Double-booked on Orbitz – but why didn’t they tell me?

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Chuck Harding accidentally made two reservations when he booked a trip from Chicago to St. Louis last year. He thinks his online agency should have caught the problem and fixed it for him, but it didn’t.

His story offers a few lessons for those of us who want to book tickets without the help of a travel professional. And it exposes the limits of technology when it comes to airline reservations.

No, this case wasn’t fixable, and I shoulder part of the blame. Harding asked for help several months ago, and his case was temporarily lost during the latest systems switchover. By the time I got involved, it was too late to do anything, and I feel partially responsible.

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Harding tried to make his travel arrangements on Orbitz. “I thought I scheduled a flight and hotel, and was told by the screen that a confirmation would be sent to my email address,” he remembers. “I was worried when I did not receive my confirmation, and figured that I had not completed the transaction correctly.”

He figured wrong.

“I proceeded to book another flight and hotel — same day, same person, same credit card, same phone numbers, same everything. Only the flight was different, going through Newark instead of Cleveland for the connection,” he says. “I put in my email address and bingo, it kicked out a confirmation for me. I thought, ‘Gee, I must’ve messed up the last one, because I didn’t get a confirmation at all.”

Except that both reservations actually went through.

He continues:

Fast forward to Monday, and when speaking with my wife, she mentioned that our credit card had been charged twice for the trip to St. Louis.

Upon spending approximately two hours on the telephone with an Orbitz ‘supervisor’ from Manila, she told me that it is the policy of Orbitz to offer no credit to me, because the airline and the hotel could do ‘nothing’ for me.

It was explained to me that the first trip was booked with the confirmation email that had a typo in it. So I asked how I could possibly know that I had a confirmation, if Orbitz hadn’t notified me of the email being sent back as ‘undeliverable’ to me.”.

I tried to explain that I would never have booked another trip, for the same dates, to the same cities, at the same time had they notified me! Chloe said she is ‘not authorized’ to issue a credit to you of any kind.

Wow, so many things went wrong with this booking, it’s hard to know where to begin. I think this reader would have really benefited by working with a human travel agent.

Oddly, US Airways canceled one of his flights because a representative told him he “couldn’t be in two places at the same time.” So he asked me to help him get a refund.

I thought he had a good chance, and this case went to one of our volunteer mediators to handle. (We’ve since moved to a new system where I mediate every case — that way, when something gets dropped, I know who to blame.)

For reasons that aren’t clear, Harding’s case never made it to Orbitz until he contacted me a few weeks ago to ask about the status of his refund. I asked Orbitz to look into it. It responded promptly:

Mr. Harding booked twice. The first time with an incorrect email address, so he wanted a refund, as he did not get the confirmation that we sent.

He booked on October 20, 2013. Called us on October 28th, when he figured it out, after travel date. By then, too late to do anything. As airline tickets were not mirror dupes (exact same itinerary) US would not refund.

His comments to you about US at the airport, do not match our documentation.

The representative also suggested that some of the responsibility for this screw-up rests with me, and I accept that. For what it’s worth, Harding didn’t contact me until this June for help, so we didn’t sit on the case for a year.

But Harding makes a valid point: Why doesn’t Orbitz try to reach out to a customer when their email notification bounces, and particularly if the credit card accepts the transaction? A courtesy call can’t hurt.

This case is unfixable. I suspect that even if I’d answered Harding last year, it would have been unfixable. But there’s no excuse for any kind of delay in answering a consumer, and for that, I’m sorry.

Should Orbitz have refunded one of Harding's bookings?

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165 thoughts on “Double-booked on Orbitz – but why didn’t they tell me?

  1. I’d never use an OTA without establishing an account first – to have a place where I can check on status. I’ve had cases where I was wondering if something bounced around and wasn’t getting to me, so I checked the “current trips” from the account and saw that it didn’t go through. Besides that, my email address is automatic when I log in, and it saves me from having to type in a bunch of info every time and reducing the chance of a typo coming back to bite me.

    1. so true.
      never use any site as a guest when you are giving them your money. (ebay, orbitz, amazon, etc)

      but i had to vote no because- ALWAYS CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD.
      (i check this even if i do get a confirmation.)

      maybe the OP did not have online banking? — go to an ATM and check, or call the number on the back of the card- it can tell you your latest transaction. there is NO reason to say “maybe it didn’t go through, let me pay again.”

  2. Why does Orbitiz have more of a responsibility to track down a bounced email rather than the person who booked who did not enter nor verify that they entered their email correctly and did not receive a confirmation be responsible in following up on his transaction? Why couldn’t the LW have contacted Orbitz to see if the order went through prior to rebooking if he was concerned that there was a problem? Wouldn’t that have prevented this from being an issue in the first place?
    This idea that Orbitz dropped the ball is assuming that the email bounced or bounced in a timely manner. While the email address wasn’t the LW’s, I would think it is possible that it could be someone’s email addressand therefore they did not receive a bounce back. Also, I have experienced email notifications delivered back to me anywhere from immediately to a week or more after the email was sent. They may not have been aware of it in a timely enough manner to address it.

    1. Orbitz is supposed to be one of the better OTAs. But when you call CSR and you get Manila, you have already lost. Offshore service centers have zero ability to actually fix a problem. All they can do is read scripts.

