Kelsey Prima was planning a trip to Bangkok, then on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was a complicated itinerary using multiple airlines, the sort of thing that many travelers wouldn’t want to plan on their own, so she used a company called TravelMerry.
Unfortunately, when she arrived at the airport for the first leg of her journey, a flight from Philadelphia to Boston on JetBlue, she discovered that things weren’t starting off so merrily.
Prima arrived for her first flight at 6:30 a.m. and was told her boarding passes for her connecting flights could not be issued because of a problem checking in.
“I called the airline, Emirates, and the representative informed me that my flight had been cancelled due to travel restrictions,” she wrote, “And that I should be on the next flight at 11:50 p.m. out of Boston, but would need to speak with the travel agency I booked with.”
But, as it turns out, “speaking with the travel agency” did little to help the situation.
I spoke with them, and they said their system is often backed up, and they could not do anything until the scheduling office opened at 9. My first flight to Boston left before then, so I boarded and arrived at 9:45.
I then attempted to find an Emirates representative at the Boston airport, with no success. I called TravelMerry, and the person I spoke with seemed surprised that I was already in Boston. This had seemed the obvious choice to me, as the flight I’d be taking later was out of Boston.
Prima reports that hours of back-and-forth phone calls with TravelMerry representatives followed, during which she was assured that she would receive calls back within 15 to 20 minutes, but waited over an hour at least twice before calling again.
She finally discovered that when her first flight had been canceled, Emirates had automatically rescheduled her trip, including a later flight from her originating airport that would have saved her from a 14-hour stopover in Boston. But Emirates didn’t have her contact information, and TravelMerry never notified her.
As it happened, her later flight on Emirates was also canceled. And once again there was a problem. Emirates had booked her on an earlier, 10:45 p.m. flight routing through Rome and then Dubai.
“When I called TravelMerry, they confirmed that Emirates had done this. I then tried to board that flight, run by Alitalia but was informed that my name was in the system for the flight, but that I had not been issued an e-ticket. I called TravelMerry again, as it was, as far as I understood it, the responsibility of TravelMerry to issue me the e-ticket. By then it was 10:30 p.m. or so and TravelMerry had not issued me any ticket, and boarding had been closed.”
Prima ended up leaving the secure section of the airport to talk with the Emirates check-in desk, and, ultimately, stopped dealing with TravelMerry because she felt they were entirely unhelpful, and dealt directly with the airline.
And because of all the confusion, she tells us, “All in all, I endured over 55 hours of travel and almost 24 hours on one layover. I was passed back and forth on calls, my calls were not returned in a timely fashion, and I received no updates regarding my flights.”
To make matters worse, she missed the connecting flight to Phnom Penh, and because she’d booked that separately from the rest of her itinerary, she wasn’t entitled to a refund. She requested compensation for her far-from-merry travel experience from both TravelMerry and Emirates.
A trusted travel agent can be a valuable partner when it comes to booking a complex itinerary, but whenever you use a third party for air travel it adds an extra layer of complexity to the process. So it’s best to be proactive and stay on top of your itinerary with both your agent and the airlines involved as your travel dates approach. Especially if you’re working with a travel agency with which you don’t have a long-standing relationship.
Prima received 40,000 frequent flyer miles from Emirates for her inconvenience and $200 in vouchers from TravelMerry, far less compensation than she thought was fair.