First time to Europe? Not if you’re flying with Expedia

Daniel Noah wanted to take his wife to Europe for the first time. They saved for three years, and then booked a package trip to Italy through Expedia.

According to Noah, they were excited about their first time “traveling as an adult with the actual funds to enjoy a well-deserved trip.” Expedia booked them on multiple airlines and booked their hotel. When he received the confirmations, Noah’s excitement turned to stress.

His name was listed correctly as “Daniel” on the hotel reservations and on air tickets from Delta and KLM. His name on the Alitalia ticket, however, was listed as “Dan,” even though his Expedia profile is set up as “Daniel,” his credit card reads “Daniel,” his frequent flier information is “Daniel” and his passport is issued as “Daniel.” He noticed the error on the Alitalia ticket more than 24 hours after booking the reservation, but immediately called Delta, the operator of the flight — it directed him to Alitalia.

We are no strangers to Alitalia’s strict policies. Earlier this year, we featured a story about another traveler with a name issue on an Alitalia ticket. He was denied boarding in Istanbul because of a misspelling of his first name. In true Alitalia form, it refused to change Noah’s first name from “Dan” to “Daniel.” At least it’s consistent — or is it?

Noah turned to Facebook, where a post to Alitalia’s Facebook page prompted this response:

Hi Daniel. Alitalia works with Expedia daily for name changes, so they are also aware of the procedure. Please request to speak to a supervisor and they can assist you further. Thank you again for your patience!

Interesting: Alitalia refuses to do a name change, but says Expedia can, will, and does so daily. Here’s where we would normally think, “problem solved,” but we would be wrong. This is Expedia we’re talking about, and it is no stranger to “website glitches” and errors that are anything but easy to fix.

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Earlier this year, we posted a story about a Hawaii vacation that was almost ruined by an Expedia site error. In another case, an Expedia mistake cost a traveler more than $5,000. And a few days ago, I wrote about a family whose trip was jeopardized by an unexplained Expedia cancellation. How is it that one website can make so many errors, and yet the company continues to resist resolving each one? Wouldn’t it take more time and money paying employees to engage in long-term battles with customers than it would to simply fix the error in the first place? There is no monetary price on goodwill, but wouldn’t Expedia gain more of that if it simply said, “Yes, the website has a few glitches and this seems to be one of them,” and then simply fixed it?

Not surprisingly, Expedia refused to change the name on Noah’s ticket, even after he reminded it of this statement on its website:

Most airlines allow corrections of misspellings on their tickets, as well as corrections of nicknames (e.g. William instead of Bill, Elizabeth instead of Liz). Most airlines, however, will not allow major spelling corrections.

It seems to me that changing “Dan” to “Daniel” is even less of a correction than “Bill” to “William,” but clearly, I don’t work for Expedia. It also seems that Alitalia was willing to allow Expedia to make the change, so its reluctance is a mystery, but not a surprise.

Expedia did offer a solution: Noah can cancel the original ticket and rebook it at the current (higher) price, which Noah cannot afford. After spending more than 25 hours on the phone, on Facebook, and with email, Noah took his case to our Forums to see if any of our advocates or readers had any ideas he hadn’t explored.

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He filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation, which helped force Expedia to agree to change the name on the ticket, but it still threatened to charge a rebooking fee, change fee, and possibly the price of a new ticket. It seems clear that this is yet another Expedia error, and neither our Forum advocates and readers, nor I can understand why Expedia would keep insisting that Noah should have to pay to make this change — he shouldn’t. Yet he remains stuck in that black hole between the airlines, his online travel agency, and himself.

The question now is will Expedia do the right thing and fix his ticket, or will it continue to insist that he should pay for its mistake? We reached out to Noah, and then to Expedia, but this case remains unsolved. This has clearly scared Noah away from future trips booked through Expedia, but I hope it hasn’t scared his wife away from traveling the world altogether.

We hope there is a resolution in the near future, so Noah and his wife can simply enjoy an amazing trip to Italy.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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