Case dismissed: Was there really no room at the inn?

Ivy Photos/Shutterstock
Ivy Photos/Shutterstock
Ifti Qadir’s case against the Royal San Marco & Suites Hotel and Orbitz seemed like a slam-dunk when it crossed my desk recently. He’d paid $1,307 for two rooms, for a total of three nights.

“When we arrived at the hotel, we were told they don’t have any room available for us,” he says.

Qadir contacted Orbitz, the website through which he booked the rooms, and a representative told him to book another hotel and promised him a refund within five days, he says. But the money never came.

“Finally, we were told that it is not possible, because Orbitz had already paid the hotel,” he says.

Huh? At this point, my blood pressure has gone up by a few points. They can’t just keep Qadir’s money — can they?

Do I deserve a refund after my destination turned dangerous?

Deep blue/Shutterstock
Deep blue/Shutterstock
Diane Austin’s problem isn’t that unusual, which is why I’ve decided to write something about it. In April, she booked a $730 roundtrip ticket in April through Orbitz on American Airlines to fly to Puerto Vallarta.

The purpose of her visit? To volunteer in a school in Tepic, Mexico, for two weeks. In order to cover her fare, Austin’s 80-year-old father used money from her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother’s bank account. After all, it was for a good cause.

But the trip wasn’t meant to be. When her partner arrived in Tepic a few days ahead of her, she says the area turned suddenly unsafe.

The 6 best online travel agencies of 2013

D Arts/Shutterstock
D Arts/Shutterstock

In this year’s best online travel agency category, it was yet another close vote. Travelocity and Kayak were tied until almost the last minute. But then Travelocity pulled ahead with just seconds left in the voting — almost a photo finish.

Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline round out the list, followed by Hotwire.

I didn’t distinguish between so-called “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire and the “full-service” agencies. The list is a useful guide for anyone considering making a travel purchase online.

Here are the top online travel agencies of 2013 according to the readers of this site.

Ridiculous or not? No credit for your nonrefundable hotel room

True, Jorge Sanchez-Salazar booked a nonrefundable room at the Hampton Inn & Suites Reagan National Airport through Orbitz. And it’s true, too, that he canceled the trip, and that under the rules, the hotel could keep his money — all of it.

But that doesn’t sit well with him, and on second thought, maybe it doesn’t with other travelers, either.

Even airlines, with the restrictive and often customer-hostile policies, offer customers who cancel their nonrefundable flights the ability to use their flight credit (minus a confiscatory change fee, but let’s not get mired in the details).

Enterprise pulls cars from Orbitz after dispute

Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates the largest fleet of rental cars in the world under the Alamo Rent A Car, National Car Rental, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car brands, will announce tomorrow that it is ending its relationship with Orbitz.com and its sister site CheapTickets.com on April 1 after “months of difficult discussions.” I asked Pam Nicholson, the president and chief operating officer of Enterprise Holdings, to explain the decision and what it means to travelers.

Why are you removing your inventory from Orbitz?

With Alamo and National on the Orbitz site for the last 10 years, we thought it only made sense to work with them to add our flagship brand, Enterprise, as well. However, after several months of good-faith negotiations with Orbitz, we are discontinuing our efforts.

And the online travel agency with the most complaints is …

Expedia. That’s according to a survey of my authoritative email “in” box, which contains seven years of complaint data from travelers. Coming in second? Travelocity, followed by Orbitz.

Alright, my methods may not be completely scientific (after all, my email contains all of my correspondence, not just complaints) but it’s a pretty good indicator.

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