Orbitz Leaves My Family Stranded Abroad. Class Action Lawsuit Pending
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- I booked two airline tickets through the on-line travel agency, www.Orbitz.com. The first ticket was for my wife for a return flight from Los Angeles to Shenyang, China at a price of $961.80 for which I received a flight confirmation and it checks correct.
The second ticket is for my elderly mother-in-law, whom I will call Ella Mary Lou for reference purpose. This is for a return flight from Shenyang, China to Los Angeles at a price of $1,030.20 for which I also received a flight confirmation which is correct to how I entered it. The name on the ticket has to match exactly with the passport.
Please note that I am disabled (I am in need of a heart transplant) and I am unable to work. I try to survive on $986.00 monthly disability allowance. My wife is also my caregiver for which she receives an approximate allowance of $612.00 monthly. A little more than a year ago, my 74-year old mother-in-law was granted a Visa to visit the US and since then, my wife and I have tried to put money aside to buy her an air ticket. With only six months left on her Visa, we had to borrowed $1,200 from a friend to add to what we had saved so we could buy the tickets.
It was necessary for my wife to fly over to Shenyang so she could assist her mother during the journey back to Los Angeles as she is unable to travel alone. This included an arrangement for a friend of my wife who is a private nurse for elderly patients in a nursing home to take care of me while she is away, but of course with an agreed equivalent payment to that which my wife already receives. Please bear in mind that my disability allowance alone does not cover my $1,000 a month rent and we have to combine both of our income to pay our rent, utility bills, and if there's any left, some food.
My wife picked up her e-ticket at LAX and flew to Shenyang without any problems on Monday, September 8, 2014. She took advantage of her visit to spend a couple of weeks with her only son before returning on Friday, October 3, 2014 with her mother.
On the return, they went to check-in at Shenyang. Again, there was no problem with my wife's ticket and she submitted her luggage which included both her clothes and that of her mother in the same suitcase. However, when they tried to check my mother-in-law in, Air China refused to allow her to board the plane because of a discrepancy on the e-ticket submitted by Orbitz.com. The name I used to book the ticket was Ella Mary Lou. The name in her passport and Visa is Ella Mary Lou, but the name in the computer at the Air China desk was Ella Lou. Part of her name Mary was not in their computer on the e-ticket.
I received a phone call from China one hour prior to the flight departure. Air China told me that it was a simple fix but it had to be done by the "third party" which is the travel agency who made the booking, Orbitz.com. I had to call them and ask them to resubmit the ticket with the correct name of Ella Mary Lou. Once they resubmit, it would show up within minutes on their computers at Air China and they could then let my mother-in-law board the flight.
With an hour left, I called Orbitz.com and an automated message told me that "our representatives are busy with other callers" with a wait time of 21 minutes. They offered a call-back service which I accepted and exactly 21 minutes later I did get a call-back. I explained to the representative what had happened and what Air China said they needed to do to correct the problem so my wife/mother-in-law could board the plane. The representative confirmed that the name on their files from my original submission was Ella Mary Lou and couldn't understand why Air China only got part of the name. I told him that it was irrelevant whose fault it was and told him that the fix would only take a couple of minutes. Air China told me that all he needs to do is resubmit the information I'd originally provided and once it is in their system, my mother-in-law could board the airplane. I told him there is still 35 minutes left before the flight departure and Air China assured me that my wife and mother-in-law would be allowed to board as soon as the change was made. His immediate response was "I can't do that." I asked him why not? At that point he put me on hold. I thought he was doing as Air China had requested. I had told him there is still 35 minutes left and I was kept on hold for 45 minutes. He came back 10 minutes after the flight had departed to tell me that I had to cancel the tickets - for which they will charge a cancellation fee of $106 per ticket and I would have to purchase new tickets.
I was very perturbed as the error clearly occurred between Air China and Orbitz.com. Air China had asked for Orbitz.com to resubmit the information and everything would have been okay, but Orbitz.com absolutely refused to do this. On top of that, they wanted to cancel the tickets and charge me a total of $212 for something which is not my fault whatsoever. On top of that, the cost of new tickets for my wife and mother-in-law had increased by $565 each, not forgetting that my wife has already used a portion of her ticket to fly to Shenyang and still had the return portion to use. I tried to explain my financial position and told him that I felt Orbitz.com should honor the price I'd already paid and if new tickets were necessary, that they should transfer the refund from the canceled tickets to purchase the new tickets.
"We can't do that," he responded. It will take a minimum of 28 days to refund the money into my bank account. $1030.20 less $106 cancellation fee for my mother-in-law's ticket and $960.80 less $106 cancellation fee AND less the portion of the flight my wife has already used to fly to Shenyang which they need to calculate. I repeated that I did not want the tickets canceled, I simply wanted the tickets fixed by following the instruction given by Air China. I could not afford to buy new tickets. He told me I had two options. My family would have to remain in China until I could afford to buy the new tickets or I could call Air China and resolve the issue through them.
