Someone called and canceled this traveler’s flight — from her phone


Nina McGouldrick claims she never called to cancel her flight. But the phone records suggest she did.

Her story is a cautionary tale about using technology to book travel and sadly, a case we can’t do a whole lot about. The trouble began when she called American Airlines to check on an upcoming itinerary.

“It said the reservation was canceled,” she says. “I called Hopper, the app I initially booked through, and they called American Airlines for me. American Airlines told them that I made a call on Mar. 31 to cancel the flight. This was not true, and Hopper said they would not refund my flight.”

That’s right, American Airlines claims she — or someone using her phone — called to cancel her flight.

So here’s where it gets complicated. Although McGouldrick claims she didn’t make the call, when we reached out to American Airlines, they responded with a record showing the phone number from which the call canceling the flight originated—McGouldrick’s phone number.

The confusion apparently all began when she originally used Hopper to book her flight and somehow a double-booking occurred. She contacted Hopper and they canceled one of those reservations. And at some point, the other reservation was canceled as well. McGouldrick says she didn’t do it, and she emailed Hopper. Hopper also denied making the cancellation.

“Unfortunately, as this booking wasn’t originally canceled on our end and was canceled directly through the airline, we have no control over who called in about this booking.”


Was this a problem with the app — or with the user? We may never know exactly what happened. One theory is that there was confusion about which was the “extra” booking, and somehow both bookings were canceled.

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At least American refunded the fare she originally paid, but she still ended up paying for a much more costly ticket to replace the one that was canceled. There’s an important lesson here for other travelers.

Smartphone apps have revolutionized travel. They’ve made it possible to easily score great deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars from the palm of your hand. My phone is full of them, including Hopper, which keeps track of the rise and fall of airfare prices to a place that interests you, then alerts you when the time is right to buy.

While McGouldrick had a different experience, it saved me a bunch of money on a flight to Rio de Janeiro. But as helpful and handy as all the new apps can be, using them adds a layer of complexity to your reservation. And an additional burden of responsibility on the user not to let the ease of use make you sloppy in your travel planning. It’s important to keep careful track of what you’ve booked, and how you’ve booked it.

There are actually apps that will help with that too, like Google’s Trip. If you use Gmail, it automatically identifies those related to travel planning and arranges them into a trip itinerary. Yeah, it’s both cool and a little creepy. Trip-it is another app that will do the same thing, but you must manually forward your travel emails to the app’s website.

But whatever tools you use, you still need to pay close attention to your planning, so that a cost-saving tool doesn’t become a costly one.

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We must file this one under Case Dismissed.

Should American offer McGouldrick a free ticket?

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Dale Irvin

Dale Irvin is a semi-retired writer and editor, now living in south Florida after three years roaming around North America in an RV. You can read about those adventures at fabulousfifthwheel.com.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I find Kayak’s itinerary creation works very well. Just forward your confirmations to trips@kayak.com, after you set up an account with them.

  • LeeAnneClark

    The Hopper app sounds like a great way to keep track of rising/falling prices…but why on earth would you book your trip through them?

    I never never never book my flights through anything other than the directly with the airline. I have read too many horror stories in here about all the finger-pointing that takes place when a problem arises and you have a middle-man. By booking straight with the airline, you can work directly with them should a problem arise – no opportunity for them to foist you off on your OTA, who will then point back to the airline, resulting in nobody taking responsibility or helping you.

    I use Kayak all the time…I find the flight and fare I want, then go book with the airline. Doing anything else is just asking for trouble. I’ve never seen a situation in which I could get a better deal by booking through a third party.

  • Bill___A

    With reference to the caller id, that is not proof that someone called. Many phone lines allow any phone number to be “sent” as the calling line id, whether you own the number or not. This is a useful feature when your office phone is forwarding a call to you as it allows you to see the caller’s number even though it is routed from your office phone, but if someone shows me a call record, that is not, in this day and age, a proof. However, something else likely happened in this case…

  • James

    IT is unfortunately easy for someone to report a different phone number than the one they use (we see this all the time with scam calls.) So I would not give credence to “the call came from X’s number.” without a recording of the voice to cancel the ticket.

  • Travelnut

    TripIt does automatically create an itinerary based on emails you receive; you don’t need to forward them. I know because sometimes I have to delete itineraries it created that I didn’t really need to keep track of. It’s not perfect – for example, if there is a schedule change it gets confused and enters multiple departure/arrival times, but it’s still pretty efficient.

  • AJPeabody

    What possible scam could involve faking someone’s cell phone number in order to cancel a ticket? There is no profit in it and a faker would need to know the real flyer’s cell number and reservation. Preposterous.

  • Kerr

    Definitely no profit involved. All it would be for is harassment and/or a bad practical joke.

  • James

    I take it you have never been stalked.

  • jsn55

    All the technology, all the bells and whistles, all the apps, all are great fun. Enjoy them. When you want to book travel, use a computer … one with a screen large enough so you can see the whole thing … or call the travel provider. Read everything before you hit the ‘buy’ button; know what you’re purchasing.

    Don’t book travel on some app that touts the cheapest everything. An online booking agency will sell you flights with connections on separate airlines. You’ll get a cheap price. You don’t know that when the first flight is late, you miss your connection and there’s nobody to help you. Book directly with the travel provider so you have some support in case of problems.

  • michael anthony

    EXCELLENT POINT! All parties failed to catch this and it’s becoming more widespread. Now, you get international sales calls with the number showing your area code and a phone number close to yours.

    I’d go back and take another look at this case. They can’t prove she called with this cheap technology in widespread use

  • joycexyz

    Well, I guess you could save a few bucks, but potentially buy a whole lot of headaches. I’m with you–always book through the airline.

  • joycexyz

    Apparently the foul-up occurred when the OTA double-booked, then cancelled both bookings instead of just the one. Or the airline cancelled both??? Did the OTA spoof her phone number, or give her phone number to the airline? Could have been avoided had she booked directly with the airline. Using a third party (the OTA) for a simple booking just adds another way for things to go pear-shaped (as the Brits say).

  • joycexyz

    I couldn’t agree with you more. And the electronic boarding pass? Back it up with a paper copy! As someone who has worked with technology for a number of years, I can tell you that if something can go wrong, it will! Always have a plan B.

  • Lee

    Yup to the paper copy of reservations/bookings/etc – something as simple as a dead battery can mess everything up.

  • Pegtoo

    If she seriously didn’t cancel the flight, it could be proven with her cell phone account’s call detail.

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