Verena Martin used Expedia to book flights to Europe for herself and her four-year-old son. But when she arrived at the airport, ready for departure, she discovered she hadn’t actually purchased the flights — though she had received an Expedia confirmation. Can we help?
Martin’s case underscores the importance of reconfirming flights directly with the airline, even after receiving a confirmation from an online booking service like Expedia. You will want to make sure you have actually paid for the ticket before you show up at the airport.
Expedia responded to her complaint and told her they had sent an email within 24 hours of the original email advising her that the tickets were not confirmed. She says they also told her they tried to reach her three times by phone in May.
“The first time there was a bad connection, and they tried to reach me two more times, and basically that was it,” she says. “I had never received a voicemail.”
Our advocates checked and found that Expedia did indeed send a second email after the confirmation.
Trouble at the airport
Martin suffered a financial hit, as well as frustration and time, lost sorting through how her flights could have been canceled even though she received the Expedia confirmation. She contacted our advocacy team and described what happened when she arrived at the airport.
“I had booked two international flights in May 2017 including trip protection. At check-in on Nov. 14, 2017, I was told I had no trip,” she says. “I called Expedia who told me that they canceled my trip back in May and I should have received an email.”
Martin told us she received an Expedia confirmation at the time of booking — as well as check-in reminders as her departure approached.
“Two days before departure I received check-in reminders,” she recalled. “Every time I logged into my Expedia account the months, weeks and days before my trip, the trip showed as ‘do not call, it’s booked and confirmed.’”
While she did not forward the check-in reminders to us, the Expedia confirmation that she forwarded indeed said “no need to confirm further.”
However, as it turns out, she never actually purchased the flights. She received the unfortunate news when she arrived at the airport.
An invalid Expedia confirmation
So what happens when you arrive at the airport ready for your international flight, and you find your Expedia confirmation is invalid?
In Martin’s case, she had to rebook the flight as a same-day walkup. She had relatives awaiting her and her son’s arrival in Europe and an itinerary involving train bookings on the other end of the flight. She called Expedia and asked for a discount, expecting that the clear Expedia confirmation and her high volume of business bookings via Expedia would afford her some leverage.
“In an attempt to re-book the flight for the same day at a later time, I ended up on the phone with Expedia for three hours,” says Martin. “Instead of $2,500 for the two tickets, they said I should now pay over $8,000 to get the flights. I asked at least for a discount, given we spend tens of thousands of dollars with Expedia for personal and business purposes every year.”
A frustrating situation
Martin tells us, “I was transferred to two different supervisors, I was confirmed they had a glitch in the system, and yet still after three hours on the phone I was told there is zero discount. When I got upset, the supervisor hung up the phone on me.”
In the end, she called American Airlines directly to book the flight. She still had to pay over $8,000 for the same-day flight — more than three times what she had originally thought she would be spending on her tickets. The airline was able to book the flights quickly and get Martin and her son on their way to Europe. However, they arrived later than planned, which threw off their itinerary and inconvenienced others waiting for their arrival.
After returning to the U.S., Martin tried contacting Expedia to complain about her trip having been canceled despite the confirmation she had received. When her email to the company received no response, she reached out to Expedia via Facebook messenger, which produced a response. Martin could also have escalated her complaint using our Expedia contacts.
She told us, “They are standing firm and insisting that sending an email was sufficient to inform me of the cancellation. I kept telling them that would have been okay if they didn’t have a computer glitch showing everything as confirmed.”
An Expedia confirmation for unpurchased tickets?
Initially, she didn’t seem to know that she hadn’t paid for her tickets, but she confirmed that Expedia nor the airline had charged her card for these flights. Even so, she did not feel that would have been a red flag. She said that in the past she had booked itineraries where charges — for example, for hotels — did not run until check-in.
“Expedia said they did not run my credit card, so I had no travel protection, either.” Furthermore, she told us, “My itinerary was confirmed, and I even received check-in reminders for the canceled return flight.”
Is this a lesson learned — or should Expedia compensate the traveler?
We’ve seen before how failing to confirm travel plans directly with carriers results in poor outcomes for travelers. See also this story about another traveler who neglected to check her confirmation. But should the blame rest on the Expedia confirmation email Martin received, relieving her of responsibility for confirming directly with the airline?
Every week we receive several requests from consumers who have found themselves in tough situations because they failed to read confirmation emails. Reading that confirmation email is very important. Consumers have 24 hours to correct most ticketing problems without paying a fee.
The distinguishing factor, in this case, is that the original confirmation appeared correct to the customer, and there were further indicators that the trip was set to proceed as planned. However, additional unexpected communication around the time of the booking went unnoticed by the customer.
Our advocacy team discussed this case and decided to offer the question to our readers: