Why won’t Expedia honor its “Best Price Guarantee”?


When Shiva Ramnarine wanted to go to London, he purchased three tickets for his family through Expedia. After purchasing the tickets he continued searching for cheaper tickets for the same trip. And his search was successful.

As he had found cheaper tickets, he thought he would apply for a refund of the difference in the fares, from Expedia under its Best Price Guarantee.

But Expedia refused to give a refund, so now Ramnarine wants our assistance in getting it to honor its Best Price Guarantee. But can we help?

Ramnarine’s story is reminder to check and understand the terms of any price guarantee. It’s also a study of what not to do once you have booked a flight — namely, to keep on searching for a cheaper flight. And of course, the same is true for a hotel stay or car rental.

I’ll let Ramnarine explain how it all started.

“On the 17th March 2017 I booked three plane tickets from New York to London for me and my family on Expedia at a cost of $2,246,” he told us.

So far, so good.

“I know I shouldn’t have continued looking for cheaper flights afterward but I did and on 18 March 2017 I found the same flight on Vayama for $2,179.”

You’re right; you shouldn’t have done that.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Because of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 24-hour reservation requirement, you can cancel your flight for free within 24 hours of booking. So why not continue looking?

Well, it isn’t as straightforward as that. The DOT guidance allows airlines to choose to either give a free cancellation within the first 24 hours or to allow a reservation to be held at the quoted fare for 24 hours.

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You therefore need to make sure you know which policy the airline has chosen. And even if the airline does allow cancellation within 24 hours, you need to make sure you don’t forget to cancel within that period.

My advice is to do your searching before you book, not afterwards. That way you don’t have to worry about which policy applies or whether you are canceling in time.

“I immediately filled out a Best Price Guarantee Claim, as it was less than the 24 hours required to make a claim.” Ramnarine explained. “I filled out all the required information including the screenshot of the cheaper fare.”

Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee means that if you find a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise or activity within 24 hours of booking, Expedia will refund the difference and give you a $50 coupon for future travel.

Ramnarine received an automated response to his claim, stating that he would receive a response within 72 hours. He did not. In fact a whole week passed without a reply, so he chased Expedia for a response.

“They did respond and said that they checked and unfortunately I did not make my claim in time, which I did, and that the current fare on Vayama was now higher and that nothing could be done.” Rammarien explains.

As Ramnarine said, he had made the claim within 24 hours. “Obviously they didn’t check when I made the first claim and delayed it to the point where the fare went up enough.”


To be fair to Expedia, both of those things can’t be true. If it hadn’t checked when he made the first claim, then how would it know how long to delay before responding? Also, there wasn’t any evidence that it did delay responding just to allow the price to go up — and I confess I doubt Expedia would do that.

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Ramnarine wrote back to Expedia, and again his claim was rejected, but this time for a different reason:

”We checked the screenshot and found that it does not show the cabin class. The screenshot must show the complete details of the reservation including the cancellation and change policy, cabin class, and number of passengers. Thus, we emulated the same exact reservation at “www.vayama.com” for your travel dates and found that the current rate offered was USD2,635.65. Due to this, we are unable to process your claim.”

I cannot recommend Ramnarine’s response to Expedia:

“I submitted a claim that day and all classes are economy unless you think Vayama was placing me on the wing outside!”

I can understand his frustration but being sarcastic, even just a little, won’t help your case.

In this case, however, sarcasm didn’t put Expedia off from replying:

”Our Price Guarantee policy only applies when the lower rate is available for booking at the time you contact us. Your screenshot lacks important information. However, we emulated the same exact reservation for your travel dates and the current rate offered was higher than what you paid.

The price not being lower on the competitor site means the Price Guarantee does not apply in this case, and we are confident that the original Expedia price offers you the best value for your trip.”

It was at this point that Ramnarine contacted us to see if our advocates could help him get a refund. One of our advocates wrote to Expedia. It looked again at the case and told both Ramnarine and our advocate yet another reason why the Best Price Guarantee did not apply:

I reviewed the screenshot you initially provided on March 18, 2017 and confirmed the flights do not match what you reserved in your original itinerary. Your flight departing London Heathrow Airport is scheduled for 5:30pm. The flight you found on Vayama.com departing from London Heathrow Airport is scheduled for 2:00pm. For this reason, we are unable to approve your Best Price Guarantee request and process a refund for the difference.

Ooops!

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That explains why Ramnarine was not entitled to a refund under the Best Price Guarantee: He had found similar, but not identical flights.

On our forums we see cases of companies trying to find any exclusions or reasons to avoid paying under such guarantees. In this case, however, Expedia was right to deny the claim. If it didn’t require like-for-like bookings on something as fundamental as the same flight, it would often be paying out — and that would mean prices would increase for consumers to cover the cost.

