Last night after dinner, I settled down to arrange my plane flight to Glasgow. It was supposed to be pretty easy; the last time we bought a ticket, we had paid Orbitz a little extra for a previous ticket, for the prerogative of being able to exchange it for another ticket if (as we expected) I hadn’t been cleared for travel by the time of that ticket. In fact, several days before that scheduled flight, Margaret emailed Orbitz customer service to make sure we handled the exchange correctly.
Margaret couldn’t induce the website to offer a path for exchanging a previously-issued ticket, so on August 20 she entered the following query in the Contact Us blank on the Orbitz site:
I made a reservation for my husband to fly from the states to Scotland on Aug 23. When his first attempt at a work visa failed, I cancelled the Aug 23 flight, thinking I could get some credit from that flight toward another, as long as we made the new reservation before Aug 23. Now, however, when I’m ready to make a new reservation, I cannot find the information on line about how to proceed. How can I get some credit (I realize there are fees involved) from the cancelled reservation toward a new (changed) reservation?
Notice that she asked on the 20th, three days before the day of the scheduled flight; we were aware that we had to make our next reservation before the date of the original flight. In a very short while, she got the following response from Orbitz:
Dear Orbitz Customer,
Thank you for contacting Orbitz.
I understand you wish to make a new flight reservation using the credit from a cancelled flight.
The time limitations to use the credits are up to one year [my emphasis]. Upon re-booking, it must be with the same airline, same passenger but you can change the routing.
To make a new flight reservation using the credit, please call Orbitz Customer Service at (888) 656-4546 from the US and (312) 416-0018 from outside the US. Our Customer Service Agents will be happy to help you.
Orbitz – Travel Well
In other words, three days before the original flight, when we were still operating on the understanding that “as long as we made the new reservation before Aug 23” we could exchange the ticket, we were told by an Orbitz employee that we had a full year in which to exchange the canceled ticket.
Returning to the scene last night, I called Orbitz to arrange the exchange. I called, and was referred a couple of times to different customer service specialists. I had spent a half hour on hold when I guessed that someone had lost track of my call, and I hung up and called back. When I called back, I went through the same referral process, and after a few minutes the spokesperson said, “I’m sorry, but you had to rebook before the day of your flight.” I read to her the message from Orbitz saying that we had a year in which to rebook; she responded that “the ticket has no more value,” and although we had paid extra for an exchangeable ticket, and although they had assured us we had a year in which to rebook, we had lost the full price of the ticket.
We went back and forth a couple of times, and I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor wouldn’t budge. She could see that their employee had told us we had a year, but she insisted that it was impossible for them to honor the arrangement he had offered us. In the end, she sent us a $100 voucher for future travel arranged through Orbitz, as “a gesture of goodwill.”
I booked my flight through another agency; it cost a little bit more than it would have to rebook through Orbitz (-$100), but it was worth it to be dealing with a company that hadn’t demonstrated its willingness to renege on their employees’ instructions. I don’t plan on using the voucher; how would I know whether Orbitz would honor it?