Out There

avoid using travelocity for international flights

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 22, 2010

Letter to Travelocity

Hello.  My family is planning our first trip to Europe.  We are Alaska residents, and the only airline that flies direct from Alaska to Europe is Condor, flying from Anchorage to Frankfurt seasonally.  After several hours of research using different dates (and comparing paying $$ to fly via lower 48 vs miles vs paying $$ to fly Condor direct), I determined the best deal was to fly Condor leaving ANC on 7/4 to FRA, returning on 7/20.  Travelocity had a quoted average price of $722 per person based on 2 adults and a reduced child fare (4-year old).

When I went to buy the ticket, every time on the FINAL screen after I put in credit card information it would say something to the effect of “sorry, one or more of your flights has sold out.”  This happened several times over a few different days, and finally I called you about a week ago (late January?).  The person listened and said if we had the same problem by phone he could waive the booking fee of $25 per person.

We went through all the same steps for the same flights and then he had the same problem.  He said it must have just sold out and if we wait 30 to 60 minutes the system would update itself and it would no longer be available on the website.  However, it had been giving me that error message for several days already at that point.  I waited several hours and then tried again and the flight was still available.  I tried again and got the same message.   I finally decided to fly on different dates even though they were more expensive just so we could get the tickets because my parents needed to know when we would be there.  After a few more hours of research, I settled on 6/29 to 7/15, again ANC-FRA.  Same problem happened at the end.  So I tried several other dates like 7/6 to 720, 7/8 to 7/22, 7/1 to 7/15, and always it says the same thing at the very end.  Obviously this is very time consuming and frustrating.

I called Travelocity back again at some point and got a person who wasn’t able or interested in listening to the problem I was having online.  She was supremely confident that we wouldn’t have that problem over the phone.  She tried one of the date ranges (I think 6/29 to 7/15) that involved a flight from ANC-Fairbanks and then Fairbanks to FRA.  When it failed for her too, she thought using a different flight on the return trip from Fairbanks to ANC would fix the problem.  I kept trying to correct her and tell her I’d tried this many times and that the domestic (Alaska airlines) flight was NOT the problem.  She was a terrible listener.  I finally couldn’t tell her anything and practically had to hang up on her.  She was obviously reluctant to lose the sale since she already had my credit card info and everything.

I called back about 30 to 60 minutes later and just asked the first person I talked to if I could speak with a supervisor.  They wanted to know why, I explained the technical problem I was having and that I needed to talk to someone who had some authority.  I was hoping that if the tickets don’t exist that they could at least have them removed from the system.  You know, only show for sale the tickets that actually exist.  I did get transferred after a while to a guy who said he was a supervisor (Dan?), and he took the flight information I wanted, then said he had confirmed availability in the system and it wasn’t going to be a problem to book these tickets (this is what all the previous people I talked to by phone said too) and transferred me to a regular booking agent, over my polite protests.  That person finished taking all the information for the booking, had the exact same problem, and apologized and said he didn’t know why it was happening and basically could do nothing for me.

So then I went back to condor.com to buy direct from them (their listed prices are much higher than travelocity’s).  I found the best dates on their site, then just out of curiousity checked the same itinerary on Travelocity to compare.  By the way, most online travel sites didn’t have much in the way of anything for Condor’s Alaska-FRA flights, only Travelocity.  Maybe they’ve had similar problems and pulled the plug?  Anyway, you guys had the same flight for $200 less for our party of 3.  I thought I would try, what would it hurt to spend 10 more minutes just in case it worked.  And it went through!  This was around 9 am on 2/6, Alaska standard time.  So I had tickets, spending $3,047.60 to fly from 7/4 to 7/18 when I wanted to spend $2,166 on the 7/4 to 7/20 itinerary (which is still listed as of today 2/7 as available for a party of 3).

Now the final detail is that we have an infant who will be 10 months of age at the time of travel.  Travelocity’s site says that for children under 2 yoa, we have to contact the airline separately to arrange for their ticket at a reduced rate as a lap infant.  I called Condor today (2/7) at around noon Alaska time regarding this.  They asked for my booking number, which I apparently don’t have.   They took my 6-digit code that I’ll use to check in, found my reservation, and said it has not been finalized or confirmed, and therefore I cannot add an infant to it yet.

Why hasn’t it been confirmed??  I’ve paid you guys $900 more than I should have to, endured your poor phone customer service, and spent about 10 to 14 hours on this project.  All you have to do is take my money and buy me the tickets, and you’ve failed even at this.  I’ve used you guys a lot over the years for rental cars and flights and hotels, but this has been a horrible experience.  Maybe the takeaway lesson is your site comes up short for international stuff.  I know I’m probably supposed to call things like this in, not email, but after all the calls I’ve made I have zero confidence that I would communicate all this clearly, nor that the person I get randomly assigned to will be able to take all this in and resolve it correctly.

