Help! Expedia reneged on our credit offer

When Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman cancel their flight, Expedia offers them credit for a year. But that’s not entirely correct. Are they going to lose $2,775?

Question: We booked a flight through Expedia on US Airways to Tel Aviv, Israel, last November. We were unable to go. When we canceled the trip through Expedia, the company sent us an email saying we had a $2,775 credit that could be used through Nov. 18 of this year.

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More than two months before the cutoff date, we called Expedia, as directed by this notice, to schedule a trip to be taken from Feb. 12 to 18, 2015.

The agent went through the entire process of rescheduling, and at the very end, as he was about to schedule the new trip, was informed by a superior that he could not complete the process because US Airways requires that actual travel on the substitute trip begin no later than a year from the date given — that is, travel must begin by Nov. 18, 2014.

After a great deal of discussion — we pointed out that Expedia’s own explicit requirements were for booking travel by Nov. 18, not for beginning travel by then, and that if Expedia was bound by US Airways’ rules, it should have notified us of this fact so that we could plan our lives accordingly — we got nowhere.

We talked with a supervisor and then with Expedia’s customer-relations department, and also with US Airways. Again, we got nowhere.

In our view, Expedia should pay for the cost of its negligent failure to give us accurate information, or it should arrange with US Airways to allow us to use the credit in February, or some combination of both.

The trip we want to take will cost about $970 each, a total of $1,940. I believe Expedia should pay the necessary $1,940 to cover that trip.
Can you help us persuade Expedia to pay the total cost of $1,940 for the trip we want to take in order to repair its negligence in misinforming us what the requirements were for accessing the credit due us? — Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, Philadelphia

Answer: Expedia should have given you accurate information about your flight credit. For the record, ticket-credit validity is an industry standard. You have one year from the date of your booking — not your flight date — to use the credit. After that, it expires.

But the policy differs from airline to airline. For example, American says travel must commence before the ticket expires.

Good thing you had Expedia’s original promise in writing. That should have been enough to get Expedia to fix this for you. But a series of appeals got you nowhere, and that’s regrettable.

Expedia was bound by US Airways’ rules, but it also had a responsibility to share accurate information about the restrictions on your purchase. It failed to do so in your case.

It looks as if you tried to fix this by calling Expedia and US Airways, which is a good start. But you need to move the discussion to email, so that you have a record of what someone has said to you. As I often say in this column, talk is cheap.

Even if you had persuaded Expedia to honor its offer, you still would have been on the hook for $600 in change fees. That’s a lot of money to pay to change your mind; in my opinion, too much money. You might have done better by waiting until closer to your flight date to book your tickets, when you knew you would be able to fly. These airline change fees are simply out of control.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf, and the online agency revisited your request. It found that indeed, after you canceled, an email was sent to you that “inaccurately” stated that you would need to contact Expedia by Nov. 18, 2014, in order to use your flight credit of $2,775.

“The instructions should have stated that travel had to be completed by Nov. 18, 2014,” a representative told me. Expedia said it will extend the validity time for your credit so that you can travel after Nov. 18, 2014, as you requested.

Should Expedia have Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman' ticket credit?

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59 thoughts on “Help! Expedia reneged on our credit offer

  1. I would be curious to know how someone voted no. Expedia transmitted misleading information and thus should be make good on it. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

        1. I will have you know that even I, Noted Enemy of the Consumer (but alas, not a Master of Snark, like Raven), voted yes to this one.

    1. I don’t know how anyone can vote when the working of the question doesn’t make sense. Expedia doesn’t have the credit. That doesn’t apply to the yes or no. Expedia will handle a reissue at their expense.

  2. I’m glad this was clarified for future travelers and the LW got to take the trip.

    But in industry parlance isn’t it pretty common that “using” a credit means to actually travel by the cutoff day?

    I don’t see the e-mail so I can’t say, but even the LW says in the first paragraph that the credit is to be “used” but then switches gears a few paragraphs later and says “we pointed out that Expedia’s own explicit requirements were for booking travel by Nov. 18″

    So my question is, does (or did) Expedia explicitly say “booking”?

    Not that it matters much. As pointed out, this was quite unclear and now future travelers will have that benefit when faced with the same situation.

    1. The airline credit situation is a huge ripoff in general. Because most people schedule leisure travel on an annual basis, if it becomes necessary to cancel a vacation in August, the traveler will typically want to reschedule for something like next August. This is not possible under the current rules, because you get one year starting from the purchase date. For this reason, most credits expire unused.

      Since a credit arises when the airline admits a mistake or when the passenger has paid a walloping fee to reschedule, we should get three years, and from the time of the original scheduled travel. If it takes legislation to bring common fairness to this issue, then so be it.

