A Priceline error left them at the airport with no tickets. What happened?

This was a pricey Priceline error!

Nikolay Lesko’s credit card statement didn’t make sense. It showed charges from Priceline for four air tickets. But he had only booked two tickets, for himself and his wife. Then the airline voided both tickets, forcing the Leskos to pay for two new tickets. Lesko filed a chargeback dispute for two of the ticket charges, which he lost. And nobody could tell him what had caused the Priceline error.

Lesko’s case is a complex story of an online booking gone wrong, compounded by pushback from the travel agent. It’s a reminder that the three P’s of consumer advocacy are your best friends throughout a case. A company may not give a helpful response to a consumer’s help request. But like Lesko, by not giving up, that consumer may ultimately prevail.

Are these holds or pending charges?

Lesko used Priceline to book two round-trip tickets from New York to Vinnitsa, Ukraine, via Kiev on Ukraine International Airlines. His wife, Anzhela, would fly to Ukraine two weeks ahead of Lesko, and they would return together on the same flight.

The Leskos received email confirmations from Priceline which showed two round-trip tickets for $867 apiece. But four $867 charges, not two, appeared on Lesko’s credit card statement.

A Priceline representative told Lesko that the two extra charges were “holds” and not final charges.

Priceline also informed Lesko that its reservations system contained no duplicate charges for the tickets. The agent instructed him to resolve the problem directly with the credit card issuer. Lesko then called his credit card company, which agreed that none of the charges were “holds” or “pending charges.” It corrected the Priceline error by reversing two of the charges.

Because of the Priceline error, she couldn’t fly

Then the Leskos received an email from Priceline indicating that Ukraine International Airlines had notified Priceline that “one or more of [their] flights are cancelled.” Ukraine International Airlines pointed its finger at Priceline, indicating that the notice was erroneous. Priceline assured Lesko that “all was in order” with his and his wife’s reservations.

The day before Anzhela Lesko was scheduled to depart, she received an email from Ukraine International Airlines advising her that she could check in online. But Anzhela couldn’t complete the online check-in process. Both Priceline and Ukraine International Airlines advised Anzhela to check in at the airport. But the airline’s agents at the airport told Anzhela that her confirmation code and ticket were now void. They instructed her to call Priceline. Yet nobody at Priceline could provide any explanations that made sense. The airline representatives told Anzhela that she would have to pay the walk-up fare of $2,284 for a new ticket.

Nikolay Lasko promptly contacted both Priceline and Ukraine International Airlines about his own reservation. Both Priceline and the airline assured him that his reservation was still intact. He too received an email from the airline advising him that he could check in online. But, like Anzhela, he was unable to do so. And like his wife, at the airport he found that his reservation was void. He had to pay $2,037 for a new ticket for himself.

A chargeback dispute failure

Lasko then wrote to Priceline to request a refund for his unused tickets. A Priceline travel support team member replied that the travel agency could not process Lasko’s refund request.

According to the travel support team member, Priceline had not “double-charged” the Laskos for their original tickets. Two of the charges were “pending charges” that would have “fallen off” within three to five business days:

Ukraine International Airlines refunded the tickets because they received a chargeback from your bank, but they left the flights active. We did not touch your reservation; that is why the itinerary stays active on our end but are [sic] invalid because [your] tickets were refunded…

But the extra two charges had never “fallen off.” And neither itinerary was “active” when the Laskos tried to check in.

Lasko then used our Priceline executive contacts to request assistance from its customer service. Unfortunately, this was one instance in which our executive contacts were not helpful. He received no response from any of the persons listed.

At this point, Lasko initiated a chargeback dispute with his credit card company for the tickets he purchased from Priceline. But the credit card issuer resolved the chargeback dispute in favor of Priceline. The travel agency responded that “the merchant [Priceline] provided proof evidencing that by making purchase … online you have agreed [to] their terms and conditions that they do not have refund policy [sic].”

Unfortunately for Lasko, Priceline’s terms and conditions state that “Priceline.com does not agree to act as your agent or fiduciary in providing services through the Site.” They also contain a boilerplate provision in which customers agree to a travel provider’s own terms and conditions of purchase.

Pushback from Priceline

Lasko then asked us for help in resolving his complaint. Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, asked Priceline to look into his case.

Our contact at Priceline initially reiterated that the first set of charges on Lasko’s credit card statement were a “hold.” The true cost of his airfares were still “pending charges” at that time, according to the contact. But when Lasko initiated his chargeback dispute, the bank challenged the second, “true” set of charges. This left the Laskos without tickets. The Priceline contact claimed that this was not technically a “Priceline error.” But he agreed to a refund of the price difference between the two sets of tickets.

Dwayne disagreed with the Priceline contact:

[There] are two problems with this theory. The first being if any of the amounts were just an authorization hold, it would not have shown up as a charge on his end of cycle statement, … Second, there are four different ticket numbers associated with these charges.

He also asked Lasko for copies of his dispute resolution letters from his credit card company. After further investigation, the Priceline contact then agreed to refund Lasko $2,587. Lasko told the contact that he was pleased with the outcome.

The contact still couldn’t explain how the problem had originated. But he acknowledged that the Priceline error was his company’s responsibility: “Nonetheless, we refunded him in full because the cancellation of his original flights set this whole chain into motion, so the responsibility is ours to fix this.”

Some important takeaways

Lasko’s case has some important takeaways: Even if a travel agent’s terms and conditions disclaim responsibility for helping you, it still shouldn’t charge you for its booking errors. And consider booking trips directly with a travel company rather than through a third-party website.

Also, don’t be discouraged if a company doesn’t immediately resolve a help request in your favor. It can require multiple contacts via different channels for a company to assist you. And even if its executive contacts give you the silent treatment, we won’t. Our advocates are here for you.

Should Priceline offer Nikolay Lasko any additional compensation?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.