So how are you going to compensate me for the pain in the neck that this has been?  Two things at minimum:

1.  Finalize the booking or cancel everything and refund my money.  Then I can set about adding my lap infant direct through Condor, or in the case of a refund starting a new itinerary with them directly.

2.  If you finalize the booking, then credit me for the difference between the advertised price of $2,166 and the price I paid $3,047.60, a difference of $881.  OR AT LEAST have the itineraries that don’t actually exist removed from your website.

(Is it even legal to have all those bogus prices listed?  Bait and switch?)

You can reach me at schneidler@yahoo.com or my land line is 907-477-xxxx.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.  Sincerely,

Peter Schneidler

Kasigluk, AK

Sent via online email form at 2:05 pm on 2/7/10. Travelocity reference number 100208-000014.  And I should have an email acknowledgement within 30 minutes.

——————————————————————— (end of letter I sent via online email form)

Never got that email acknowledgement nor anything else from them.  I checked once or twice and it appeared that they hadn’t charged my credit card either.  Finally today (2/11) I checked and USAA shows they charged me $3,078, not the $3,046 as promised.  In addition, there is another $3,046 that is PENDING on the card, all of these with a 2/6 date.  Not a big deal right now because I don’t use that card, but it is eating up my credit limit on that card and is annoying and sloppy.  I called Condor and attempted to add the infant to our reservation (now that it seems like it must be finalized) but they said Travelocity has to do it.  Called Travelocity, spent some time on hold, got a guy (in India?) who took my info and put me on hold 3 times now, with an average hold time of 5 or 10 minutes each time (I’m still on hold as I type this).  He first asked a supervisor and checked his system and is now calling Condor directly to find out how much to charge me for the infant.  LESSON – BOOK DIRECT WITH THE AIRLINE NEXT TIME I FLY INTERNATIONALLY!!!!  Especially if the cost is close.

After 3 more holds, some as long as 10 minutes, he came on and said it would cost $128 and change.  I said fine and he put me on hold again to confirm the reservation.  I’m still on hold, this time for like 15-20 minutes and counting.  This call has taken over an hour so far, I’d say.  To add a lap infant ticket to my reservation.  OK, I’m done with that call at 3:07 pm.  The guy came on and said they can’t do it.  They added the name and put a note on it to the airline, but I have to call them to get it ticketed, and reference confirmation # 3T—-.   I told him I’ve already called them twice and they said they couldn’t do it, Travelocity has to.  He said yes, they’ve added the name, but now Condor must finalize the booking.  Aiyaiyaiyaiyai!

I called Condor at the number he gave, it is in CST and they are closed as of 9 minutes prior to my call.  Called the other number and learned it is in Germany.  Because I lack a Condor booking number and only have the 6-digit confirmation code, that requires a supervisor to look it up and find it, and supervisors in Germany apparently don’t work at 1 am.  Will try again tomorrow, or even tonight after 10 pm.

I called Condor at 7:15 am on 2/12, at the CST number.  Spoke with a woman who said Travelocity must charge me, not Condor.  She looked up the reservation and found Jonathan on there, but saw he isn’t completely booked.  Said she will call them and call me back, but they have to be the ones to charge me for the lap infant.  Holy cow.  Waiting for her call back.

Got a call from her (Gabi) that she couldn’t reach Travelocity due to crazy weather on the east coast monopolizing travelocity’s phone lines.  Said she will try again on Monday, thinks we’ll have it done then or Tuesday.  Said not to worry, we have time.  She said they have to call their help desk, she has had this happen with them before.  Will call me back Monday or Tuesday.

She called me on Tuesday I believe and said she was on hold for an hour or more with Travelocity, and the conclusion is they are supposed to call me, they have my number, and they are to call me and they’ll book the ticket for Jonathan.  It’s now Thursday and no call from Travelocity, but this morning I did get an email from them, a “travel reservation confirmation” that lists FOUR passengers.  Hooray!  It gives a total price of $3,175.80, and then a breakdown of:  “Your credit card statement may show separate airline charges to each passenger as listed: PETER SCHNEIDLER $1,079.20, TAMMY SCHNEIDLER $1,079.20, JONATHAN SCHNEIDLER $1,079.20 CLAIRE SCHNEIDLER $889.20” which of course doesn’t add up to $3,175.80.  I’ll check my credit card and see what they are charging it.  Previously they quoted me $3,047.60, so this appears to be a price of about $130 for Jonathan.  Just checked our credit card looks like they charged us a total of $3,163.27.  Hmmm, whatever.  Charge for Jonathan is actually $85.20, the rest is foreign transaction charges.   I called Condor just now and got disconnected twice, but third times the charm and I talked to a guy who looked up our reservation and said he sees all 4 of us including Jonathan, it’s all taken care of and ready to go.  Hooray!!!

This was a really bad customer service experience.  But I’ve had others recently (Electrolux, Experian) that somehow managed to be worse.  I’ll try and blog on those others soon.  Facebook has an “avoid travelocity” page that I had to join after this experience.  : – )