No ticket on Travelocity. Now what?

No ticket on Travelocity. Now what?

When Anne Mitchell logged onto Travelocity to check her flight status, she made a horrifying discovery. She had reserved a flight on Thomas Cook Airlines from Manchester, England, to Orlando, but now she had no ticket on Travelocity. The reservation was a “ticketing in progress” — and she would have to pay $1,950 for a last-minute flight.

Mitchell then spent two weeks calling the online travel agency and the airline, trying to figure out what had happened to her flight. She thought Thomas Cook had canceled her flight. But only after she contacted our advocate did she learn what had really happened: She had no ticket on Travelocity because it had never confirmed her ticket.

Her story is yet another case of a self-booking gone wrong. It also shows what not to do when you’re advocating for yourself. Mitchell’s errors nearly guaranteed that having no ticket on Travelocity meant having no ticket. But there’s a surprise ending.

Booking through a third-party site — a “ticketing in progress”

After Mitchell made the reservation on Travelocity, she received an email copy of her itinerary. The email contained the notation “Ticketing in progress.” It also contained this language: “Your ticket is not yet confirmed. We are confirming it with the airline and will update your online itinerary within 24 hours.”

The next communication Mitchell received from Travelocity came two days before the flight was scheduled to depart. She assumed that Travelocity had completed the ticketing process. But she never received a final confirmation from the agency. And she never followed up until she was on her way to the airport — and discovered she had no ticket on Travelocity.

How not to handle a Thomas Cook or Travelocity “ticketing in progress” case

Travelocity’s terms of use indicates: “Airfare is only guaranteed once the purchase has been completed and the tickets have been issued.” For reasons that aren’t clear, Travelocity never completed the purchase, and Thomas Cook never issued Mitchell’s ticket.

Mitchell contacted Thomas Cook and Travelocity to complain about her canceled reservation.

She would have done well to have observed the three P’s of consumer advocacy — patience, politeness and persistence. Mitchell didn’t tell us what she said in her calls to Thomas Cook. But the airline’s employees hung up on her and they refused to answer her subsequent calls.

Because Mitchell had booked her reservation through a third party, she needed to direct her inquiries about her “ticketing in progress” problem to Travelocity. Unfortunately, Travelocity’s customer service representatives gave her scripted responses to her complaint. One Travelocity representative offered Mitchell a one-year $75 coupon for future travel as a goodwill gesture.

Mitchell was not pleased

Here’s how she responded:

You acted as my agent with Thomas Cook and it’s up to you to pursue them as they are not answering their phones. If you do not reimburse me or have Thomas Cook do so, I plan to take legal action for full recompense for the expenses I incurred.

She expressed incredulity that Travelocity, “as her agent,” was not in direct contact with Thomas Cook and suggested that Travelocity stop selling Thomas Cook Airlines tickets. In addition, she threatened to write scathing reviews on Facebook and TripAdvisor about her situation. She also indicated she would never use Travelocity again.

Although Mitchell’s frustration is understandable, we never advise accusing or threatening a business when trying to resolve a customer service complaint. It wastes time and nearly guarantees that the business will ignore you. Why should a company help you if you’ve already told its employees that you will never come back?

No confirmation, no ticket on Travelocity — so where does that leave us?

Mitchell next contacted our advocates to ask for assistance in securing a reimbursement for her replacement air ticket. (Contact information for Travelocity (a brand of Expedia) is available on our website.)

Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, asked Mitchell for a confirmation that Thomas Cook had ticketed her reservation. Because she didn’t provide one, Dwayne told her that there wouldn’t be much we could do for her.

He advised her that many low-cost airlines don’t maintain a centralized database of their tickets. Thus, delays in ticketing and reservation confirmations are not unusual. Dwayne also suggested that Mitchell book future flights directly with the airlines or travel agents rather than through third-party sites.

Mitchell’s no ticket on Travelocity case has many lessons for consumers: Stay on top of your airline reservations. Make sure you get a final confirmation that your flight has been ticketed. Don’t wait until the last moment to check this. And don’t make threats or accusations if you have a customer service problem. Follow the three P’s instead.

Although we didn’t expect this case to succeed, it had an unexpected ending: Travelocity reimbursed Mitchell for the Thomas Cook Airlines ticket.

Should Travelocity have offered Anne Mitchell a larger goodwill gesture?

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