      You have pointed out a basic problem with email: a defined bounceback response to an invalid address, so long as the server (the part after the at-sign) is valid, does not always occur. Some servers just swallow a bad address and lick their lips, leaving the sender not knowing whether or not the message got through.

      The standard security procedure that Orbitz did not follow would be to display “click link in the email we just sent you” to confirm the reservation. Only if you get the email can you click that link, and only if the seller gets the link-clicked indication does the transaction proceed. This protocol also catches those “it fell into my spam bucket” situations. That email address is going to be vital if Orbitz wants to notify the customer of a schedule change.

      OP could have gotten this problem fixed had he acted in the first 24 hours. After that it’s the industry standard “Nyah nyah, we got you!” Use your card issuer’s online access to verify that you only booked one ticket.

          1. Interesting, I have to do the “verify by email” bit for nearly every social/media website I want to join, but the ones I need to do business with accept the info and don’t make me validate it. You’d think the ones who want my money would take that extra step to validate that I didn’t screw up my info.

          2. Key difference… In social media, you’re the product and verifying that every member is a real person increases the value to advertisers and, therefore, what the site can charge. Have the site invaded by bots might drive away the very advertisers the site needs to survive.
            I have had retailers make me go through the routine when I create an account but never to make a purchase. Even when I make a purchase without creating an account.

          3. The reason is to comply with anti-spam law.
            Social media sites need to prove that you solicited their junk mail.

          4. Naturally. All these travel providers have “penalties” and other such “gotchas” which let them keep your money if you make a mistake. If they make a mistake, they charge your credit card, and you have to fight them.

          5. If it makes you feel better, a lot of these penalties are ones TA’s have to pay if we make a mistake. No room for error and even with Errors and Omissions policy, you can’t afford to use it.

          6. this is so dumb, had to comment.
            If you could just make a booking & give any 15 or 16 digit number as a credit card, knowing it wouldn’t be processed until I “verified” some airlines could corner the market, on other airlines fares.
            It would be very easy to send a smaller airline broke very fast.
            Look at the original PeoplExpress. They took way more bookings than seats. Sometimes people turned up & sometimes they didn’t.

          7. It amazes me of the solutions that readers of this blog come up with.

            “click link in the email we just sent you” to confirm the reservation.”

            When will the merchant charges the credit card especially if the card is a debit card? Card could be good at the time of the reservation but not at the time of the click especially if it is hours before clicking (i.e. the cardholder could had automatic charges that are posted between the time of the reservation and when the click is clicked which put the cardholder over their limit with this purchase).

            How long do you have to click on the link? How long will the seat be hold? Please remember that the airline website, brick & mortar travel agents and other online booking sites are selling seats on the same flight…you can’t hold a seat ‘forever’ waiting for someone to click on a link? I can see people gaming the system.

          8. Better yet… I’m willing to bet that the OTA is going to authorize the card while waiting for you to click the link (just to make sure that its a valid card) so it will show up if you look at your bank statements… So if they cancel your reservation for not clicking on the link can you imagine the outcry? “They charged my card! I saw it right after I made the reservation. Now they say they cancelled it and it will cost me $500 more to make the same flight. Chris can you help me?”

          9. Yes, they get an approval that on your account will show pending. However, when you click, you are not charged at that moment. They will handle things inhouse and/or with ARC, which will be done later. But by clicking the purchase button, you have made a commitment and are locked in at that time.

          10. My thoughts exactly. Or what if it was the last seat at that price, and between the time they made the purchase and they clicked the link, someone else bought it. Cries of bait and switch will occur.

          11. When a card number in put into the system, it is automatically checked for being a valid number. When the online booker hits the key for the final part of the purchase, the card is checked at that time for funds and the charge will show as pending on your account. The final step does not take place until the ARC report is done and the credit card information is sent to the carrier for the charge to proceed.

          12. You could just say “You have x amount of time to confirm through the e-mail we sent or your reservation is canceled.” Right? What seems fair? A few hours, tops?

          13. If you’re going to require email address verification to complete a transaction, then the best practice is to just make registration mandatory. Which is an approach many retailers, including Amazon, take.

            It’s a perfectly reasonable approach (IMO), except that customers may fear that registering will lead to spam and/or they may find it time-consuming and annoying. And that might lead to lost business.

            Spirit is, ironically, the one travel vendor I’m aware of which requires registration. But when I test it (with a bogus email) they don’t require any verification.

        1. None of them that I can recall, which is why this area is such a mess. I think they actually prefer it that way, to increase the Gotcha! count.

          1. If they’re trying to “gotcha” people who can’t input their own email address correctly, then those people deserve to be “got”. And, thinking through your scenario, 1,000 people willingly purchase a product. Now you want the retailer to potentially lose out on the sale waiting for those 1,000 people to hit “confirm” on an email? Really? REALLY?

          2. those people deserve to be “got”

            That’s a mentality I disagree with.

            I don’t expect companies to move heaven and earth to protect people like the OP from their own compounded mistakes.

            But I do expect expect them to have some basic diligence checks for clear mistakes. And when those diligence checks are triggered (as it appears they were in fact for US Airways in this case), then I expect the vendor who catches the mistake to act honorably. I don’t approve of opting instead to milk the customer’s mistake for every penny they can (i.e. cancelling the reservation AND re-selling the seat AND pocketing all the funds anyway).

          3. Checking validity of the email address is the whole point of this exercise. Large online retailers like Amazon use an account system, by which each user has a profile that includes his validated email address and credit card information. Though this makes transactions on these sites as fast as one click, such a scheme can only be used on sites you have a great deal of trust in.

