The clock was ticking. If Bill Mentz didn’t use his Expedia flight credit soon, it would expire. But he couldn’t apply it when he tried to rebook his flight on United Airlines. Neither Expedia nor United would help him — and time was running out.
Mentz’s attempt to use his Expedia flight credit illustrates why booking flights through third-party websites is risky. When there’s a problem, online agents may not offer a helpful solution – if they offer any solutions at all.
An Expedia flight credit for a canceled vacation
In 2016, Mentz and his wife, Margaret, booked a vacation through Travelocity (an Expedia brand). Their itinerary included tickets on United Airlines. But in May, 2017, they had to cancel their trip. Each of the Mentzes received a $195 Expedia flight credit.
In January, 2018, Mentz tried to book a new flight on United Airlines. He contacted Travelocity to inquire about how to use the credits. A Travelocity agent told Mentz that he would have to book at least one leg of a future flight on United Airlines. The credits had an expiration date of May 2018.
A runaround on the telephone
Mentz then tried calling Expedia’s customer service to request help with rebooking the flight. He spent hours on the telephone with representatives of Expedia. These customer service agents told Mentz that there were “errors” at Expedia’s end. We don’t know the nature of these errors. But according to Expedia’s agents, they prevented Expedia from applying his credit to the cost of a new United Airlines ticket.
“It has been a frustrating and challenging experience, to say the least,” says Mentz.
Then an Expedia representative suggested a solution to Mentz: He should book his replacement ticket directly with United Airlines, paying the full cost of the ticket. Expedia would then refund Mentz’s flight credit at a future date. Mentz called United Airlines, only to learn that United would not agree to such a procedure.
Could our advocates help Mentz get the value of his credit?
Mentz was frustrated by the runaround. He wondered if he would be able to use the Expedia flight credit before it expired. A friend referred him to our advocacy team.
United’s contract of carriage details that nonrefundable tickets are, as the name implies, not eligible for a refund. However:
UA may allow a portion of the non-refundable fare paid for an unused and unexpired non-refundable UA Ticket to be applied towards the purchase of future travel on UA, provided it is done in accordance with the applicable fare rule in place at the time of such request. Change fees and other administrative charges may apply. Basic Economy tickets, even if unused, have no residual value after date of departure and cannot be applied towards the purchase of future travel. Any portion not so applied will not be refunded in any form.
Our contact at Expedia notified Dwayne that Expedia’s resolution team “jumped on this and was able to untangle things.” According to our contact:
For reasons that we are still attempting to determine, the initial reservation records in the GDS [global distribution system] were not being returned through our systems — meaning that we weren’t able to process the credit through the usual means (i.e. processing the outstanding flight credit through United).
Although Expedia couldn’t apply its flight credit to the cost of Mentz’s new ticket, it still had two resolutions to offer him. Expedia could refund Mentz the dollar value of the two credits. Alternatively, Expedia could book a new United Airlines reservation for Mentz and apply the credits to his new reservation. Expedia has credited Mentz’s account for his flight credit balance, a solution all parties consider acceptable.
His story shows the value of the three P’s of customer advocacy: patience, politeness and persistence. As annoying as Mentz must have found the runaround, he kept his cool and stuck to his guns. And as a result, our advocates and Expedia’s resolution team immediately tried to help him instead of dismissing his case. But it’s also a warning about the potential problems that could arise with a third-party travel website. Had Mentz purchased his original tickets directly from United Airlines, he could have avoided this problem altogether.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that United would refund an unused nonrefundable ticket.