Travelocity promised me a refund — did it do enough?

Thank goodness for the new 24-hour rule. That’s what Joan Weiner thought when she booked an airline ticket from Philadelphia to Vienna through Travelocity, only to find a cheaper fare a few hours later.

She made a new reservation through American Express, only to discover that her original ticket hadn’t been canceled. Now she had two tickets.

“The cancellation — or what I thought was the cancellation — was made within the 24 hour rule,” she says. “I had the Amex website open and did not complete the reservation until I made the call to cancel. Their records show that I called Travelocity at 8:12 p.m. and made the reservation at 8:18 p.m. on the Amex site that apparently Travelocity also handles.”

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As a refresher, the 24-hour rule allows you to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, as long as you make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.

Here’s where things get interesting.

A Travelocity’s supervisor confirmed I had called [to cancel] but not that the reservation had been canceled.

He tried to be helpful, contacted US Airways, and said they would cancel and refund one of the flights.

However, they would charge $50 and would use the higher fare and refund the lower one, minus the $50. So the cost would be $1,090 instead of $847.

That’s not ideal, but at least she’s not paying for a second ticket. But then things got worse.

Last evening, I spent 2 1/2 hours with Travelocity and with a supervisor. US Airways indicated that it would not refund the first ticket and would only cancel and rebook with a $290 penalty within the year.

Obviously, that is the “usual” airline policy — with no help from Travelocity.

Uh-oh. That’s not an ideal resolution, and it seems someone dropped the ball on this cancellation. Now US Airways wants to keep Weiner’s money.

I contacted Travelocity on her behalf, but did not hear back from the company. I contacted it again, and someone from the online agency’s executive office finally responded with a different resolution.

Here’s what it’s offering:

We have spoken to US Airways who advised they have a policy regarding duplicate bookings. US Airways will allow a refund on the most recent booking (American Express Travel) to be processed minus a $50 processing fee.

As previously advised, Travelocity will process the refund request through US Airways refund department directly and also take care of the $50 processing fee as a courtesy.

Regrettably, Travelocity will not be able to refund any difference in the cost of the two tickets (i.e. Travelocity booking versus American Express-Travel booking).

Wiener wants to know if she should take this offer or keep fighting for the better fare.

In reviewing my notes on this case, it appears Travelocity was called within 24 hours of the cancellation, but that for some reason, the cancellation wasn’t made with US Airways.

The airline is well within its rights to keep all of Weiner’s money. But should Travelocity cover the price difference between fare number one and fare number two?

If it were me, I’d probably take the new ticket and the refund and consider myself lucky. I could have been on the hook for two tickets, after all. Also, this would be a lesson to me to always cancel a booking online instead of by phone. (I see some back-and-forth between Travelocity in which it suggested it had either not recorded or deleted the phone records between it and Weiner.)

The 24-hour cancellation rule is relatively new, so glitches like this are to be expected. Weiner’s flight leaves in a few weeks. What do you think she should do?

39 thoughts on “Travelocity promised me a refund — did it do enough?

  1. So she made a reservation, called back to cancel within the 24-hour policy (which they admit to), they screwed it up, and now expect her to be partly responsible for the cost? I don’t think so. The fact that she had rebooked a second flight is really irrelevant.She canceled the first flight within policy and should have never been charged anything for the flight.

  2. Travelocity should totally be cutting up the check for the fare difference. I cannot figure out why they are having such a hard time understanding why they are on the hook for it.

    Heck, I would have totally understood if US Airways didn’t refund a single dime, they’ve already gone well beyond their obligations, given they were never informed of the cancellation by Travelocity.

    After reading all these stories here, I think I’ve learned a lesson: If you are thinking of using an online agent to make a travel booking, don’t bother. Just go direct to the travel provider, as these online agencies don’t appear to add any additional value to the purchase, and only serve as one more place for things to get screwed up.

    If she had made the booking direct and US Airways had bungled their own cancellation, this would have been a straightforward credit card dispute. Since she went through Travelocity, (but the credit card transaction was done through US Airways, as is customary with plane tickets) she has no leverage over Travelocity at all.

  3. Another case of the OTA screwing up and expecting the PAX to pay for the mistake. I would hold firm with demanding the full refund she is entitled to. File a claim with the credit card company to get the money back if she has to. Also, report the problem to the FTC or FAA or which ever government department that passed the 24 hour refund. As a last resort, she could take Travelocity to small claims court.

