Can this trip be saved? My 17-year-old booked a ticket on Orbitz — actually, two tickets

Booking a flight online may be convenient, but it’s far from problem-free. Just ask Charles Bornheim, whose son is holding an extra airline ticket he booked through Orbitz.

Bornheim is trying to get a refund, but is having no luck. Airlines can be pretty unforgiving with their refund policies, and at some point when you’re booking online, you have to take responsibility for your own actions.

But is this a case where no one is really to blame — and should I try to help him secure a refund?

Here’s what happened to Bornheim:

My 17-year-old son went to Orbiz to book his very first flight to occur over Thanksgiving. He got confused by the site and its procedures and double booked without realizing it.

He booked the original Delta flight on October 4. The site said he would receive confirmation by email within 24 hours. He either did not receive or failed to see it the confirmation the next day (I could not find it in any of his mailboxes: inbox or trash folder, so I believe him when he says he didn’t get it).

A couple of days later, believing he had made an error in trying to book the first flight, he went back to Orbitz and booked a second flight for the same cities and dates, this time on American. (The preferred Delta itinerary was no longer available at the low fare he had originally booked).

OK, let me stop here for a second. You had me at “17-year-old books a Thanksgiving flight.”

I’m sure there are 17-year-olds who are responsible, capable users. But shouldn’t junior have asked his parents for help before he booked the second ticket?

Anyway, on with the story.

It wasn’t until a few days later, when his bank notified him that his account was empty and he owed penalties on top of the shortage that he realized he had booked twice.

We immediately called Orbitz asking them to cancel the second (American) reservation and refund his money. They refused. We called back during the day to talk to a regular supervisor, and that person also refused. They said our only recourse was to explain the situation to American Airlines customer relations.

So I had my son email American customer relations explaining the situation. They obviously did not read his letter carefully because a CSR named Lisa Fields wrote back asking him for the record locator of the original American flight (the original flight was on Delta, NOT American,
which his letter clearly stated).

I helped my son send an email response to Ms. Fields immediately explaining that the original reservation was on Delta, not American. They did not acknowledge the second email, and we have heard nothing from them for over a week. I don’t even know if they got or read the letter.

There is still time for American to cancel the reservation and resell the ticket for a much better price than they got from my son. But I don’t know how to contact them or let them know about the problem and get it resolved before Thanksgiving.

What could have been done to prevent this? A lot.

When the confirmation email didn’t arrive, Bornheim’s son should have called Orbitz to verify the itinerary. A confirmation could have been sent to him again. He could have also phoned Delta if for some reason he couldn’t get through to Orbitz.

Once the second ticket was booked, he should have informed his parents of the rebooking immediately instead of waiting for bad news from his bank. But those of us reading this, who have made reservations online before, we know all of this. The point is, this is a 17-year-old boy making his very first reservation online. He couldn’t have known.

So what now? I’ve given Bornheim some contacts at Orbitz and have suggested that he follow up with them. At worst, his son can cancel one of the flights and get credit for it.

But should I mediate this case?

Update (7:30 a.m.): Less than an hour after I posted this, Delta Air Lines contacted me and offered to refund Bornheim’s ticket. “Good lesson learned here,” a representative told me. I’ll say! Thanks, Delta.

I’ve closed the poll. It was a close vote.

(Photo: loo see nds/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Elliott Advocacy 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.

Send this to a friend