            Airline sites can use pre-established accounts for frequent customers; the once-a-year flyers and the shop-arounders can use the two-step secure email validation I outlined above. Until NFC becomes universal for online transactions, that’s about as convenient as we can make it.

      1. I don’t think it would be feasible for Orbitz to require a click response before processing the order. I bet many people would never click it, and then show up at the airport with no ticket and again blame Orbitz. Its a darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

        As a side, I have used image tracking to determine if an e-mail is read. Each e-mail has a unique html tagged image, and the server displays the same image in all cases, but uses the unique signature to track who read the e-mail. Of course it doesn’t work if they view text only, or have their e-mail viewer set to not display images. It also only means they brought it up, not that they actually read it. I wouldn’t use it to process an order, but its good for collecting general statistics.

        1. Your solution wouldn’t work with me. I use Outlook, and the default is to not download pictures unless the address or domain has been added to the trusted list.

          On text type messages I don’t bother downloading graphics, so no tracking of that one.

      2. as has been pointed out in other comments, the click the link bit won’t work. but a simple idea that would is to require the customer to enter his email address twice.

      3. it’s an OTA !!!
        A real person will always do a better job.
        We always buy our tickets to USA from OZ from a live agent.
        There are lots of fares which don’t even make it to OTA’s.
        Why on earth would people think they are cheaper ???????

    2. I completely agree with Anthrochick. The first thing I would have done, if I suspect the transaction failed, was to call Orbitz and check on it. That way they could confirm my email and resend a confirmation. The customer needs to take responsibility for their mistake. They were foolish to rebook without first checking.

    3. Why couldn’t the LW have contacted Orbitz to see if the order went
      through prior to rebooking if he was concerned that there was a problem?

      Because he ain’t as SAVVY as you are, unfortunately for him.

          1. He booked online, he knew what to do to make the booking. What is it with smart people and the internet? They don’t use the smarts they have and repeat their mistakes!

    4. I used to work with several CRM systems and found no way to account for bounce backs. Like you mentioned they can bounce back immediately, or as long as several months later. Also, each e-mail server handles bounce backs differently, they may say an address is unreachable, they may say an address is not found on the server, they may have no information pertaining to the original e-mail, they may contain the full text of the original e-mail. There are hundreds of different ways in which bounce backs occur. It isn’t feasible to be able to match the bounce back to the original e-mail, and with the limited data the majority of servers send, this couldn’t even be done manually. And of course, like you also mentioned, if they entered a valid e-mail fro someone else, it would never bounce back. This is why these mass outgoing e-mail accounts are not monitored, and replies usually go to null.

    5. I had a website act up on me awhile ago. When the first transaction seemed to just hang and never giving a final screen, I did the transaction again (limited time sale), THEN called the company and checked on a duplicate order. The first one HAD gone through although not paid yet, just authorized. That order was cancelled and the more recent one was processed.

      Don’t always have to call before repeating the transaction, but you sure do at least right after.

  3. So a part of me says “what part of accident is confusing?”, because I don’t see an accident I see two very purposefully created and booked trips made because someone made ASSUMPTIONS. First, why does anyone still naively assume anything about transaction payments anymore, this is 2014 (2015 in sight). If I made a purchase and didn’t get an email confirmation I would first check my account with the OTA, is there booking information in my profile and account. The second thing I’d do is log into my credit card or banking account and see if there is a hold or pending transaction for the booking. If there is then I obviously paid for and was charged. My third step is to call the customer service number for the OTA, and follow that up with an email. In this case the traveler didn’t accidentally do anything they made an error, a mistake, they inputed the wrong email address (not Orbitz’s fault). This could have been an easily corrected situation that could have been 100% fixed by a traveler, instead the traveler made “assumptions”, and those assumptions had a price.

    The other part of me says “this is stupid, is your business run by slightly trained monkeys, no I think it’s a more slimy organism than that”. I have a very strong feeling that’s growing, is that there is a certain amount of revenue generation that is “planned incompetence”, airlines and OTA’s can generate profits by simply taking the approach of mindless drones. They aren’t responsible, and were happy to take money for your mistakes. They knew very early in the travel process that the extra booking was a mistake, that seat was easily sold (and likely at a higher cost).

    It comes down to who should pay for the assumptions: the traveler who made the purchasing assumptions or the OTA, who made the assumption that no one should make assumptions.

    Personally, I would have made the exact same booking and routing, called Orbitz and claimed they double charged me, and if they declined to refund me file a dispute with my credit card company for a fraudulent duplicate billing.

        1. You are way out of line in this one.
          You are contemplating fraud.
          I’m surprised Elliott has not stepped in to ban you.

    1. So, I don’t think it’d be ethical or right to make a 3rd booking in order to claim a double charge but I do think it would have been worthwhile to initiate a dispute on the second booking. While it may not have held up through the dispute process it gets a fresh set of eyes on it that may notice the expectations gap that was present in this case between customer and merchant.

      1. There were only 2 bookings, and my approach is that on the second booking I would make the EXACT same itinerary, so that if come Monday and I was double charged, my cause for dispute was that Orbitz double billed me

        1. Oh. Okay, I understand now what you’re suggesting. That’s certainly walking a fine line between ethical and unethical at least IMO. That being said, if you’re going through all that effort I’d question exactly why one wouldn’t just pick up the phone and check with Orbitz first?

