Orbitz.com - Why you should NEVER use Orbitz
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Let's call this post, how Orbitz is tried to steal $3600 from us.
My wife booked a trip for herself and our 4 year old son to Pittsburgh for my wife's grandmother's 90th surprise party. Unfortunately, the day before leaving our son developed a high fever (105 degrees). My wife called and "postponed" the trip. She was told she would be subject to a change fee ($360 total... okay, that's fair) and that all she had to do to use the "credit" was to re-book the travel on the same airlines with the same passenger names.
She received a cancellation e-mail that contained no specific instructions on how travel was to be rebooked, only that she now had a credit for the cost of travel minus the "change fees".
She rebooked travel on Orbitz.com and was careful to choose the exact same airlines (since it was a multiple airline flight) and even made sure to do her stops through the exact same cities.
Much to our surprise, 2 days later we weren't charged "the difference in fares minus the change fees", but, we were charged for a whole new fare.. an additional $3600.
We called customer service, ultimately getting to a supervisor who offered 0 help, but only tried to show us how hidden within the site (it took several clicks to get to this, NOT within the terms of service) that in order to use travel credit, you have to call a specific number and tell them you want to use your credit.. you can't just book on the same airline, with the same passengers as she was told on the phone when she cancelled.
After getting off the phone with this supervisor I wrote a letter to the CEO and head of customer service. Within several hours I received a phone call and thought the obvious flaw in their system would be resolved.
I was told that their hands were tied and there was nothing they could do.
WHAT?! They try to explain to me that this is all a "financial slight of hand" and even though my credit card statements say Orbitz and my confirmation came from Orbitz and I booked tickets through Orbitz, Orbtiz really isn't involved in the process and there is nothing they can do. I explained to them that I was already disputing the charge through American Express (the American Express representative was so enraged by the story he suggested a class action lawsuit against Orbitz for this behavior). Still, their answer was the same... the "best" they could offer was to offer a "credit" for the $360 change fees towards future travel (as if I would EVER use that website to book anything again). However, the $3600... well, too bad... too sad... it will stay as a "travel credit" on our account for a year good only towards the travel of the same 2 people on the same airline to the same city, for which we already re-booked travel.
Lesson learned. You want to book a flight. Go straight to the source.. don't waste your time on "travel sites", because God forbid you need their help in resolving a simple problem they act as if you are trying to move mountains.
Luckily, our story has a happy ending. We called United Airlines directly (since Orbitz was trying to tell us that their hands were tied) and after I explained the story to a horrified United Rep, they explained it would have been very easy for Orbitz to call them directly and solve the problem. It took about 15 minutes (as we had to backtrack to find all the reservation information in their system which is slightly different from the stuff Orbitz's sends), but the representative was able to look up all the flights and issue a credit for the first flight. They told us that Orbitz didn't even have the right to charge us the "change fee" since United Airlines policy is that change fees are waived for illness. However, it seems Orbtiz would rather spend hours on the phone with me explaining why they couldn't help me, than take 10 minutes to call United directly and get it resolved. I guess whatever commission they were going to make on that flight was more important than keeping a customer. Well.. now they lost both forever!
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