Because of this, we could not get Ramnarine his $67 refund, and this is filed under “Case Dismissed.”


John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat.

  • Reporter1

    $67, seriously? It seems he wasted more than $67 worth of his time to get a refund that he clearly wasn’t entitled to. Maybe he was really after that $50 coupon for future travel. Sigh. Now I’m being sarcastic.

  • Jeff W.

    The variety of responses from Expedia are somewhat perplexing, but all probably valid. Each person looking at the request found a single item to reject the claim and did not look any further.

    “I submitted a claim that day and all classes are economy…” There is more than one fare class in economy and if you did not provide that detailed information, the claim would be rejected. The person reviewing the claim probably did not even notice the difference in flight times, but probably would have noticed if eventually. No need to review everything that is wrong with a claim. One reason is enough to reject it.

    Somewhat surprised that no one at Elliot noticed this before asking Expedia to intervene. It would have been somewhat obvious if there was a proper screenshot that there was a different flight number.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. An awful lot of trouble for 67 bucks.

    There was a lot to read through here, but in the end it’s very obvious why he wasn’t entitled to that refund:

    1. He clearly doesn’t understand that there are multiple fare classes in “economy”. Since he didn’t indicate what fare class the lower-priced ticket was, there’s no way to know if they were the same.

    2. The fare class didn’t even matter — It wasn’t even the same flight! It was at a different time. Anyone who flies frequently can tell you that fares can vary by hundreds of dollars just by changing the time of day of the flight.

    All the rest is just noise.

  • AAGK

    I disagree with the advocates here. I do think these best price guarantees are routinely dismissed and delayed unfairly. A screenshot of a publicly available cheaper price should be all that is necessary to refund the difference. Airlines and OTAs engage in price fixing that goes beyond supply and demand and borders on violating antitrust laws.

    The best price guarantee is very comforting to a consumer who chooses to forgo a travel agent and self-book, which is why OTAs exist. Since these guarantees have proven meaningless, then they can no longer be considered mere puffery and seem fraudulent. I would love to hear from someone who filed a successful claim. I filed one and it was denied for the most absurd reason- and I did read all the rules. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, the relevant gov. agency should look into these dubious promises.

  • AAGK

    In this case, the guy may have been off base, but most travelers do not know about fare classes, etc. Most consumers know first class or coach. Refundable or nonrefundable. If an OTA books all pax into fare class X, for ex, which is a unique booking pre-arranged with the airline, and unavailable to anyone else, then the best price guarantee would never apply. Why not say, the best price guarantee does not apply to your ticket?

  • AAGK

    To everyone who makes fun of the $67, perhaps consider it this way… for $67 I could have a nice lunch with a glass of wine; I could buy paper towels, tissues and cereal; I could have 6 Starbucks coffees for free. So long as the travel industry nickel and dimes the consumer (See, that case with the pax charged $5 for a blanket) then there is no shame in nickel and diming right back.

  • Annie M

    How did he not realize he wasn’t making an apples to apples comparison?

  • Rebecca

    All that noise to find out he was asking for a price match on a completely different flight. Although it definitely had the effect of explaining why it’s such a fruitless endeavor to worry about such a small amount when you’re planning a vacation. Get caught up in minutiae and it’s easy to miss the big picture. Who wants to miss a vacation to London?

  • BubbaJoe123

    I’ve filed multiple successful claims, with Expedia, Orbitz, Hyatt, and Marriott.

    In this case, did you miss the part about the better price being for an entirely different flight?

  • Michael__K

    Actually, Expedia’s terms (and their first reply) clearly refer to “cabin class.” Not fare class. And their screen shots would not show either the cabin class or the fare class without clicking to expand the “details” which Expedia hides by default.

    ….the specific airline and cabin class (First, Business, Premium Economy or Coach/Economy)https://www.expedia.com/p/info-other/guarantees

  • Michael__K

    There is more than one fare class in economy, but Expedia’s terms clearly state that the CABIN class is what must be the same. (And of course Expedia hides the cabin class and the fare class on their default screens).

  • AAGK

    I don’t care. The details were too long to read here. This guy may have been wrong. Overall, however, best fare guarantees are rarely honored. I filed a perfect one once and it was denied and I have heard many similar stories.

  • Bill___A

    It is not worth the stress and frustration for $67, that would be in within my “allowable limit” for discrepancies. It is like $22 and change per ticket. To London and back.

  • Rebecca

    No. It says right on that same page, on their checklist:

    “Does the airline’s cabin class, booking code (see Terms & Conditions), and cancellation policy match the flight portion of your Expedia booking?”