I called Air China. Again, they told me that the change can only be made by "the third party". I am worried because the flight has now departed leaving my wife and mother-in-law stranded at Shenyang airport. Air China assured me that they would honor the tickets and get my wife and mother-in-law on the next flight, but Orbitz.com needs to resubmit the information into their computers first.
I called Orbitz.com. This time, the "all representatives are busy" told me there is a wait time of 92 minutes. I took the call-back option, noted the time and exactly 92 minutes later the phone rang. This time I had a different representative and had to explain everything all over yet again. She confirmed that the name I submitted was correct and added that there is nothing they can do about it. She said that because my wife and mother-in-law never boarded the aircraft they are listed as a "no-show" and no refund would be due. I argued that they did show up, are still at the airport but were not allowed to board until Orbitz.com corrected the name in the computer, that Air China promised to honor the tickets and allow them to board the next flight as soon as Orbitz.com made the correction. Her response was "I can't do that." I pointed out that the error was made by them and it's their responsibility to correct it. She then told me she would call Air China and put me on hold.
I waited about 30 minutes before she came back and simply said "you need to speak with a supervisor. Hold while I connect you." After that she came back about every 15 to 20 minutes to tell me to continue holding, she was still "trying" to connect me to a supervisor. This went on for an astounding 7 hours and 45 minutes, but I was determined not to hang up. Unfortunately, the batteries on my cordless telephone died and I had no choice but to wait another six hours for the batteries to recharge.
Rest is critical for my heart condition but I was unable to get any. My next call to Orbitz.com was just after 8 a.m. and after the familiar "All representatives are busy with other customers" I was informed that the wait time would be 74 minutes. True to form, exactly 74 minutes later a different representative called me back. I had to explain everything all over again and he told me he would transfer me to a supervisor. Two minutes later a different person came on and I explained the problem to him. He told me that he had all the information on the computer in front of him and they'd already told me what to do. The "third party" could only correct the information. This remark left me very confused and I said "you are the third party. I booked the ticket through you and you need to make the necessary changes." He told me that I did not book the ticket through them. I had booked it through Orbitz.com and they had to correct it. I said that I am talking to Orbitz.com and he replied "No, sir, you're not. This is Air China office." Orbitz.com had transferred me to Air China.
I redialed Orbitz.com, this time with a "next in line" wait time of 83 minutes. When I finally got someone to answer I requested to speak to the manager. I was put on hold. Every 15 to 20 minutes he came back and told me that the manager would be with me shortly and put me back on hold. 6 hours and 17 minutes later, another male came on claiming to be the manager. I have my doubts that this was the manager but had to go with it. The first thing he told me is that he's already canceled the tickets. I told him I did not want the tickets canceled, I wanted the simple correction made by resubmitting to Air China. He refused to do that and said again he's canceled the tickets and I would get a refund after 21 days, less the cancellation fees, less the value of the portion of the ticket my wife had already used once they figured out how much that would be.
I explained my situation and that I could not afford to buy new tickets, which were now $565 more than what I had paid for them (total is $3,190 in addition to the $1,991.00 I've already paid). All that Air China wanted Orbitz.com to do was to resubmit the ticket information. He refused, saying he couldn't do that and if I didn't have the money to buy new tickets, they would have to stay in China until I could, exactly the same as what one of the reps had told me. He then tried to blame me for the error, saying I didn't put in the correct information. I responded by pointing out that I have the flight confirmation which does show the correct name and three of their reps prior to him had confirmed the information I submitted was correct.
I had been very patient up to this point, but I was now getting severe chest pains and worried I was going to end up in hospital. I asked him that if the situation were reversed and it was his family stranded abroad at the fault of the travel agent, what would his reaction be? Surprisingly, he told me that he'd expect the travel agent to fix the problem and make it right immediately. I then said, "Why don't you do the right thing, then and make it right." He replied. "It is what it is."
I then told him that tonight he might sleep well, but soon, I am about to become his worst nightmare as I will make sure this gets into the media for a start, and that I will be taking legal action against Orbitz.com. He did not answer and I thought he'd hung up on me. "Hello?" no answer. "Are you still there?" He finally said "yes, I'm still here." "Good, then you've heard what I just said."
My wife and mother-in-law remained at the airport for 10 hours before getting a taxi back to their own town taking a taxi back to the town they were staying more than 70 miles away. On October 4, 2014, she had to take a taxi back to collect their luggage again because it had already been sent to the aircraft the previous day. I now have to figure a way to get my wife and mother-in-law back home.
They were supposed to be back for a special double birthday celebration (my sister, who had specifically flown up from South America and myself) which would have been the first time we have been together for our birthday's in 42 years. Instead, I spent the entire time worried about my wife and on the telephone with Orbitz.com.
I spent a total of 14 hours 17 minutes left on hold and a total time of 34 minutes talking to the reps and manager.
I have already began proceedings to bring a class action lawsuit against Orbitz.com and anyone interested in being included should contact me as soon as possible. Can you imagine how much they are putting in their pockets with their illegal scams? It's time this is bought to a stop.