Expedia never confirmed my ticket and I had to buy a new one for six times the price

When Anne Maertz receives emails from Expedia indicating that her upcoming flight on Norwegian Airlines is “booked and confirmed,” she takes the online travel agency at its word. But when she arrives at the airport, Norwegian claims that she doesn’t have a ticket. Can our advocates help her get a refund for the new airfare she was forced to purchase?

Question: I’m a fundraiser for an international nonprofit. I purchased a ticket through Expedia for the Norwegian Air Shuttle for $75 from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Amsterdam to enjoy a European vacation before going on to my current assignment at a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

I received two more emails from Expedia. One contained the subject line “Your upcoming trip — Copenhagen – Amsterdam” with the itinerary number and the word “BOOKED” in capital letters at the top. The other had “Expedia travel confirmation” and the date of the trip in the subject line, and the language “Your reservation is booked and confirmed. There is no need to call us to reconfirm this reservation.”

The day before the flight, I received an email from Expedia instructing me to check in for my flight on the Norwegian Airlines website. But when I tried to do so, the website did not recognize my booking number. It responded with the message “Couldn’t check in today? Don’t worry, we are still working on our website.”

I thought I could check in at the Copenhagen airport. But when I tried to do so, the Norwegian Airlines staff did not recognize my passport number or booking reference. They said they had no record of my reservation, the flight was full, and I would have to try another airline. I had to purchase another ticket on SAS for $420 to get to Amsterdam on time.

Related story:   Travelocity charged me twice -- can I get a refund?

I emailed Expedia for help twice, but its agents told me to call Norwegian Airlines, which I cannot do from Ethiopia.

Can you help me get back the airfare for the extra ticket? — Anne Maertz, St. Paul, Minn.

Answer: When is a travel reservation not a travel reservation? When Expedia doesn’t confirm it –as you found out the hard way.

It’s understandable that you were misled by the emails you received from Expedia to believe that you had an actual air ticket.

But your story is yet another reminder to follow up multiple times with both an airline and a travel agency, especially when using an online travel site. Neither payment of the airfare nor language in emails from travel companies means that you actually have a valid air ticket — especially when you make the purchase through an online travel site like Expedia.

Expedia’s terms of use indicate that “airfare is only guaranteed once the purchase has been completed and the tickets have been issued.”

When you got that error message from Expedia when you tried to book your Norwegian Airlines flight, I would have contacted Norwegian directly to book the flight. And even though that email from Expedia said that your reservation was “booked and confirmed,” I still would have double-checked that with Norwegian.

But Norwegian Airlines bears some responsibility for the poor customer service you received. It should have issued you the ticket you purchased and sent you a confirmation of its own, and its Copenhagen airport personnel should not have treated you with indifference when you tried to check in. At the very least, they should have called Expedia to help you straighten out the situation.

Related story:   The ABCs of getting a visa for your next trip

After both Expedia and Norwegian refused to help you, you might have escalated your case to higher-ranking executives of Expedia or Norwegian Airlines using the contact information on our website. Instead, you contacted our response team for assistance.

Our response team advocates contacted Expedia on your behalf, and Expedia indicated that it was willing to offer you the difference in cost between the price of the Norwegian Air Shuttle and your SAS flight plus a $50 coupon.

You asked us if we thought you should accept this resolution. We think that it’s a generous offer.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.