    So they bury the fact that the booking code must match. It actually is a requirement, and if you try to fill out the price guarantee form for a flight, it specifically asks if the booking code matches. You have to say that it matches to even proceed with a claim.

  • Michael__K

    No. Whatever “booking code” refers to (and that’s not the terminology airlines normally use for fare class) that phrase is nowhere to be found or defined in Expedia’s full “Terms & Conditions” for their Best Price Guarantee, and that phrase is also nowhere to be found on any Expedia screen when you search for or select flights.

  • BubbaJoe123

    If you think it was reasonable that the letter writer was trying to get a price match for a different flight, then I’m really skeptical of your assertion that your claim was perfect.

  • Rebecca

    It explicitly says it right on the same page. You literally cannot file a price match claim without acknowledging that the booking code is the same. I couldn’t make that up if I tried – go ahead and try to fill out the form. I’m 100% sure it asks this specific question and tells you you can’t file unless the booking code matches. I imagine they use the term “booking code” because it’s unlikely anyone has heard of the term, it isn’t exactly a fare code but is closely related. Here’s it’s definition from Wikipedia:

    “The first character of the fare basis code is always a letter, and will almost always match the booking code.[3] Booking codes are the identifiers used by the airline’s revenue management department to control how many seats can be sold at a particular fare level.”

  • Michael__K

    So then what is “booking code”, where does Expedia display it or define it, and why is it never even referenced in the “Terms & Conditions? ”
    If I try to “fill out the form”, the first thing it asks for is the Expedia Itinerary Number (and whether the lower price is in US Dollars) . Without a valid Itinerary Number you can’t get any further.

  • jdsonice

    Booking with Expedia has always been a painful and horrible experience. In this case I would not have bothered for $67 but I would never book with Expedia. Ever. Their service sucks. I use Costco Travel and their service is fantastic and the people easy to work with. In many instances they have accommodated changes that would normally cost.

  • DChamp56

    Wait. The last reason they gave, was one left at 5:30 and one left at 2:00? As long as they’re on the same day, why would time matter?

  • Rebecca

    It isn’t referenced in the terms & conditions by name. I agree, I found that confusing. The provision they are referring to is “Must be “Apples to Apples” Comparison. The Price Guarantee is available only for exact itinerary matches.” They will come back if the fare code isn’t the same and say it isn’t an “exact itinerary match”.

    Its absolutely disingenuous. I don’t like the way they word it either. When I googled their T&C, I found all sorts of stories of a refund caught on a small hangup, my favorite being a woman complaining that Expedia claimed the cancellation policy was different not due to a difference in text, but because the other site supposedly forgot a comma. I’m not saying it isn’t stupid. I’m just saying that if you go to book a price guarantee claim, good luck even getting them to respond, let alone responding favorably. They specifically include a provision about the fare code, they just word it in a misleading way and then don’t explicitly reference it in the terms they themselves point to. I just don’t think its fair to imply if the fare codes are different, it qualifies. Because it absolutely does not.

  • Michael__K

    The definition of “itinerary” is “a planned route or journey.” So, no, that has nothing to do with fare class or booking code.

    Also, Expedia’s first reply to the customer very specifically refers to “cabin class”. They never bring up “booking code” (whatever that is) at all. Which is doubly ridiculous — are they seriously suggesting that the lower fare the customer found could be a Business fare or a First Class fare? And most of the other stuff they complain is not in the screenshot isn’t even displayed on Expedia’s screens.

    We checked the screenshot and found that it does not show the cabin class. The screenshot must show the complete details of the reservation including the cancellation and change policy, cabin class, and number of passengers

  • cscasi

    Of course, the $117 difference was not for the same flight. It was for a flight that departed at a different time. His first flight left at 5:30 Pm and the second one he found (a different flight with a different flight number) left at 2:00 PM. It needed to be a fare difference for the same flight, booked in the same class for it to have the guarantee apply.

  • cscasi

    Problem appears to be, he looked at a different flight departing the same day but at a different time, to compare it with his original flight. And, we do not know if what he saw was in the same booking class or not.Nonetheless, the guarantee rightfully, did not apply.

  • Michael__K

    We do know that neither Expedia’s “Terms & Conditions”, nor their response to the customer ever mentions “booking class” (or “fare code” etc.). It references cabin class.
    We don’t know if 3 passengers can travel in Business class for $2,635.65??

  • jim6555

    Time matters a lot. An early Friday morning flight from New York to Chicago almost always costs less than an afternoon flight between the same cities on the same date. There is much greater demand for the afternoon flight where passengers are primarily business people heading home for the weekend or tourists starting their weekend vacation. It’s simply supply and demand.

  • MarkKelling

    They will honor their guarantee. But this situation does not match any of the criteria to be matched.
    1. Not the same flight.
    2. Its a different flight.
    3. The flight is not the same one.

