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.

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