Maybe I won’t be home for Christmas

Question: We are supposed to fly to Australia for Christmas to be with my wife’s parents, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to make it. I hope you can help us.

Last summer, we booked our domestic flights from Melbourne to Cairns on Jetstar Airways through CheapOair.com. We received a confirmation from CheapOair and my wife even spent 40 minutes on the phone with their billing department, to make sure the transaction went through. She also phoned CheapOair two days later to verify the transaction and received assurances all was clear.

But when she called Jetstar a few days ago, they said we didn’t have a flight. A representative told us our credit card had been declined.

CheapOair has offered to put us on another flight but at a higher cost and perhaps a different date. I just want them to honor the reservation we made several months ago. Can you help? — Michael Burz, Bethesda, Md.

Answer: If CheapOair sent you a confirmation, then you should have had a ticket. It doesn’t seem fair that you’re being asked to buy a more expensive ticket only a few days before you’re supposed to be home for Christmas.

Could this have been prevented? You might have called Jetstar after you made the reservation to make sure your credit card went through. But normally, a confirmation from your online travel agency means your flight is also confirmed with your airline.

You shouldn’t have to call every airline, car rental company and hotel on your itinerary to separately confirm your itinerary — after all, that’s why you’re dealing with an online travel agency.

I found it interesting that you phoned CheapOair twice to “make sure” the transaction went through. Your tickets cost $2,261, which is no small sum. If you had continued to monitor your credit card transactions, you would have probably noticed that the amount wasn’t deducted from your account, and you might have been able to catch this error last summer.

I contacted CheapOair on your behalf, and here’s what happened: There was a breakdown in communication between the reservation system used by your online agency and the airline’s reservation system. That resulted in a confirmation being generated without a reservation.

CheapOair should have been able to catch the problem, particularly since your wife called the agency twice to inquire about the tickets. And Jetstar should have contacted CheapOair when your credit card was declined, letting it know that it canceled the reservation.

CheapOair should have offered you a better solution than buying a new, more expensive ticket. I contacted the company on your behalf, and it agreed to buy a new ticket, with Jetstar covering half the difference in airfare and CheapOair picking up the other half.

Enjoy your trip to Australia.

(Photo: future ancient/Flickr)

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