When Expedia doubled the ticket price, we had to cancel our flight

Donna Pucciani might be forgiven for thinking Expedia is trying to earn its high ranking as one of the most-complained-about companies on this website. After she and her husband, Peter Bostock, experienced what they call “price-gouging,” you probably would, too.

Pucciani and Bostock’s experience is a sad example of why online travel sites such as Expedia are highly unpopular with our readers. Deeply discounted ticket prices and other special deals listed on Expedia turn out to be nothing more than bait-and-switch advertisements – and online travel sites refuse to honor them.

Pucciani and Bostock made reservations through Expedia for a nonstop flight from Chicago to Madrid on American Airlines. Expedia emailed Pucciani and Bostock electronic tickets, along with a receipt for $1,275 for their airfares. A notation at the end of the email told them to print the tickets and to contact American for seat selection. But the following day, an agent of Expedia told them that the price had nearly doubled to $2,293 — which Pucciani and Bostock could not afford.

For the next five hours, Pucciani and Bostock tried to figure out why the price of their tickets had gone up so much — especially because the price on their e-tickets still read $1,275. Expedia gave them a variety of reasons – none of which bore much, if any, relationship to the truth.

First, its agent told Pucciani and Bostock that there was a schedule change. But when they checked this with American Airlines, they were told that the flights they had reserved were still scheduled for the times listed in their booking.

Expedia also claimed that American Airlines was responsible for the price change. Pucciani and Bostock received an email from Expedia indicating that American Airlines would not allow Expedia to issue the tickets at the $1,275 rate.

Expedia’s agent also indicated that the electronic tickets were invalid because the ticket numbers did not begin with “0.” But the email that Pucciani and Bostock received from Expedia did not communicate anything of this nature to them.

Having gotten nowhere with Expedia, Pucciani and Bostock canceled their tickets on American Airlines and rebooked their trip on an Aer Lingus flight that had a layover.

Although Pucciani and Bostock might have escalated their complaint to executives of Expedia using contact information on our website, they asked our advocacy team to help them get two vouchers from Expedia for a nonstop flight on American Airlines from Chicago to Madrid.

Was their request reasonable?

Expedia’s terms of use disclaim liability for any discrepancies between anything posted on its site and actual conditions. So it isn’t going to accept any responsibility for any differences between prices advertised on its site or in email confirmations and the prices it actually charges its customers.

In addition, the e-tickets Pucciani and Bostock emailed to our advocates did not have ticket numbers listed on them, meaning that although the reservation had been made, it had not yet actually been ticketed. As our advocate noted, “This happens sometimes with online travel booking sites when fare availability has changed but hasn’t been updated on the websites.”

When this happens, the airline does not book the ticket because the fare is no longer available. For this reason, Expedia’s website and other online reservation sites provide the disclaimer “Fares are not guaranteed until ticketed” during the booking process.

Expedia did offer Pucciani and Bostock 3,500 Expedia +Rewards points as “compensation.” Pucciani and Bostock aren’t impressed with this offer, but they aren’t sure pursuing the case further with Expedia is worth the time and effort involved.

Did Expedia offer Donna Pucciani and Peter Bostock enough compensation?

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