Why is this even legal?
LANCASTER, CALIFORNIA -- My mother had a hip replacement, in Illinois. I live in southern California. I bought a round-trip ticket on an American Airlines flight, THROUGH ORBITZ.COM, from Los Angeles to St. Louis, knowing well at the time of purchase that I might need to change the date on which I used it.
Before buying the ticket, I carefully reviewed the Orbitz Terms and Conditions Web page, and even went so far as to send an email to their customer service department asking them to verify via return email that the ticket I was purchasing could be applied as a credit should I need to change the travel dates. I received a return email - which I still have - verifying for me that I would, in fact, be able to do so. So I bought the ticket.
I did not use the ticket on the original travel dates, and upon contacting Orbitz to book a new flight and use the credit, I was told that since I hadn't "cancelled" the ticket by calling Orbitz or the airline, I had forfeited it entirely. The agent said it "varied from airline to airline" as to whether they would honor credits for tickets that had not been officially "cancelled" anywhere. The fact that Orbitz could not change my ticket for credit was specifically due, that first Orbitz agent said, to an American Airlines policy, not Orbitz's.
I then called American Airlines, only to be told by the AA agent that they would not be able to honor the ticket because it was an Orbitz policy that prevented doing so. I called Orbitz AGAIN, explained the situation, and the female agent (who, while polite enough, was impossible to understand because of a heavy accent) said she would call AA herself and intervene. She seemed particularly interested in the name of the AA agent that had told me the Orbitz policy prevented a reissue, and reiterated several times that if I'd had the AA agent's name, it would have helped the situation. (Why that is an issue, I'm still not sure, but be assured that I'll never again forget to get that information.)
So the Orbitz agent put me on hold, came back some time later to get from me the flight information for the new AA flights I wanted to book, and put me on hold again. After another long wait, she came back on and said she'd nearly had the ticket booked but the AA agent had hung up on her, as if that was some sort of explanation - for what, I don't know. And so I said, "Well, okay. So call AA back then. I'll wait."
Wait I did, even longer this time, only to have her finally return and say a NEW AA agent was unwilling to make the change, and did I want to talk to directly to AA? Furious, I then asked to speak to the Orbitz woman's supervisor and got a rude, infuriating jerk named Marcella, who essentially blew me off. I asked him to a) show me specifically on the Orbitz Terms and Conditions page where ANY of this business of, depending on the airline, being required to "cancel" a flight appeared (it did not; nothing even close); and b) to consider what it must be like to be in my shoes and hear first, from Orbitz, that the problem was an AA policy, then, from AA, that it was an Orbitz policy, and THEN that the rebooking had "almost" taken place only to be abruptly ended by someone at AA mysteriously hanging up on the Orbitz agent trying to handle my problem.
My complaint, specifically, is this: Why is this sort of B.S. even legal? If, when buying a ticket on Orbitz.com, it "varies from airline to airline" as to whether or not a credit will be issued for an unused ticket, depending on whether either either Orbitz OR the airline has been contacted by the ticket buyer to cancel the original travel dates, then why the hell doesn't it SAY THAT someplace obvious when you're buying a damned ticket? In my case, I had gone to some lengths - verifying the Orbitz Terms and Conditions, requesting an email verification - to be certain that the ticket would be reusable because the situation involved my mother and her post-surgery condition. Had I known I needed to actually "cancel" the ticket, by phone, email or any other means, I most certainly would have done so. I was certainly prepared to pay the $100+ in charges to change the ticket - why would I not have done whatever formal "cancellation" notification was required?
Moreover, I had a very similar experience in 2006 - again due to my elderly mother's health - involving Orbitz and an Alaska Airlines ticket that I didn't use and didn't do anything to formally "cancel," and the credit was accepted on a rebooking by Alaska Airlines without issue.
So. Why is this sort of ambiguity permitted? Why is Orbitz not required by law to clearly state in easily locatable terms that the circumstances surrounding a ticket's exchangeability (if there is such a word) vary SIGNIFICANTLY from airline to airline? And why a gray area in whether or not an exchange goes forward, depending on which airline agent or which Orbitz agent the latter's customer-service-line lottery decides will be dealing with you?
This should be a simple matter of stating basic contract terms on the Orbitz Web page. Among the first rude comments I heard from that Orbitz jerk Marcella was that I should look at my bank statement and see that Orbitz hadn't sold me the ticket - that the ticket charges came from American Airlines, not Orbitz. Why was he so quick to want to point THAT out?
This whole thing has been beyond unacceptable and I cannot believe there aren't regulations somewhere that would prevent this sort of robbery. I am out $401.69 and seemingly have no recourse, anywhere. I never asked for a refund, only a rebooking in the EXACT same dollar amount on AA, and was fully prepared to pay the usurious change fees without question.
Is there NO way to make the damned airline ticket-buying process a transparent, fair and legal one on Orbitz.com?