        1. Disqus is apparently going through a spasm right now of asking people to “verify your email” when you post. In my case, the address it claimed was mine was an old one, with no opportunity to change it. So I had to delete my whole account and set up a new one.

    2. It sounds like Chris saw the email from Expedia and it sounds as though it said they had to contact Expedia by the November date. In other words, they had to “use” the credits by booking, not necessarily by traveling by then.

  3. Although the post doesn’t contain the actual text of Expedia’s email, the travelers initially state that Expedia told them they “had a $2,775 credit that could be used through Nov. 18 of this year”. If Expedia gave them incorrect information through an email that “inaccurately stated that you would need to contact Expedia by Nov. 18, 2014, in order to use your flight credit of $2,775″, then Expedia is on the hook to honor that. Period.

  4. I’ve been reading this blog way too long…. I knew the plot before I got to the end of the first paragraph. Based on his phrasing, I knew the ticket had to be used by November and wasn’t.
    Without the first letter to check the wording, I’m not blaming anyone on this one. It could be the LW chose to ignore/ read over parts of the letter or it could be that it wasn’t clear. Either way, nice of Expedia to step up and buy his ticket out of their pocket.

    1. It’s the latter. The last two paragraphs read that the agency frankly admitted its error.
      I believe this case is a lessen learned for the agency. It should have clearly and unequivocally passed the airline’s rules to a customer. When it fails, a customer for sure will complain.

      1. My business has sent similar worded emails in response to customer complaints… If you’re going to given to what they want anyway, sending a accompanying email that degrades that customer is silly. Better to just apologize, even if you did nothing wrong, and move on.

        Back to my point yesterday… Chris was involved… No reason to upset a guy that buys ink by the tanker truck… They may have thought their initial email was clear but any grey area… This was the best course of action.

        1. You were talking about the wording of the first letter (“(w)ithout the first letter to check the wording”). My point is that we know the exact wording, more or less, based on this entry alone. The first letter should say, “You will need to contact Expedia by Nov. 18, 2014, in order to use your flight credit of $2,775.” And there was omission of: “Travel had to be completed by Nov. 18, 2014.”

    2. I know they said “used” but it would be an easy assumption to make that the credit must be SPENT by that date, not the actual usage of a ticket. Probably a poorly worded document, and thus the change by Expedia.

      1. Jeff… I agree that there was probably something that left a little grey area in the initial document. Without it, its hard to say if it was a reasonable inference or not. As I said, it was nice of them to just eat the money.

        1. I don’t think it was an inference at all. I think the letter said “call us by November 18 to use your credit”. That leaves very little open. It means CALL US by November 18. I don’t think most people would interpret a statement like that to mean “call us by some unnamed date so you can make sure travel is completed by 11/18”. We know the letter said this with fair certainty because Expedia agreed that it did.

    3. I don’t think it was niceness at all. Contracts, communications, etc are construed against the vendor. As the terms were ambiguous, it falls to Expedia to remediate the situation.

      1. I agree. What also bothers me is the fact that the agent on the phone didn’t know the ticketing rules. WHY do people deal with these companies? They aren’t saving you money, but they are giving away free headaches!

          1. GDS is Global Distribution System. These are the systems used by travel agents, such as Worldspan, Sabre or Amadeus to book airline space.

          2. Great, but I don’t have a GDS. I know you’re big on using TAs, but there are some certain drawbacks. You don’t work 24/7. The internet does. That’s why I use the internet, not a TA.

          3. That isn’t the point. The GDS has it all in one place and has before the internet was ever around. The internet isn’t regulated. You only see what they want you to see.

          4. That’s what you’re not understanding. Getting the lowest price isn’t the primary concern. Convenience is. I’ve used TAs before, some very amazing ones, but going online was more convenient.

          5. No, I get it. Travelnut says she used the internet for look then goes to the website of the vendor.. The internet doesn’t give it all to you. You think it is there, but you are not getting all options. That is my point. Don’t think that going to the carrier’s actual website is best…it isn’t.

          6. You’ve stated innumerable times that everything is not on the website(s). I believe you. What I’m trying to explain is that I don’t care. The convenience of looking up fares at 11pm is worth it not getting the lowest price.

          7. I said that I got that. But what you are missing is that all flights are not showing. Price isn’t the issue and going to a carrier’s website isn’t going to guarantee that you will see all their flights. I have seen this first hand.

          8. That’s fine. Some flights aren’t showing. The booking convenience still remains the number one criteria for some people like me.