          1. There’s nothing fine about the ethical line. It’s very clearly unethical. I would be taking advantage of the remote nature of an electronic transaction system to “insure” and protect my potential liability, knowingly and willingly with intent to do so. That’s not an ethical conundrum.

            For me, the only scenario that comes to mind is if I’m overseas and dealing with a small, foreign, OTA for an international flight that doesn’t have 24 hour CSR, and I was traveling on a tight booking schedule. Which in that case I would make a “reservation” or “hold” until I could get a hold of CSR when they are open.

          2. Except when they trace your activity on their site and show that you made that last booking at a later time. Boom. You’re now on the line for three flight / hotel packages. Congratulations.

          3. Call with Google Voice on your cell. Just called Hong Kong for $0.01 per minute and Brazil for $0.02. Just find the non-800#

  4. There are a number of ways this problem could have been avoided and the LW took none of them—having an account with the OTA, proofreading his information including email, checking his credit card account to see if he had been charged, calling the airline to double-check before booking a new reservation. He did none of this before making another reservation following another routing. So many opportunities to avoid a problem and he went immediately to the step that would cause the problem. An expensive lesson for him to learn.

  5. But if US Airways cancelled his ticket for the one flight dosent he get something for that?

    I don’t see the details about this part, but this seems like someone who has no clue about technology or online travel. I agree that this seems like the OP should be booking with a live person.

    1. I suspect he may have a credit to use on a future US Airways flight. He may have waited too long as typically they need to be applied to a new ticket purchase one year beyond the original date of issue. (Depending on the fare, the change fee may not make it worth applying anyway.)

    2. They cancelled his 2nd booking because he was double booked – so he would still have the ticket, provided it was cancelled before the flight left.

      1. So, they cancelled his 2nd booking, but then they refused to refund it because they “were not mirror dupes (exact same itinerary)” Really?

        1. As I noted (the USAir policy) there will be a penalty fee because it is not an exact booking.
          I am going to assume the penalty fee was just as much as the cost of the ticket 🙂

          1. Wow, that’s just evil… Part of what troubles me is that the policy you cite is strictly between US Airways and its travel agents.

            US Airways’ CoC with its passengers lists the cases when it can cancel confirmed reservations, and it makes no mention of the scenarios in that policy. From the passenger-CoC perspective, this would appear to be a clear-cut case of an Involuntary Refund.

          2. Perhaps you have a new business opportunity to write up for all these websites a list for every scenario.

  6. Courtesy call? Duh. What would trigger it?
    Care to explain what robot the OTA needs to build or program? And why? This case was a complete waste of a volunteer’s time.

    1. I went down that road once with a client. I don’t care how much money you can throw at it, or how many developers you have and how good they are, you can’t even get close to identifying bounce backs and tying them back to the original person. Even manually it can’t always be done. I posted more on the topic upstream somewhere.

  7. I think this comes down to a case about expectations and the gap that is present in almost any transaction between what the consumer expects and what the company actually produces. I’ve always had the best luck by proving to the company that their negligence caused this gap to appear. If I was Chuck I’d research more into whether or not US Airways refunded Orbitz for the canceled 2nd reservation. If that’s actually the case I would seek arbitration for that second purchase.

        1. I ask you the same question you ask me? When did he ask for a refund? Note:
          He booked on October 20, 2013. Called us on October 28th, when he figured it out, after travel date.

          1. “ast forward to Monday, and when speaking with my wife, she mentioned that our credit card had been charged twice for the trip to St. Louis.

            Upon spending approximately two hours on the telephone with an Orbitz ‘supervisor’ from Manila, she told me that it is the policy of Orbitz to offer no credit to me, because the airline and the hotel could do ‘nothing’ for me.

            It was explained to me that the first trip was booked with the confirmation email that had a typo in it. So I asked how I could possibly know that I had a confirmation, if Orbitz hadn’t notified me of the email being sent back as ‘undeliverable’ to me.”.

            I tried to explain that I would never have booked another trip, for the same dates, to the same cities, at the same time had they notified me! Chloe said she is ‘not authorized’ to issue a credit to you of any kind.”

            Sounds like he was asking for a refund to me…

          2. Oct 28, 2013 is a Monday. 8 days after he booked on Oct. 20. Too late to void tickets and get full refund. Also Orbitz mentions this was AFTER travel date.

            So the only way to make sense of his other statement about a duplicate flight segment cancellation was there was an earlier event. And I want to know when that earlier event was and why no refund was initiated?

          3. I’m not quite sure what “earlier event” you are referring to. However, I think we may be saying the same thing in different ways. If indeed US Air canceled one of his flights he should be entitled to a refund from Orbitz. However, inquiring minds would indeed love to know when the variable of US Air canceling one of the reservations took place and what communication the customer had with Orbitz with respect to the situation?

          4. It seems he didn’t inform Chris the travel date…

            If the travel was prior the discovery, he also have no-shows to complicate the problem.

          5. Tony is addressing the date the LW made his first reservation and the second date is when he realized his mistake. All ticket reports close at midnight on Sunday, so at that point Orbitz couldn’t do anything on 28th and it was in the hands of the carrier.