  • Rebecca

    Dude. You can make any other argument you want. But the fact is you physically cannot even file a price match claim on the Expedia website unless you verify the “booking code” is the same for both flights. I pasted the definition of booking code, the fact that it’s a seldom used term doesn’t change it’s definition. If you want to disagree, that’s on you. But the fact remains, Expedia considers “apples to apples” comparisons to include booking class. You can’t file a claim unless they match (unless you specifically lie on the form and say the booking code is the same when it’s not). There’s no way around the fact that their own claim form explicitly states exactly what I explained it did.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay, that may be so – but that doesn’t change the fact that it was AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FLIGHT. :-) As I pointed out, the “class” doesn’t even matter considering the lower price he sent them was for a different flight altogether.

  • Michael__K

    Actually, I absolutely can physically file a price match claim without verifying any booking code. I need an “Expedia Itinerary Number” (which I would have to spoof)….
    Nowhere on the submission form does it ask for “booking code”….

    The terms & conditions defines what they mean by apples-to-apples and states that they mean itinerary and cabin class — not “booking code”. You are inventing an extra restriction that Expedia doesn’t even reference themselves in their own rejection letters to this customer.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/caae32d0debf229075570f313bf8df028dc19072abda001f19508950e629878b.jpg

  • BubbaJoe123

    If you think that a 5:30PM flight and a 2PM flight from London to the US are the same product, then try working an almost-full day in London and then catching the 2PM flight back.

  • pauletteb

    I doubt they care. Some customers aren’t worth the trouble, and this would definitely be one of them.

  • Lindabator

    most OTAs use published airfares, not bulk pricing — but a moot point here as it was not an apples to apples situation

  • Lindabator

    booking code refers to the fare breakdowns per cabin — like U, V, S, T, M, B, Y, etc

  • Lindabator

    see above – fares have a letter indicating which price point in coach, econ +, biz etc

  • Lindabator

    correct – if you buy a B fare, and then want to price match the G fare (about 12 price points down), of COURSE they are not going to price match – cabin class does NOT mean coach or first, but the class IN the cabin (one of the 12 or more price points they refer to, otherwise known as booking codes)

  • Lindabator

    since there are over 12 price points in coach, and you do not automatically qualify for a lower one, expecting your $600 full fare to be price matched as the basic nonrefundable nonchangeable $200 one is a ridiculous argument. Which is why they will pricematch the $600 one when IT goes down – not when lower fares just pop up with restrictions your ticket does not have

  • Lindabator

    correct – and so long as it IS apples to apples, they do honor them

  • Lindabator

    that is hilarious! I have gained a TON of clients from Costco — as they even told on guest, they could not assist her with her questions/concerns, because, after all – THEY WEREN’T TRAVEL AGENTS. Buy the 6 lb jars of mayo at Costco – trust travel to a professional

  • Michael__K

    So then why doesn’t Expedia label it that way (much less provide a definition)?

  • Annie M

    Many times they are but the price must be available on the day they want the airline to match. I can’t tell you how many times a client has come to us to match a price and the screen shot was from 2 weeks earlier.

    The price must be available the day the airline receives the request.

  • Annie M

    I routinely get suppliers to honor these as long as the supplier can go in and book it at the same price. Apples to apples and a current date. Too many people sit in these and don’t book and ask for the match days or weeks later. Sometimes the price they saw was for the last ticket available on that date and they decide a day later to buy and the seat is gone.

  • Annie M

    Because less popular flight times cost less. Peak times flights are always more expensive. Try and book a ticket and you’ll see.

  • AAGK

    Completely agree. You work with honorable suppliers and I assume in the travel industry and are exceptional at your job. The best price guarantee lures inexperienced travelers away from travel agents and the process is more complicated and nuanced than the average pax understands. I’m a lawyer and frequent traveler and still do not understand why my best price guarantee claim was denied. I just didn’t feel like fighting about it and wish I used a travel agent for the whole booking.

  • PsyGuy

    Can we just chalk this one up too “Un-Sophisticated Traveler”?

  • PsyGuy

    They wouldn’t care at 100 times the value either. They know their profits are in the masses and not the individual.

  • RightNow9435

    Regarding the comment re not checking for price reductions after one books their car rental or hotel, why not?? I do it all the time. When I book the car rental or hotel room, I never prepay, so I can always cancel if a better rate comes along

  • RightNow9435

    This is what was said near the beginning of this article: ” It’s also a study of what not to do once you have booked a
    flight — namely, to keep on searching for a cheaper flight. And of
    course, the same is true for a hotel stay or car rental.”

    So, yes, this case is a flight, but they also said the same principle applies to a hotel or car rental….which would be true as long as one has not repaid for their hotel or car.

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