“If these aren’t tickets then how did I get out here?”

moroccoPicture this: You’re on your honeymoon in Morocco. When you check in for your flight back to the States, a gate agent insists there’s something wrong with your reservation — and forces you to buy a new set of tickets.

It happened to Elliot Pederson. But that wasn’t the worst part of it. After returning home, neither his airline nor the online travel agency that sold him the original ticket, would take responsibility for the problem, sticking him with a $2,103 bill.

What now?

Pederson fills in the details.

My wife and I were coming back from our honeymoon to Spain and Morocco when we ran into big problems at the airport. At the baggage check-in counter in Marrakech the lady was having obvious problems with the e-tickets we bought through Orbitz.

After about 15 minutes, she leaves with our passports to get help in a back office with a manager. I get suspicious and follow her so I can find out what the hold up is. When I get there they tell me that I don’t have tickets on this flight and that I only booked a reservation. Basically, they think my e-tickets are no good.

I show her my Orbitz conformation print out and how is says right on there “e-ticket” and ask, “If these aren’t tickets then how did I get out here?” She didn’t have an answer.

After about an hour and a half of dealing with this they tell me my only other options is to buy two new tickets to JFK for $2,103 and catch my connecting flight there to SFO.

Subsequent queries to Delta Air Lines and Orbitz sets off a series of confusing exchanges. Delta blames Northwest — never mind the fact that it owns Northwest, and Orbitz points the finger at both airlines. Finally, after weeks of back-and-forth between the airline and agency, Orbitz agrees to a refund of only $800, which is the value of his unused return ticket.

I contacted Orbitz on Pederson’s behalf. Here’s what it had to say:

We contacted the airline on this and apparently the customer got misinformation from the agents in Marrakech.

We talked to NW Customer Care and the service operator secured a refund for Elliot Pederson for the cost of the new tickets he had to purchase at the airport. He had been given some misinformation, however, concerning the actual amount of the refund, so we cleared that up for him today. He seems very pleased.

A really helpful NW agent said that there’s absolutely no reason that this should have happened, because there was nothing wrong with the tickets. The agent said she could only assume that this was a mistake by the agents in Marrakech.

I’m happy Orbitz was able to help Pederson. This is exactly why people prefer to book through an intermediary like an online agency, rather than directly through an airline. They feel protected, in case something goes wrong.

Pederson says he’s happy.

I checked my account today and the money arrived. I got reimbursed for the cost of the plane tickets but not for the foreign transaction fee ($61) or interest (+/-$20), which is fine but it would have been nice if they made that right. It’s worth the 80 bucks to me to have them out of my life, happy it’s over.

Foreign transaction fees. That’s a whole ‘nother thing.

If this ever happens again, my recommendation would be to be patient and don’t allow yourself to be pressured into a last-minute purchase. A call to Orbitz or Delta might have helped clear this up while Pedersen was still in Morocco, eliminating the need to buy another airline ticket.

(Photo: surfzone/Flickr Creative Commons)

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