  4. For simplicity’s sake, I would take the offer so that my money wasn’t tied up forcing me to use a United credit. But I’d also hope that Travelocity does the right thing and refunds the difference in CASH, not credit. The consumer has no way of knowing whether the ticket has actually been cancelled with the airline or not. The OP did her job in contacting Travelocity. It’s Travelocity’s job to cancel with the provider.

  5. Reason #2,736 why you should always book directly with the airline or a real agent and not use these OTAs like Travelocity or Amex.

    I voted that she should not accept Travilocitiy’s offer, she did cancel within the time, and Travelocity dropped the ball. They should have to make it up and refund her the more expensive fare in full, which is the one she canceled. But my guess is that they won’t, no matter how hard anyone tries.

  6. I thought it was US Airways? Also, I am confused, she says they will cancel and let her rebook minus a $290 penalty? US Airways penalty for international travel is $250, not $290. Does Travelocity tack on an extra $40 for themselves?

  7. I’m normally the one finding fault with something the OP did but not this time. The OTA has aknowledged that they received the cancellation within 24hrs. Story ends there. OP should get all of her money back.
    This isn’t a case of the OP purchasing through a TA where there might be a consolitdator involved (especially since they are talking to US directly). Nope. The OTA screwed up and they should eat the cost of that mistake.
    This is a warning to those that don’t book direct.

  8. WHAT ????
    Maybe WTF is better.
    This should have been a very simple ARC/VOID.
    All USA based travel agencies can void a ticket within 24 hours (1 business day on weekends). PERIOD.

    The way I read this, the agency tried to keep the OP business (or money) and tried to connect the old (supposedly voided) sale with a new sale (AMEX booking). These 2 transactions should have been independent. The OP should not have to pay any penalty or fee.

  9. The OP can still try to dispute the [credit card] charge and of course there is small claims court.

  10. This is indeed the first great problem in months. A real live travel agent knows that they can void a ticket within 24 hours (or longer when a holiday or weekend is involved). We also mostly use GDS systems to book and cancel flights so we see that the cancellation is indeed complete. We cancel flights and process refunds at closing each day (except for United as they are on an exact 24 clock). SO if you rebook befor we cancel, you created a “dupe”. But Joan chose to bypass our system and be her own agent, and didn’t know the dupe booking rules. Wow, take the offer and run, as you are lucky that you did not get 2 legal bills, or worse – 2 bills and no flight. Find a real live in house agent, get to know them and the owner, pay small fees and lose lots less money.

  11. Dear Christopher Elliott,

    I think there is a consumer misunderstanding here.

    Some travel agencies say that DOT 24 hour cancellation rule does not apply to them [agencies] but only to airlines. If we are to believe that, then YOU the general public have NO right to cancel without penalty (within 24 hours) when you buy from a travel agency.

    In that case, the general public should think about BOYCOTTING travel agencies that do not specifically provide a 24 hour no penalty, no fee cancellation period.

    Travel agencies have always had 24 hours to VOID an issued ticket way before the DOT 24 hour cancellation rule. The DOT rule required [forced] airlines to do something similar. But it seems the law has not FORCED travel agencies to do the same (at least that’s what agencies think). Well, if consumers do not get the same legal protections when they buy tickets THROUGH an agent, then why should they use agents?

    Agents cannot have it both ways. Either they provide ADDED VALUE or simply get out of the ticket distribution business.

  12. Well, Travelocity did jerk her around by screwing up her cancellation and then demanding that she pay a fee and yield some of the refund she’d otherwise be entitled to. But I get the feeling that if she and Chris push things any further, Travelocity will dig in its heels. It’s not ideal, but this is probably the best she can get from them.

  13. No – US Airways is within its rights to keep TRAVELOCITY’s money. They don’t have a right to keep hers. She should have charged it back with her credit card company. Let Travelocity argue with US Airways – that’s not the customer’s problem.

  14. Generally, I would agree with your comment. However, I would like to parse the ticket buying process more to see what different players bring to the table.

    IMO, there are two parts to the buying process – (1) Search, and (2) Buy. The latter is simply airline ticket fulfillment. Once you already know which flights you want to fly, then getting tickets [fulfillment] is a simple vending process. Sometimes, agencies will undercut the published fares of airlines and you might find better prices from agents for the same flights. Other times, the airlines will discount published fares (i.e. web only) in their websites and will price the flights lower than what their agents can sell it for. When people talk about “shopping around for the best price”, I suppose they mean comparing prices for the same flights. I believe automation (vending machines) will ultimately win and replace humans in this endeavor.

