Nothing about this trip was “merry”

Kelsey Prima was planning a trip to Bangkok, then on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was a complicated itinerary using multiple airlines, the sort of thing that many travelers wouldn’t want to plan on their own, so she used a company called TravelMerry.

Unfortunately, when she arrived at the airport for the first leg of her journey, a flight from Philadelphia to Boston on JetBlue, she discovered that things weren’t starting off so merrily.

Prima arrived for her first flight at 6:30 a.m. and was told her boarding passes for her connecting flights could not be issued because of a problem checking in.

“I called the airline, Emirates, and the representative informed me that my flight had been cancelled due to travel restrictions,” she wrote, “And that I should be on the next flight at 11:50 p.m. out of Boston, but would need to speak with the travel agency I booked with.”

But, as it turns out, “speaking with the travel agency” did little to help the situation.

I spoke with them, and they said their system is often backed up, and they could not do anything until the scheduling office opened at 9. My first flight to Boston left before then, so I boarded and arrived at 9:45.

I then attempted to find an Emirates representative at the Boston airport, with no success. I called TravelMerry, and the person I spoke with seemed surprised that I was already in Boston. This had seemed the obvious choice to me, as the flight I’d be taking later was out of Boston.

Prima reports that hours of back-and-forth phone calls with TravelMerry representatives followed, during which she was assured that she would receive calls back within 15 to 20 minutes, but waited over an hour at least twice before calling again.

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She finally discovered that when her first flight had been canceled, Emirates had automatically rescheduled her trip, including a later flight from her originating airport that would have saved her from a 14-hour stopover In Boston. But Emirates didn’t have her contact information, and TravelMerry never notified her.

As it happened, her later flight on Emirates was also canceled. And once again there was a problem. Emirates had booked her on an earlier, 10:45 p.m. flight routing through Rome and then Dubai.

“When I called TravelMerry, they confirmed that Emirates had done this. I then tried to board that flight, run by Alitalia, but was informed that my name was in the system for the flight, but that I had not been issued an e-ticket. I called TravelMerry again, as it was, as far as I understood it, the responsibility of TravelMerry to issue me the e-ticket. By then it was 10:30 p.m. or so and TravelMerry had not issued me any ticket, and boarding had been closed.”

Prima ended up leaving the secure section of the airport to talk with the Emirates check-in desk, and, ultimately, stopped dealing with TravelMerry because she felt they were entirely unhelpful, and dealt directly with the airline.

And because of all the confusion she tells us, “All in all, I endured over 55 hours of travel and almost 24 hours on one layover. I was passed back and forth on calls, my calls were not returned in a timely fashion, and I received no updates regarding my flights.”

To make matters worse, she missed the connecting flight to Phnom Penh, and because she’d booked that separately from the rest of her itinerary, she wasn’t entitled to a refund. She requested compensation for her far-from-merry travel experience from both TravelMerry and Emirates.

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A trusted travel agent can be a valuable partner when it comes to booking a complex itinerary, but whenever you use a third party for air travel it adds an extra layer of complexity to the process. So it’s best to be proactive and stay on top of your itinerary with both your agent and the airlines involved as your travel dates approach. Especially if you’re working with a travel agency with which you don’t have a long-standing relationship.

Prima received 40,000 frequent flyer miles from Emirates for her inconvenience and $200 in vouchers from TravelMerry. Far less compensation than she thought was fair.

Was Kelsey Prima offered enough compensation?

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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

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    OTA…do you need to say anymore!?!

  • Attention All Passengers

    Good grief, when will people learn ??

  • cscasi

    ““I called the airline, Emirates, and the representative informed me that my flight had been cancelled due to travel restrictions,” she wrote, “And that I should be on the next flight at 11:50 p.m. out of Boston, but would need to speak with the travel agency I booked with.”
    Then later, it is found, “She finally discovered that when her first flight had been canceled, Emirates had automatically rescheduled her trip, including a later flight from her originating airport that would have saved her from a 14-hour stopover In Boston. But Emirates didn’t have her contact information, and TravelMerry never notified her.”
    Reading the above, why did the Emirates representative she originally spoke with and told her that her original flight had been cancelled, not tell her that Emirates had automatically rescheduled her trip? Then, she would have known not to begin her trip from Philadelphia until the flight Emirates had rescheduled her on. So, I fault Emirates for part of this fiasco. Secondly, her travel agency that she used to book her trip did not do her any service by not keeping her informed of the changes.
    All in all, she, in trying to get to Boston to be in better position to catch the next Emirates flight, caused the rescheduled flights that Emirate made for her and therefore everything got cancelled.
    This turned out to be a total lack of proper communication and as a result, she lost lot of time and money. One must stay up to date on one’s flight schedules because airlines fairly often make changes for one reason or another. Perhaps, if she had looked up her reservations online before she left home, she would have discovered the changes and saved herself all the grief. If she was unable to get online, she could have called JetBlue to ensure her flight with them from PHL to BOS was still valid, it would have told her that her reservation had been cancelled and perhaps could have told her she was rescheduled.
    What I am saying is, one has to stay on top of one’s reservations; knowing they are subject to last minute changes. Do not assume because you made reservations and were ticketed, al will be well.
    Travel Merry did not take care of its customer; another reason using OTAs is sometimes risky.
    Did she receive enough compensation? I grudgingly say she did because she was lucky to get anything at all since she was ultimately responsible for not keeping up to date on her flights/reservations.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Travel fricking Merry?

