Did Orbitz take $100,000 from Alexander Tiu?
Probably not. In fact, his case raises so many alarms that we referred it to our help forums for a more thorough public vetting. (It never made it that far.)
The problem isn’t the veracity of the claim, but the keywords that made our team decide to take a more passive approach to helping Tiu.
Let me explain.
First, let’s have a look at the case as it arrives from our form. This is what our advocates see (I’ve redacted Tiu’s personal information):
Company you have a question or comment about: Orbitz & China Airlines
I purchased a round trip ticket from SFO to BNE on March 30, 2016, at the travel agent site, Orbitz.com. The airline is China Airlines. I received my confirmation and e-ticket on the same day, March 30, 2016. All is set, or so I thought.
Today, I got a call from China Airlines notifying me that the fare I booked was a “system error” and my booking will be cancelled, or I need to pay more money. I did not ask how much more. I insisted with China Airlines that I booked a bona fide rate and China Airlines already issued an e-ticket along with my seat numbers for the flight.
Can China Airlines do that? If Orbitz made a mistake, shouldn’t Orbitz take the brunt of the mistake? Should I be penalized for someone else’s mistake?
I am attaching a copy of my flight confirmation and e-ticket. Your advice and assistance will be greatly appreciated.
What’s your desired resolution? Honor the ticket I already purchased.
What’s the value of your claim (in US $)? 100000
Can you guess what the red flags are?
Let’s review them:
“The fare I booked was a system error.”
That’s a telltale sign of a fat-finger fare — a known fare error booked in the hopes that the airline would honor it. In the past, I’ve equated buying these erroneous prices with stealing. I certainly think a customer like Tiu can ask his airline to honor the fare until the cows come home, but I’d really prefer our advocacy team abstain from handling such cases.
“Shouldn’t Orbitz take the brunt of the mistake?
No, Orbitz is simply the middleman in this transaction. The airline canceled the ticket, so it probably made the fare error. Information left out: Where did Tiu find out about this deal? Is it possible he visited one of those travel hacker sites and found out about the fare error there? I hope not, but the finger-pointing doesn’t really help his cause.
“The value of my claim is $100,000.”
Tiu paid $714 for a roundtrip flight from San Francisco to Brisbane. Right now, an advance-purchase flight costs roughly twice that amount, so it’s a pretty obvious fare glitch. But that’s nowhere near the $100,000 Tiu claims he lost on the transaction. Maybe he was headed to Australia to make a business deal, but still — exaggerating doesn’t improve your chances. It actually reduces your credibility.
I decided to write about Tiu’s case because I want to offer the perspective of our advocacy team. We look for reasons to take the case, but when enough alarms go off, we simply can’t ignore them.
Our advocates hope Tiu made a good faith reservation and that this was just a misunderstanding between China Airlines and the customer. If that’s true, then our forum advocates can help get this sorted out and, if necessary, refer it back to me for direct mediation. But there were just too many warnings on this one to take it any further.
No, Orbitz did not take $100,000 from Tiu. He’ll receive a full refund but needs to book a new ticket. He can — for about $1,400.