    However, the first part in buying tickets – Search – could a complex process [especially for multi-city or international journeys]. In this part, the customer has to weigh different options (i.e. airline quality, flight depart and arrival time of day and dates, duration, number of stops, location of stops, seating types, etc. etc…). Often times, people do not simply buy the cheapest flights because they are inferior. Vending machines do a poor job at these “qualitative” factors. Even Hipmunk with its agony factor can’t cover most these factors. This is when a good [human] travel consultant can help.

    When I put together a complex itinerary, I often compare my GDS autopriced fare with what an OTA can do. Sometimes a {correction} an OTA will not put together the flights that I can do manually. But generally speaking, the simpler the itinerary, the less the difference. In other words, there is little difference between a human travel agent’s price and the OTA’s selling price. The biggest difference is that I can book an (international) journey and have at least 72 hours before my clients need to pay and ticket. That relieves the pressure of having to be 100% correct before you click the BUY button online. The client has a few days to check the booking before s/he commits thousands of dollars. IMO, this is the biggest advantage of using a (human) travel agent.

    Finally, for some destinations, airlines have bulk (or net) fares that some specialty agencies (called consolidators) can sell below the published fare. Some websites also sell them but I would not consider them OTAs because they really do not TICKET online (they ticket offline and send your eticket information by email). But then again, these sites do not really help you plan and decide how to make your trip better. You are going there for the price of ticket on a flight you already know you want (hopefully).

    What I am seeing is a role change for (human) travel agents. They really are travel consultants and should make money (a living) because of what the do to help travelers. If travelers don’t need help, then a vending machine is enough. And as we can see here, the OTA is not necessarily a better vending machine that the airlines own vending machine. All the OTA is, is a comparison site. Once you find what you like, then you go buy it on the airline’s own vending machine. I think the same thing will happen to hotel room bookings – you can use the OTA to compare prices and then call the hotel to negotiate the same or better price.

  15. But they are waiving the fee, so she is getting the 2nd ticket refunded. Not ideal, but she isn’t being charged any fees.

  16. They did not connect the two bookings – USAir found the dupes, and per their rules, the 2nd ticket was refunded. (unfortunately, that was the cheaper of the two). Don’t know how the 1st was never cancelled, but she is not paying any fees. Not ideal, and why my clients prefer to book with ME than with an OTA.

  17. But let’s be honest, here, Tony. OTAs are NOT and never WILL be real travel agents, and its about time the public realizes that.

  18. Automated travel agents will never be HUMAN, therefore, they cannot think for their clients. As I have said all along, they are vending machines. But that is NOT THE ISSUE here since she called and talked to a HUMAN BEING. That human being should have voided the ticket because that human being had her PNR # and can go to their GDS and do it in a minute. I think this is a human problem.

  19. What a convoluted mess… It’s not often it can be said on here, it sounds like the OP did everything right and STILL got the shaft.

    Travelocity acknowledges she did everything right. The airline acknowledges she did everything right. Others here acknowledge she did everything right. Yet, she’s STILL being penalized for the mistakes of others.

    Travelocity made the mistake and they are the ones who should make her whole. Yet another reason to not deal with these sites- there’s too much back and forth, and when the rubber hits the road, the calls were “…either not recorded or (they) deleted the phone records between it and Weiner.” I thought they recorded and kept for some time all the phone recordings. How convenient is this?

  20. I did some research on this somewhere and sent Chris an e-mail about it. He has his people working on it. But, for the first time in several days, I didn’t get one this morning. Turns out it’s not a cookie (well, it is but it isn’t) and cleaning out your cookies does nothing.

    Turns out there are two ad networks who specialize in these. There is an opt out site for them both…

    The site for readers to opt out of this site’s pop up ads

    Also, another one was recommended:

  21. This is reason 5,387 why to NEVER EVER EVER use a consolidator like Travelocity or Orbitz for airfare. She could have booked the exact same itinerary through the airline directly for basically the same price and could have been assured that her flight was canceled correctly when she called.

    I never understand why people use these sites. They’re fine when nothing goes wrong but when there’s an issue there is zero customer service or the customer service is inept, like this case.

