wanted NO extra work and simply wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible. And I wanted the $1,300 hold off my card.
I then had light bulb moment and asked Valentino, “If I book a cheaper package is the difference refunded?” He confirmed is was, so I said, “I’d like a package to Colorado Springs.” He asked if I’d need flights, car and hotel, to which I replied, “Hmm, just hotel I think.” He found a Days Inn for $75 and offered to change it.
I laughed out loud. I couldn’t tell if bureaucratic Valentino, simply following the directives of his job, realized how completely asinine that concept was. Travelocity will not REFUND a package of $1,300 but they can EXCHANGE a package for a fraction of the price. If I bought a hotel for $75, which I won’t even use, I could just call it a “stupidity fee” on my part and eat the loss.
I then remembered I have an early morning flight out of Chicago this January, which means leaving my family’s house in Michigan in the middle of the night, or staying at a friend’s place or motel in Chicago the night before. I asked Valentino to check hotel “packages” to Chicago O’Hare vicinity, and he found one all in for $65.
$1,300 to $65, and it’s something I can use. Boggling.
While still annoyed, this was an easy solution to my “refund.” I’m still shaking my head at the logic of that loophole. It was a solution I happened to think of on the spot, but what about other people who have butchered packages and are offered no assistance?
I probably could have flown US Airways with my name jumbled up on the ticket, but I didn’t want to. Travelocity’s response to THEIR mistake was to “Too bad, you can only cancel with no refund.” When a traveler says “I do NOT want to fly under an incorrect name” a complete cancellation and refund should be offered if unable to correct. Period. Someone less astute might not think to change their package to my “$65 O’Hare Special” and would be stuck with $1,300 held in the Travelocity bank.
I would love to hear a response from Travelocity. I don’t even care why it’s acceptable to “sell” a package then make the customer call in to find the price is higher. I’m sure there are pages of legal for that. (And in my case I even accepted the higher package price.) I’d like to know why no assistance is given after information is entered INCORRECTLY by Travelocity. All I wanted was my name corrected. Had that been done promptly I would still be traveling under my original Travelocity package.
I don’t know whether to congratulate myself for thinking of that idea or to kick myself for letting it get to that point. I’m tempted to just dispute the $65 charge and forget the hotel too. After reading Travelocity’s guarantee above it’s clear that the terms of agreement were not met:
“Everything about your booking will be right, or we’ll work to make it right.”
Using this article as documentation I’m certain my credit card company would agree.
A lesson to everyone including myself in this case: If you don’t like the way a company does business, DO NOT give them your business. Hopefully this post will inform and educate others. In the end I had a great Christmas weekend in Puerto Vallarta, put together on my own. I’m curious how others would have handled Travelocity’s response.
A Travelocity reponse, (including a $65 refund for the Chicago hotel I don’t want,) would be welcome.