“I can’t bear to make another call and get the same runaround”

By | September 25th, 2016

Kathleen Dowsek’s case is like a favorite movie you watch over and over. You’re not even sure why you watch the film, but there’s something about it that fascinates you.

I have a movie like that. I’ll tell you more about it in a second.

Sometimes, it’s not the film, but the actors that make you go for the encore. In Dowsek’s case, it’s two favorite actors — Expedia and American Airlines — that appear in so many stories, we could probably limit ourselves to just those two companies and we’d still have enough material to publish a site.

Dowsek’s problems began last March, when she bought two roundtrip flights to Miami from Chicago and a Carnival Cruise through Expedia.

“I booked a 6 p.m. flight to Miami, leaving the day of the cruise,” she say. “Obviously, I made a mistake in booking the time but did not realize it until three days later.”

Oops. She wouldn’t have had an opportunity to fix the tickets for two reasons. First, it was past the 24 hour “hold” American allowed. And second, American’s policy at the time was different from most other airlines; it only offered a poorly disclosed “hold” option.

“I immediately called Expedia to report my mistake knowing that I would have to pay a penalty,” she says. “I spoke with a rep and explained that I had meant to book a 6 a.m. flight and asked her to change the two tickets for a flight leaving at 6 a.m. and returning at the same time as initially booked.”

The change fee and fare differential: $664.

(Travel agents, I can already see your comments about the dangers of going all DIY. The first one to call Expedia a “vending machine” wins the “I-told-you-so” prize.)

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“When I received my bank statement, there were charges for $632, $664 and $752. I was being charged for two additional tickets to Miami. Instead of simply changing the time of departure, the rep I spoke to in another country booked two more tickets to Miami,” she says.

That led her to making a dozen phone calls to Expedia or American Airlines, all ending in frustration.

“I have spoken to an endless amount of people, been transferred numerous times, been put on hold for hours, listened to god-awful music, been told it was Expedia’s fault, been told it was American’s fault and on and on and on,” she says.

Her last call, which lasted two hours, was particularly trying. She had to explain her situation to a series of representatives and a supervisor. Then she was transferred to yet another supervisor, who asked her to tell the story again.

“At this point, I almost lost it,” she says. “This has been going on now for five months. I can’t bear to make another call and get the same runaround. I currently have paid over $2,000 for tickets and penalties for simply two round-trip coach tickets to Miami. I have lived up to my part of the agreement — I made a mistake and paid dearly in penalties. However, Expedia made a mistake and I am now paying for their mistake as well.”

Old School.

That’s the movie I keep watching over and over. You know, the 2003 movie with Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. I think there’s something about the incorrigible frat boys in that film that I find amusing. I know I shouldn’t be laughing most of the time.

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I think there’s an analogy to all these stories involving Expedia and American. We shouldn’t be reading them again and again, and we definitely shouldn’t be getting any entertainment value from them.

Yet here we are. These are modern-day Laurel and Hardys of the corporate world; we can’t look away.

Our team is on the case, and we’ll have an update. But it’s probably a matter of days, in not hours, before the next American case comes along. Or Expedia case.

I’ll be here to cover it.

Does Kathleen Dowsek deserve a refund of her first airline ticket?

View Results

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  • There was absolutely no reason to use a third party for this type of reservation. Because of the magnitude of this screwup, I think Expedia should pay all her fees.

  • Jeff W.

    An honest mistake that many people make. 6 AM vs 6 PM. Or something like Mar 25 vs Feb 25 (since they fall on the same day of the week — except leap years. I’ve done that.)

    It seems like the fault lies with Expedia. And Expedia should fix it. Not sure if a full refund is in order, because there would be a penalty for the original mistake of the OP. But I am not sure if the original fare differential could be calculated five months later.

    American may be able to offer the refund, but since the tickets were “purchased” by Expedia, they would get any refund. And good luck collecting on that!

    It is at least refreshing to see someone make a mistake and own up to it. Willing to pay some sort of penalty for their mistake. Just sad to see her get really burned by it.

  • Barthel

    Use military time. 0600 and 1800. That’s the time we should use for everything.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I agree with Mr. Gore. A simple reservation is better made on the Airline’s own website, so you can at least throw yourself on their mercy directly, rather than having to beg mercy from two different companies (and maybe you’d be less likely to need mercy, because you’d just pay the change fee, as this OP tried to do, and chalk it up to experience).

  • Marc

    You can’t dream this stuff up!

  • Michael Anthony

    When you purchase something, it’s charged to your account or debited to your bank within seconds. There is no justifiable reason why a legit refund should take longer than a few weeks, giving them time to investigate. I hate to say it, but if a refund is proven legit and not completed within say 30 Days, then there ought to be a consumer law that the refund should automatically double.

  • Pegtoo

    up vote x 1,000,000

  • joycexyz

    What a concept! Something that would actually benefit a consumer and prod the company in question! And I couldn’t agree more.

  • Lindabator

    NOW – she would have still been charged for the first set of tickets PLUS the ticket exchange fee, so would have seen one charge for 1st ticket, change fee on one ticket, and change fee on 2nd ticket (each must be run separately) = so would have seen three charges total – just not sure why the exchanges had two different fares.

  • James

    Even travel agents can screw it up. I had a travel agent make arrangements for a pickup at CDG for a flight from SEZ. My flight arrived at 5:45PM, and the travel agent arranged the limo for 6AM, not 6PM…..

  • Sharon

    Um…3/6 is March 6th in the US (March 3rd would be 3/3)! And only parts of Europe use yyyy/mm/dd. Germany, for example, generally uses dd/mm/yyyy (I’ve lived in Germany for almost 40 years).

  • Alan Gore

    Always use the little calendar that reservation sites offer you when setting a date. When you enter a date like 3/6/16, it’s too easy to arrive at your French hotel in March to find that your room willl be ready in June.

  • Michael__K

    According to AA’s own contract, one of the reservations should be cancelled and refunded regardless as a “Duplicate and impossible/illogical” booking.

    Duplicate and impossible/illogical bookings: Duplicate or impossible/illogical American Airlines bookings are prohibited without prior authorization from American Airlines. A duplicate or impossible/illogical booking includes, but is not limited to, bookings for the same passenger on flights traveling on or about the same date between one or more of the same or nearby origin and/or destination (such as JFK to DFW and LGA to DFW or DFW to LAX and DFW to ONT), or bookings with connections that depart before the arrival of the inbound flight.


  • Barthel

    Good point about standardization.

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