    I say give them the middle finger to their offer and see them in small claims court. They are obviously unable to understand their own policy and their mistake, make them pay for it.

  22. According to the OP she cancelled her Travelocity booking at 812PM and made a new booking (with AMEX) six minutes later at 818PM. Therefore, the OP had a right to believe there would be no dups in USAIRWAYS RES system.

    An OTA also uses a GDS but mostly uses the APIs issued by the GDS company to AUTOMATE their transactions. So, theoretically, they cancel a reservation just as fast as you (a human) can.

    But she also talked to a human agent representing the OTA. That human should have fixed the problem (just like a brick and mortar agent would).,

  23. Chris should do an article on the scam that is online advertising. Tracing through the layers of obfuscated code to figure out who is calling what and hiding what else so you don’t know why you have a popup ad is quite amusing. In this case the root cause is the ad script provided by That calls a script, which calls a script, which opens the popup window and loads a page from, which iframes another page by, which finally loads the ad image files from

  24. I remember back in the day when online agencies often offered cheaper prices than going direct to the provider. Not any more. I can think of NO reason whatsoever to EVER use an online provider. I will sometimes use their websites to search for itineraries, but once I figure out what I want, I go direct to the provider – period. The price is often better because they don’t charge the service fee that some of the online providers do…and you don’t have to worry about getting screwed by the middle-man, as is clearly what happened here.

    If anyone can come up with a single valid reason to use an online travel agency, I’ll eat my words…but I’m betting I’ll go hungry. ;-)

  25. I think it’s pretty darn obvious by now, at least to those of us who keep up with the travel industry, that OTAs are utterly useless and, in fact, are harmful. They offer no savings, no value, no convenience. They sometimes cost money (service fees) and create a middle-man effect whereby, as in this case, if they screw up, the traveler gets screwed and has no recourse.

    I am in complete agreement with you. OTAs need to provide some value or go away.

  26. Travelocity has no right to dig in their heels. They made a mistake, and are expecting the traveler to pay for it. They owe their client the money she lost due to their mistake. Period.

  27. Thanks for the heads up. On the site, this warning appears in red when you go to click on opting out. Somehow, I don’t feel guilty.
    By opting out you are taking an active
    position not to support the pubilshers whose websites you visit and whose
    content you consume free of charge. In doing so you threaten the long term
    viability of their operations.

  28. Some foreign airlines do not have “functioning” websites.
    Most airlines will not sell “interlined” tickets.
    Some airlines websites are actually hosted by OTAs (e.g. Expedia for some Asian airlines).
    Some online sites are actually brick and mortar travel agencies that invested in internet booking engines and offer discounted fares online.
    What’s wrong are the POLICIES of many agencies online or offline.

  29. Monica, I think you will be hard pressed to find a 24-hour (no penalty fee) cancellation policy for Travelocity. Here is the best I could find.

    You entered in the wrong information when making your booking:
    If you purchase electronic airline tickets and notify us by 11:59PM
    (Central Time) on the same calendar date of your purchase that you’ve
    booked the wrong dates, names, or flight times, we’ll let you cancel
    your airline tickets without charging a cancellation fee. (This policy
    does not apply to Porter Airlines, Spirit Airlines, USA 3000 Airlines or
    to packages.)


  30. Actually, she IS paying “fees.” She’s being charged the difference between the cancelled reservation and the second one.

  31. Yes most travel agencies charge a service fee (cancellation, re-booking, etc.) on top of the airline’s own fees. This is a fee driven business.

  32. I am sorry but I don’t think Travelocity has a 24 hour (penalty free) cancellation policy.
    US Airways has one:

    24-hour refund rule
    You’re allowed to cancel your US Airways ticket (refundable or non-refundable) for a full refund (and no change fees and/or difference in fare).
    Must call 800-428-4322 within 24 hours of purchase to cancel and (request a refund )Does not apply to Dividend Miles award tickets.
    Only for tickets booked on or with US Airways Reservations

    But I don’t think you will find one for Travelocity.

    Ask yourself this – why should anyone buy a USAir ticket from an agent of the airline when they are getting LESS PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW ???

  33. This is just more ways they are screwing us everytine we travel. the only reliable place I have found is worldventures. They are not a rip-off and will refund u 100% everytime. check out the second video down this guy will show u how to achieve financial and travel freedom. this is the greatest travel program on the planet I have taken multiple vacations for a third of the price I can find it anywhere else.

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