  • jah6

    Why do they always tell us to use travel agents? In the days when I did I ran into problems like this a couple of times. Last winter we went from SFO to Hong Kong, then to Chiang Mai Thailand, Luang Prabang in Laos, and to Hanoi and Hoi An in Vietnam. I booked all the flights and hotels myself. I did not have any problems whatsoever. All the airlines, which were several different Asian airlines, were efficient and took off on time and communicated with me by email about everything. Same with all the hotels.

  • pauletteb

    Sometimes a bad travel agent is worse than no agent at all. Everything my “Australia expert” TA (long-standing brick-and-mortar agency) touched awhile back engendered some kind of problem. Fortunately, they were either solvable or tolerable.

  • James

    Yes. Someone who may not have traveled much should still be as smart as I am.

  • Annie M

    Due your due diligence before booking with any unknown company!

    Why are folks able to find this website when they have a problem but never think to do a search on a no name company they are considering giving thousands of dollars to? Even the BBB has 40 complaints on them:

    Factors that affect the rating for TravelMerry include:
    40 complaints filed against business
    Failure to respond to 3 complaints filed against business.

  • Alan Gore

    Congratulations on being lucky, but in travel luck tends to not last as long as it does in fields like roulette or clearing minefields.

  • This is a blame the victim mentality. OP would have been responsible if she had booked the tickets herself, but she did not. The OP paid TravelMerry to take care of these things. It was not on her to keep up with the reservations. Indeed, the notifications went to TravelMerry and they were not relayed. Also OP did due diligence by phoning Emerites but they failed too. They didn’t tell her about the changes.
    How aggressive do you have to follow up if you are paying others to do this work?

  • jah6

    I don’t agree that I was lucky. I did the necessary research, and the airlines we traveled on were no different from European airlines. There was nothing scary about them

  • C Schwartz

    I have copied and pasted the About Us section from TravelMerry:

    “TravelMerry has started their journey with a commitment to provide low fare best travel deals with high quality customer service. We are specialized with our wide range of travel products including flights, hotels, vacation packages, cars and travel insurance. TravelMerry is committed to providing great travel at cheapest fare available. Currently TravelMerry is introducing short and long haul flight deals but we will promise, very soon you will see hotels, holiday packages and rental car deals on our web site.

    TravelMerry is able to offer travel products at a higher discount on standard prices. The company has close relationships with leading travel suppliers which enable it to offer discounts. Along with other offered travel products, we have a particular specialty in long and mid haul destinations including Asia, Europe, Far East and the Australia.

    At TravelMerry, we build our business being innovative and pro-active.Our dedicated, passionate IT and business team developed a customized unique search and booking engine and user friendly website ensure that our customers keep returning. Highly trained and experienced customer service agents provide you the best customer service. Our web site is developed to minimize your questions before you book but if you still need to contact us, please do so by contacting us via email / phone or fax’

    Awkward English … “the Australia?”

    And in the payment section:

    “Yes, you can make the booking using Visa and Master card. All payments will be on US Dollars.”

    On US Dollars?

    Sounds totally legit………

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Like any professional, there are bad CPAs, lawyers, doctors, travel agents, etc. The key in finding a good travel agent is to interview the travel agent until you find one that fits your needs, personality, etc. Another thing is ask your family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. for travel agent referrals.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is simple…the lowest price…they just selected the lowest price without any consideration about customer service, delivery, quality, etc.

    I am sure that some people like these OTAs but I am not one of them. If you don’t have any problems, they are probably okay.

    My first issue with most OTAs is that customer service is generally farmed out to call centers in the PI, India and etc. where the people are reading scripts. These CSRs are not employees of the OTA but are sub-contractors which means that are NOT enable to make decisions such as refunds, credits, etc. Some of these CSRs have never been on a plane, been outside of their country, etc.

    My second issue with most OTAs is their lack of “technology interface” to the airlines, hotels, etc.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Most people are not seasoned travelers…even if you are a seasoned travelers, you still may need assistance with your travel needs. For over 15 years (120+ flight segments and 100+ hotel nights a year), I book my travel arrangements for domestic business travel and business travel to Canada. However, I use the services of a travel agent for our international (i.e. Europe, Asia, etc.) vacations.

    When we are on vacation, it is my preference not to deal with issues so I rely on our travel agent to handle these issues.

    Another benefit in dealing with a professional brick & mortar travel agent is the advice or nuggets of information that they can give to you that will make your vacation more memorable; etc.

  • Bruce Burger

    Also on their FAQ: “Best price Guarantee – If you find a lower hotel price on an Indian travel site, we will match it & give you a $1 coupon. Eligible bookings only.” Wow!

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Are you expecting a company to list their weakness, warts, zit, mistakes, etc. on their website?

    When researching a company, you need to (in no specific order): 1) do a Google map to see where they are located (i.e. a person house, a strip mall, an office building, etc); 2) Are there Google Suggests such as “XYZ Online Travel Agency complaints” or other negative suggests; 3) read their reviews on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. especially their below average and poor reviews; 4) BBB complaints; 5) forums on Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, etc., 6) websites like scamadvisor, trust pilot, ripoff report, pissed consumer; etc; 7) state attorney general reports; 8) writing to the company with questions (i.e. where is your customer service department located) so that they can respond back in writing (I don’t give my phone number because I want their answers in writing); etc.

    If you do a Google search on “TravelMerry”, the fourth item is ‘Travel agency alert!! beware of travel merry!! – Lonely Planet” Also, there are other links taking you to bad reviews of this company. You can’t please everyone but when the overall reviews are bad, negative, etc…the red flags come out.

  • C Schwartz

    I would not even bother to look any further after reading their website — bad grammar, no proofreading — already know that it is a shoddy company with an overseas call center and voip line. There are so many like them and they all have these badly written ‘about us’ sections.
    And the US mailing address is basically a mail drop or virtual office.

  • Kerr

    So when will the OP receive the “high quality customer service”?

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Exactly so. On this board people are frequently accused of ‘victim blaming’. But surely it’s not wrong to blame someone for not using google to check out someone they plan to hand thousands of dollars to? As you say, they are savvy enough to find Elliott after the fact !

  • Lindabator

    might not have been rescheduled yet – and still can b changed as long as the agency never accepted the first one..

  • Lindabator

    this is NOT a travel agent – it is an OTA – so no real service. But the real reason to use a REAL travel agent is for the service we provide— I have changed flight schedules for clients while they were in the air, ensuring a connection they could make when it looked like a delay would cause a misconnect – and as a 24/7 service, thy KNOW there is always someone here to assist with any issue

  • Lindabator

    of course, you do not KNOW what you do not know — which laves you with potential issues you are not even aware of – so he is correct – you were lucky

  • Lindabator

    I agree 100% – and most of my business comes from referrals for this rreason

  • C Schwartz

    When I am recognized as a descendant of the Romanovs and proclaimed the Tsarina of Russia…….

  • jah6

    I’m sure you hope that is the case because you are a travel agent and don’t want to go out of business, but I repeat, it was not luck. I am a seasoned traveler and did my research. I had serious problems with travel agents more than once in the days before the internet when everybody had to rely on them. I mean a real travel agent, not an OTA. I was left stranded on one trip and seriously inconvenienced on another because of their negligence. Now I prefer to rely on myself, and I know I can.

  • LonnieC

    Wow! You must spend half your life in the air….

  • Kevin Nash

    No one is blaming the victim. OP went through an OTA and you get what you pay for.

  • joycexyz

    Obviously not everyone reads Elliott. Bet she does now!

  • joycexyz

    Some people need to learn the hard way.

  • joycexyz

    The key phrase here is “did the necessary research.” Unfortunately, it would appear that many people don’t–or are even aware of what research is necessary.

  • joycexyz

    Blah, blah, blah…Aside from the couple of language errors, the “About Us” is total boilerplate and sounds like what any company would say to convince unwary customers that it’s a great company to do business with. I guess we all need to be cynics.

  • C Schwartz

    I think when finding a company online — without a personal recommendation, just by a search, one needs to be a cynic. I can easily put up a semi professional looking website, using certain platforms,so the cost is low. To me the language errors screams off-shore call center with no idea of what they are selling — just reading a script. If the website is so sloppy the customer service will be worse.

  • Eileen Joan

    Linda, you sound like a great TA but if I wanted you to book my travel plans since I live in a different state – would you be considered a OTA?

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