When Shiva Ramnarine wanted to go to London, he purchased three tickets for his family through Expedia. After purchasing the tickets he continued searching for cheaper tickets for the same trip. And his search was successful.
As he had found cheaper tickets, he thought he would apply for a refund of the difference in the fares, from Expedia under its Best Price Guarantee.
But Expedia refused to give a refund, so now Ramnarine wants our assistance in getting it to honor its Best Price Guarantee. But can we help?
Ramnarine’s story is reminder to check and understand the terms of any price guarantee. It’s also a study of what not to do once you have booked a flight — namely, to keep on searching for a cheaper flight. And of course, the same is true for a hotel stay or car rental.
I’ll let Ramnarine explain how it all started.
“On the 17th March 2017 I booked three plane tickets from New York to London for me and my family on Expedia at a cost of $2,246,” he told us.
So far, so good.
“I know I shouldn’t have continued looking for cheaper flights afterward but I did and on 18 March 2017 I found the same flight on Vayama for $2,179.”
You’re right; you shouldn’t have done that.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Because of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 24-hour reservation requirement, you can cancel your flight for free within 24 hours of booking. So why not continue looking?
Well, it isn’t as straightforward as that. The DOT guidance allows airlines to choose to either give a free cancellation within the first 24 hours or to allow a reservation to be held at the quoted fare for 24 hours.
You therefore need to make sure you know which policy the airline has chosen. And even if the airline does allow cancellation within 24 hours, you need to make sure you don’t forget to cancel within that period.
My advice is to do your searching before you book, not afterwards. That way you don’t have to worry about which policy applies or whether you are canceling in time.
“I immediately filled out a Best Price Guarantee Claim, as it was less than the 24 hours required to make a claim.” Ramnarine explained. “I filled out all the required information including the screenshot of the cheaper fare.”
Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee means that if you find a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise or activity within 24 hours of booking, Expedia will refund the difference and give you a $50 coupon for future travel.
Ramnarine received an automated response to his claim, stating that he would receive a response within 72 hours. He did not. In fact a whole week passed without a reply, so he chased Expedia for a response.
“They did respond and said that they checked and unfortunately I did not make my claim in time, which I did, and that the current fare on Vayama was now higher and that nothing could be done.” Rammarien explains.
As Ramnarine said, he had made the claim within 24 hours. “Obviously they didn’t check when I made the first claim and delayed it to the point where the fare went up enough.”
To be fair to Expedia, both of those things can’t be true. If it hadn’t checked when he made the first claim, then how would it know how long to delay before responding? Also, there wasn’t any evidence that it did delay responding just to allow the price to go up — and I confess I doubt Expedia would do that.
Ramnarine wrote back to Expedia, and again his claim was rejected, but this time for a different reason:
”We checked the screenshot and found that it does not show the cabin class. The screenshot must show the complete details of the reservation including the cancellation and change policy, cabin class, and number of passengers. Thus, we emulated the same exact reservation at “www.vayama.com” for your travel dates and found that the current rate offered was USD2,635.65. Due to this, we are unable to process your claim.”
I cannot recommend Ramnarine’s response to Expedia:
“I submitted a claim that day and all classes are economy unless you think Vayama was placing me on the wing outside!”
I can understand his frustration but being sarcastic, even just a little, won’t help your case.
In this case, however, sarcasm didn’t put Expedia off from replying:
”Our Price Guarantee policy only applies when the lower rate is available for booking at the time you contact us. Your screenshot lacks important information. However, we emulated the same exact reservation for your travel dates and the current rate offered was higher than what you paid.
The price not being lower on the competitor site means the Price Guarantee does not apply in this case, and we are confident that the original Expedia price offers you the best value for your trip.”
It was at this point that Ramnarine contacted us to see if our advocates could help him get a refund. One of our advocates wrote to Expedia. It looked again at the case and told both Ramnarine and our advocate yet another reason why the Best Price Guarantee did not apply:
I reviewed the screenshot you initially provided on March 18, 2017 and confirmed the flights do not match what you reserved in your original itinerary. Your flight departing London Heathrow Airport is scheduled for 5:30pm. The flight you found on Vayama.com departing from London Heathrow Airport is scheduled for 2:00pm. For this reason, we are unable to approve your Best Price Guarantee request and process a refund for the difference.
That explains why Ramnarine was not entitled to a refund under the Best Price Guarantee: He had found similar, but not identical flights.
On our forums we see cases of companies trying to find any exclusions or reasons to avoid paying under such guarantees. In this case, however, Expedia was right to deny the claim. If it didn’t require like-for-like bookings on something as fundamental as the same flight, it would often be paying out — and that would mean prices would increase for consumers to cover the cost.
Because of this, we could not get Ramnarine his $67 refund, and this is filed under “Case Dismissed.”