      1. All we see is that he “fast forwarded to Monday” so we don’t know how long of a lapse it was between making the double booking and when his wife informed him of the double billing on Monday. Could have been the next day (assuming he booked Sunday) or a week. It doesn’t mitigate the that he should have IMMEDIATELY called Orbitz after the confusion with the first booking. Expensive assumption.

        1. It is this:
          Oddly, US Airways canceled one of his flights because a representative told him he “couldn’t be in two places at the same time.”
          that I was asking Shawn about.
          This could only happen between Oct 20 to 28. Maybe 20 or 21. Why did he wait till the 28th to request a refund?
          That meant that during the discussion about the dup segment, it did not dawn on him he had 2 bookings and to refund one.

          1. I can not conjecture on the intellectual capability of one I am so unfamiliar with in the case of this LW.

  8. First, DID the e-mail actually bounce? It could very well have been successfully delivered, just not to the correct person. My e-mail is [email protected] (I got in early), and even though my last name isn’t particularly common, I get mail intended for somebody else two or three times a week.

    While I suppose it’s possible for Orbitz to check to make sure somebody’s not booking a dupe, it would be a lot of extra work, and often not very accurate… for all Orbitz knows, maybe the traveler had canceled the original booking directly with the airline/hotel.

    Sounds like the OP made an assumption that Orbitz would check for dupes, when in fact what he should have done was called or e-mailed Orbitz to see if his original reservation had gone through.

    [Edit: As a couple other people have pointed out, what’s up with the bizarro itinerary? Going through EWR or CLE to get from ORD to STL? HuhWhat? I’d be faster to drive…]

    1. I get the same thing, and I agree it’s not Orbitz responsibility to “parent” the actions and behavior of mature adults. Especially, when the easy and correct thing to do would be the PAX to call the OTA and verify the transaction and review it.

    2. My Gmail address is also Firstinitial dot Lastname @ gmail dot com. (I grabbed the Outlook version early too, just in case.) My last name is pretty unusual but there are enough of us in the US that there can still be some confusion and misdirected email. I had an episode of mistaken identity on Facebook where I “met” some interesting college girls.

  9. “But Harding makes a valid point: Why doesn’t Orbitz try to reach out to a customer when their email notification bounces, and particularly if the credit card accepts the transaction? A courtesy call can’t hurt.”

    Outbound phone calls such as a courtesy phone call is NOT the typical service of an online booking site. Travelers need to understand the services offered from an online booking site and set their expectations accordingly.

    If you want outbound phone calls, consultation, etc. then you probably need the services of a travel agent.

    1. First, how would they contact them? Assuming they included a phone number, Orbitz email with the itinerary bounced, so any email to contact them would have also bounced.

      Second, bounced email can take a while to be returned to sender, and that assumes it actually bounces and just doesn’t go to the wrong person who might actually have an email account with that mistyped email address. I get weekly email from someone who I have no clue who they are, I just delete it and think nothing of it, and a couple of those times its been travel information, and I’ve also gotten health information from their health care provider, I just delete it. In addition many mail servers will hold a message in queue for days or weeks “attempting” to deliver it, and some of those servers just purge undeliverable messages with out notice or bouncing it back.

      Third, why didn’t the PAX pick up the phone and call them? As far as Orbitz knows maybe the person wanted and intended to buy two different routings. Is it their obligation or responsibility to act as “parent” to adults, who are responsible and mature adults.

      1. I agree with your points but my point is the expectations of the OP and Chris Elliott of an online booking site. Last week, Chris wrote an article expecting an online booking site to call the traveler where Carver responded that Chris had the wrong expectations of an online booking site.

        It is like going to a discount stock broker and expecting to receive investment advice (i.e. which stock to purchase or sell) or expecting a phone call telling you to sell your stock(s). Most discount stock broker fees for a transaction are typical under $ 10. It would be like expecting a discount stock broker to constantly review your portfolio and etc. and call you when it is a good time to sell your stock(s) all for a $ 7.00 commission…get real.

        Expecting traditional brick & mortar services from an online booking site for free is unrealistic..

        1. Yep, thought of that exact same article myself in reading today’s situation. An *online* travel agency conducts business *online*, not via phone.

      2. I’ve received incorrect e-mails from medical for someone else. I send back to originator & tell ’em that they have the wrong person; and please fix the problem. Otherwise, they won’t know.

        1. I received a background check document on a US diplomat who had the same first name as me, and a similar last name as me, to my mail account from the secretary of states office. They were sending me a copy of my background check per my request according to the email. It contained the name, DOB, SSN, address, work history, family information including children, all of their bio data and their schools. Interestingly enough, his wife also had the same first name as my wife.

          I sent an e-mail back explaining that they sent this to the wrong person and question why this was being sent to a gmail account with no encryption. I never heard back.

          1. So, somewhere there’s a US diplomat who is too stupid to make sure he entered his e-mail address correctly? 😀

          2. I just went back and re-read the e-mail. It says, “Per your request by phone, I am sending this to your personal e-mail account”. So either she miss-heard it, or he miss spoke it.

          3. I had something like this happen with CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. A few years ago, they sent me someone else’s account information. I emailed them about it, but also emailed the person whose information I had received. Turned out that they had received someone else’s information. A few days later, I heard from a person who had received MY information. It was a royal CF. I didn’t trust CalPERS not to sweep the matter under the rug, and advised the other folks to raise hell with CalPERS, too. We all wound up receiving a free year of identity theft monitoring.