          9. SFO to LAX? Isn’t that considered a shuttle flight?
            As a TA I wouldn’t waste my time on that. In fact I don’t bother BOOKING domestic flights for ANYONE at all. I just tell them what to book and let them book it themselves. And that includes my wife’s flights next week 🙂
            Now if it is a complex international flight, then that’s a different story.

          10. I just booked a reservation, in the GDS, on AS to LAX. The outbound flight booked isn’t even showing on AS’s website for that day. Other flights are there, but not this one. I have 7 tickets with 7 seat assignments booked in my GDS that I can’t book online and the flight isn’t sold out.

          11. This demonstrates the major disconnect between many consumers and human travel agents. The consumer believes that it is more convenient and easier to buy online and s/he has all the knowledge to get it done. So be it.

          1. That is fine, but you won’t find all option on their sites. They are not regulated to have to do it. I have found flights on major carriers not showing on their websites that are in my GDS and for a lower price.

  5. Expedia was wrong, so they are on the hook for the cost. But the change fees were rightfully invoked, so that is the responsibility of the OP.

    Of course, the fees are high. But that’s not relevant to the OP’s problem.

    1. Well, nothing more than griping about the change fees is probably a record low for irrelevant side-information! At least we didn’t hear about their “fixed income” or learn that they had to cancel the trip due to a sick parakeet, or because of the shocking revelation that sometimes violence occurs in/around Israel.

      1. Well, the OP didn’t complain about that. But I would have to agree, the fee is WAY too high. $300 per ticket…that seems excessive, in my opinion.

        And considering this is a consumer site, I don’t see the info as being a “record low”. 🙂 It’s good to know these things, if for nothing else as a future warning to others.

        1. Oh, I didn’t mean as “record low” that it was a “low blow”, I meant that as far as the amount of irrelevant side information goes, only mentioning the change fees is pretty insignificant.

          1. My emotional support parrot is like a family member to me. 🙂 Just kidding! I do not remember a case like this. It would never surprise me.

  6. Funny how when *we* send the travel companies something in writing (names, dates, travel routes, etc.) we are expected to hold to it or face penalties (fees for changing names, dates, travel routes, etc.), but let a travel company put something in writing that they don’t want to have to uphold and suddenly they have every right to change things without notice or justification and we travelers have to suck it up.

    I loathe the double standard.

  7. Pretty simple; Expedia put “their rules” in writiiing, so Expedia has to honor their commitment. It amazes me that companies will go so far to punish their customers … I guess lots of people just give up and go away, then the company keeps their money.

  8. One of the options was that the rules are the rules and as I write this now, 2people had already voted that option. However, the “RULES” given to the LW clearly stated that they had until Nov 18th to rebook. I don’t know how much clearer this needs to be for some people. This should be such an open and shut case that it would have been solved in less than 5 minutes on the phone. The LW even had the original Expedia email. How on earth can Expedia try and claim one thing when their own correspondence says another?

  9. I have worked for a major travel company for nearly 10 years. If one of our agents misquotes an airline policy to a customer it is up to us to work with the airline to accommodate the customer. If they will not bend the rules, we pay for it. This happens a lot with everyone’s favorite airline, Spirit. Their reuse policy states new travel must be booked within 60 days of cancellation. As most airlines allow you to book within 1 year of the date of purchase agents tend to quote this wrong. Even though Spirit says the credit is gone, we allow the customer to apply the value of their original ticket to a new ticket.

    1. I don’t understand these offshore contract operations working for OTAs. Instead of answering the question (orally) that they don’t have the answer for, why not just print the fare rules and send it to the buyer to read. Most of these centers are in the Philippines and India. I got to believe there is a translation issue (problem) somewhere.

  10. Although anyone who’s traveled in the last 30 years knows the 1-year-from-purchase-date rule for usage, Expedia DID make a promise that most folks would agree should be kept.

  11. I’m confused by the poll question… is there a word missing? Perhaps “extended” or “honored” or is the question really whether or not Expedia should “have” their ticket credit?? Regardless, if my interpretation is correct, Expedia goofed. Expedia was on the hook. A few years ago, I went to an eye Dr for a Rx. I went elsewhere for the glasses themselves so I could get them sooner. When they came in, they were wrong. Neither the Dr. nor the maker would make it right until the legal office at our AF base sent a letter to the Dr. saying in essence that I had taken action based on the information he gave me (i.e. I bought glasses based on his exam/prescription) and that he was at fault for it. I got him to reimburse me for my glasses AND pay for a new pair!

  12. after reading your column I won’t ever book again through a third party other than say a reputable group like Costo Travel where the store stands behind it w/o a hassle. Expedia and Orbitz issues dominate your column and there is no point to be in the middle of all of this with no advantage as a consumer.

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