  10. Strange, we had the opposite. AND done in by the airline. Reservations were made through the airline, tickets paid for . Husband and son have same first and last names but DIFFERENT middle names. Two DIFFERENT addresses, two DIFFERENT e-mail addy’s, same flights for all of us. Airline cancelled their tickets. Never did find out why..perhaps some sort of “security” thing, but didn’t need this to add to stressors. Grateful they didn’t cancel my ticket/daughter’s.

    1. Exactly. The robots will HX (cancel) flight segments with dup pax names. You need to add something to differentiate the names like FQTV info.

          1. Shouldn’t it work? it’s a different name, isn’t it?

            My friend Ira’s bank keeps nulling out his account. Morons think he’s an Individual Retirement Account…..

          2. No, actually his first name is Ira. Ya gotta wonder how safe it is to keep one’s money in an institution which cannot differentiate between a name and a type of instrument….

          3. My friends last name is IRA. He is a Wharton grad, worked in a Financial Institution and is an FC.
            Trifecta!

          1. I have to do that. I’m a Jr., but I rarely use that, except when I fly with my father otherwise one reservation is toast. But, at least on AA, if you have different FF numbers you’re fine.

            Another cheap plug for loyalty programs.

            🙂

      1. My father and I share the exact same name, except I’m the 4th and my father is the 3rd. When we travel together we make sure to confirm via telephone with an actual agent that they see two different suffixes, birth dates, a frequent flier numbers and that the two bookings do in fact represent two different people.

      2. My father and I share the exact same name, except I’m the 4th and my father is the 3rd. When we travel together we make sure to confirm via telephone with an actual agent that they see two different suffixes, birth dates, and frequent flier numbers; generally stressing that the two bookings do in fact represent two different people.

      3. The robots will HX (cancel) flight segments with dup pax names.

        Oddly, it seems like the mirror opposite happened here:

        ” a representative told him he “couldn’t be in two places at the same time.”

        That makes it sound as if they cancelled the segments where he was on *different* flights and they left alone the segments where he was double-booked…

        1. No telling what exactly happened. That’s why that conversation is CRUCIAL to this story.
          If you buy 2 tickets on separate PNRs on 20OCT, the robot will likely catch the same PAX name on the same flight within 24 hours (usually much faster). They will HX one or more of the flight segments and send the PNR on the Agency’s Queue.
          The agent does not necessarily know the other PNR unless the message from the airline identifies the dup PNR. He might have to find it (using the name wildcard).
          A brilliant agent can suspect that 2 tickets were bought by the same person. And if so ask the person which one he wants to keep. If less than 24 hours has gone by then it is very easy to VOID the unwanted ticket after cancelling the whole itinerary. The system will automatically handle his credit card refunding.

          If more than one business day has passed, the brilliant agent can still cancel the unwanted itinerary and call USAirways and get SOME money back for the customer. Here is USAirways amazing policy 🙂

          Note: I wonder which PNR’s segment(s) were cancelled.
          Maybe it was the one he wanted to keep.

          1. “If less than 24 hours has gone by then it is very easy to VOID”

            Is that still true within 7 days of scheduled departure? Maybe that was part of the problem here…

            “the robot will likely catch the same PAX name on the same flight”

            In general, how do they avoid cancelling strangers who happen to share the same name? I would think there has to be some other commonality besides the first and last name (e.g. payment info, phone, address, email(!), DOB)?

          2. Agencies have a different VOIDing policy. It is because they settle payments through ARC.
            The 24 hold/refund DOT policy is for airlines only.
            Agencies do things differently.

            Note the guy held 2 tickets on 2 different PNRs on 20OCT although he is not aware of it.

            I suspect by 21OCT, he gets a call about one of his ticketed PNRs because the airline cancels one or more flight segments. This was the MOST IMPORTANT call.
            If the PNR we wanted to keep had all the flights intact, then the agent simply had to cancel the other PNR and void the ticket.

            On 28OCT he complains to Orbitz. Too late to VOID but not too late to ask a refund from USAir (see policy I attached somewhere).

            How does the robot cancel confirmed flight segments? Don’t know the exact program logic. BUT…
            I have seen customers ask me to make a reservation which I do (create a PNR). A day later I see the same PNR in my Queue with flight segments HXed and a note saying a DUP exists somewhere (location name). That means the customer has talked to another agency and asked them to book the same exact itinerary. So in essence he made me do all the research and work and then proceeded to buy the ticket from someone else. What an a$$hole. I did all the work and got nothing.

          3. Oh wait Michael. There is another scenario here since the itineraries were NOT EXACT.

            Airlines (like USAirways) have (ant-fraud) robots that goes out at look for illogical itineraries. His 2 tickets on the same day could have triggered this because they were illogical itineraries.

            Here is the policy:

          4. Interesting… I can find that policy on their site if I search for it, but it’s not on their public Site Map and it’s only linked to from their Travel Agent Resource Center.

            On the one hand, that seems like solid grounds for Orbitz to get a full refund from US Airways for one of the itineraries, and it makes US’s refusal to refund that much more inexplicable. Clearly there were two reservations for the same passenger and it was clearly evident that one of the reservations could not be used at all.

            On the other hand, this strikes me as another heavy-handed airline policy. There are cases where someone might legitimately want to do this. Say you are a reporter covering the World Series and you know 16 days out that the weekend games will be in St. Louis or San Francisco. You may legitimately wish to book travel to both possible destinations (and throw away one itinerary) rather than risk waiting until the last minute when flights might be full.

          5. I drove a friend to the airport. We encountered Jane Curtin – beautiful, but stupid. She said “OH, your seat is not 3C, but 14D” or some such. She printed out the boarding pass and I looked at it. I told her “Try reading the WHOLE name, won’t you? Some other PAX with same last name as my friend’s was on the flight, and Bimbette failed to pay attention. I doubt if she could count to “2” unless she were in the shower…..

      4. I once booked an extra seat for my wife because she had to work and the flight was really cheep. I called the airline and they said to use Extra Seat or something like that for the first name on the extra seat. I did use the same address and DOB. It worked except an FA tried to assign the empty seat to someone and my wife had to fight, then another PAX tried to take it and my wife had to fight them off. She said it was quite a nuisance.

        1. The procedure for booking an extra seat is quite straightforward. How the check in agent and FAs handled them is another issue 🙂

          1. The EXTRA SEAT is actually another pax since it has a name. Therefore it is assigned a seat.
            Was your wife issued another boarding pass for that extra seat or not?

  11. I was going to ask: he mis-typed his email the exact same way, twice?

    And then I checked. Orbitz only makes you type it once.

    This is why they should force users to enter their email address twice and verify that the fields match.

    I also echo Jim’s observation. If the carrier cancelled one of his flights, then he should have been informed of that and gotten something back at least for that.

    [Chicago to St. Louis connecting in Newark? ….]

  12. When you use an OTA (really an online booking engine there’s no “agent” involved here), you are essentially becoming your own agent. You need to make sure you write confirmation #s down and if you down don’t get a confirmation email, you call to check up on it.

    Making a double booking and then assuming that the booking engine will cover for your mistake is silly…

  13. Chicago to St. Louis…is a five hour drive. It’s also a direct flight from ORD on American Airlines and United Express, as well as from MDW on Southwest. Why on earth would you take anything but a direct flight, especially with out of the way connections through Newark(!) or Cleveland?

    Regardless – when you do it yourself, only one person bears the responsibility: You. If he mistyped his email address, it’s on him. If he didn’t follow up with Orbitz after making the reservation and confirming the error (as well as the booking), it’s on him. I wouldn’t feel bad about this Chris, it doesn’t sound like there’s much you could have done with the situation anyways. It was a costly error on the gentleman’s part, but perhaps it can be a lesson to him (and others) on bearing the burden of responsibility for his own actions.

  14. This is one to file under “People do strange things” for several reasons.

    Who out there hasn’t experienced email being delayed or not showing up at all? Yet he booked a second trip without even checking? He didn’t even check the credit card, that was his wife. And as an aside, what an odd choice of flights. He bypasses direct for a layover in Cleveland, then rather than just book the exact same trip the second time (it was his pick of the litter earlier in the day, after all) he chooses an even more out-of-the-way layover in Newark.

  15. When you book thru Orbitz, et al, Last page gives you a confirmation number anyway! (even without the email confirm) When email didn’t come thru after a couple of hours, he should have called first to locate, not “try a new one to see if it’s different” How would Orbitz ever know even with bounce back email you booked twice? He’s the one that put his email in–and how can Orbitz know to notify if email wrong–it will be wrong for them too!

    As far as they know too–that email could have ended up in a SPAM folder too–

    On another note, they could be proactive and have persons enter email twice (as online retail businesses do) this might help incorrect emails.

      1. Not everyone has a printer. I don’t. I do make sure I have received the confirmation email or I write the confirmation number down before exiting the page though.

          1. Adding to your suggestion, and making things easier, instead of installing some PDF printer, use Chrome – it has a nice PDF native printer 🙂

  16. So when did you become responsible for others mistakes. You did not make the reservations. He made the mistakes and should have immediately checked w the OTA and made sure he had a confirmation instead of making another reservation. His fault, not yours.

  17. I get tired of the entreaties to use a travel agent to book a simple airfare. Do they even do that anymore? How much do they charge?

    I personally won’t use agencies like Orbitz and Travelocity. I don’t think I’ve ever used either one. I check prices on Kayak and at Southwest then book directly with the airline. I have accounts with the ones I use so I can look at my trips to see what is up – no going through a middleman. I’ve seen too many horror stories on Elliott about the online agencies: Airline: “It’s Orbitz’s fault. Talk to them.” Orbitz: “It’s the airline’s fault. Talk to them.”

    I have my credit cards set up so that I get an email when a charge of airfare-size goes through. Usually I get that email within a couple minutes of booking a trip. That way I know I was in fact charged.

      1. If he would have had charge alerts set up with his credit card (email, SMS, app push notifications) he would have known there was a pending charge on his credit card the first time around – even without having received his email confirmation. At that point, he could have called Orbitz to inquire about why didn’t receive the email in the first place.

  18. Another question: did the hotel not tell him that he had booked two rooms?

    If they did, that should have been another strong clue to call Orbitz ASAP. And at that point his trip was not fully completed yet.

      1. Of course you can, yes. But in that case, when you check-in, don’t they assign you two rooms and hand you two sets of keys? Or else ask you about your intentions and maybe for the name of the guest you booked the other room for?

        1. Depends. If the two rooms were booked at once, then perhaps. If they were booked at different times, who knows. I’ve done that accidentally and sometimes they know and sometimes they don’t

        2. I’ve booked two rooms at the same hotel separately. The hotel didn’t care and didn’t ask for any names. I’m pretty sure the only thing they cared about was violating the maximum occupancy per room. Even then I don’t think the cared since I didn’t hear a peep when my kid wanted to be in the other room (pushing it up one past the limit). They saw it too.

          The only issue they typically have is with issuing replacement keys. In that case one person staying in a room can leave a name even if not on the reservation.

          1. I’m aware it can be done. I asked because I would normally expect the agent at the check-in desk to notice and to bring it up.

            I’ve had monthly car rentals in city A and then rented another car for 2 or 3 days in city B, with the same rental company. If I had to pick up keys from the counter in city B, the agent would always double check to verify if I intended to have 2 open contracts at the same time.

    1. I’ve booked two rooms before, and under my name spelled exactly the same way. I checked for both and relatives stayed in the other room.

      There’s a lot you can do. I’ve had three simultaneous bookings for a rental car at the same location and the same (or about the same) pickup/drop off times, with the same OTA. All were kept open until I personally cancelled all but one. None were prepaid or even required a deposit of any kind.

  19. *** OFF TOPIC ***
    On the right side of the blog, I see some twitter messages about Chris giving away Knee Defenders.
    Seriously? Is he now endorsing this controversial contraption?
    Didn’t that cause fights on a couple of flights already?
    Maybe chocolates are better 🙂

    1. If one email address was correct and the other was wrong, that suggests the OP didn’t set up an Orbitz account (where the email address would have been correct both times – or neither time, but I’ll assume that would have been correct).

  20. I’m pretty darn nice about things like this but even I have say… no. Sorry on this one. If I don’t get a confirmation, I’m on the phone with them to find out what went wrong.

  21. First off, who just goes ahead and books another flight without investigating what happened to his first attempt? There are a number of ways the double booking could have been avoided. To name a few… (1) Double check all your information before purchasing flights (2) Call Orbitz to find out why you never received the email confirm; (3) Check your credit card account – or better yet, have alerts set up from your card issuer (email, SMS, push notification) when charges are posted to your account – then follow up with #2. The OP has no one to blame but himself. Pricey lesson to learn.

  22. This case neatly mirrors a similar one just this week of a woman who had a problem with an infant ticket being cancelled and an email sent by expedia that she had missed. In that case, she got an email and missed it and caused a whole bunch of problems later. In this case, he _didn’t_ get an email and made a bad assumption (that the ticket wasn’t booked.)

    Forget typos. It’s possible for an email to get lost because the sendmail server has an issue amongst other things. It was never meant to be a reliable protocol. In combat, yes, combat tanks they opted NOT to use email because it wasn’t reliable.

    I confirm with the airline first to see if my booking code is in place but in his case, he should have checked to see if it wasn’t in place.

  23. What if the 2nd booking was for his son of same name ?
    Call centres are so 20th century.
    Australians don’t like talking to foreign call centres, so some businesses in OZ, are bringing them back onshore at vast expense (probably AUD$25/hour minimum, that’s currently USD$22/hour, with minimum number of hours guaranteed, holiday pay, sick pay, etc. which probably doubles the costs) & some businesses are doing away with call centres altogether & have email centres.

    1. I understand that some Australian businesses have offshored call center operations to New Zealand to save on costs. I saw some stat saying that over a third of their call center personnel are serving international customers.

      1. yes Qantas has some calls answered in New Zealand.
        New Zealand wages & conditions much less than in OZ, which is probably why NZL is booming & OZ is not.

        1. Sure. However, do Aussies have any difficulties with such arrangements compared to perhaps an Indian or Phillipine call center?

          1. yes some Kiwis are very hard to understand & workers in call centres in India are much cheaper again.
            Guess with email, less chance of misunderstanding.

  24. Email can and does fail. Best thing to do is to check the website to see if a booking went through or not. That is the repository with the status of the booking.

  25. There are thousands of these type errors. My favorite was an ex Dr. (if she was that stupid, I sure don’t want her diagnosing me) that thought that the computer was taking too long to confirm her RT tickets to London, first class of course. She hit enter again and of course was issued 2 non-refundable first class tickets. She ordered them and she had to pay for them. Travel agents get debit memos regularly for dupe bookings, even thought they only issued 1 ticket, but the second reservation prevented the airline from selling the seat. Oops, we pay the fee for the second reservation. So should Chuck!

  26. How do we know the email bounced instead of going to someone else with that “typo” email address? I constantly get emails from people who used my email address accidentally. If it’s easy to send a “you sent this to the wrong person” email, I do. But if the email is sent from a “send only” address, I don’t waste hours looking on the internet for the correct address to send the correction to.

    Unless there was some kind of unique identifier attached to the reservation (SSN, etc), there’s no way for Orbitz’s system to recognize that this was a double booking. Even with the same name, address, and CC number, it could be a “junior” booking from the same address.

  27. Another sad case of someone doing something that he didn’t know how to do. While there’s a tiny possibility that his mistake would have been caught, how could the OTA notify him if he entered an incorrect email address? If you don’t receive a confirmation, follow up on that issue, don’t just make another booking. The customer has many ways to reach the OTA and get answers. Sure, it could take 2 hours on the phone …. that’s why they call it an ONLINE travel agency.

  28. Why is any of this partially your fault when LW didn’t contact you until June for a transaction that was done 8 months earlier? Do you think Orbitz would have done anything differently if you had contacted them in June?

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