Why did Orbitz switch this traveler's flight?

Why did Orbitz switch our flight to Aruba? Our hotel is in Tahiti! Help!

Jennifer Waters recently booked an air and hotel vacation package through Orbitz. But just days before her family was set to leave, she discovered that Orbitz had made a significant switch to the flight part of the package. How significant? Very. The change left the family with a nonrefundable hotel in Tahiti… but a flight to Aruba.

Now the trip is impossible, and Waters is asking the Elliott Advocacy team for help. Can we figure out what’s going on here?

Question

We had a vacation to Tahiti booked through Orbitz. My husband called Orbitz to see how much it would cost to change the trip to Aruba. He was just gathering information. But then Orbitz made the switch to our flights without our permission.

Even worse, Orbitz only switched the flight — not the hotel. Now we have a flight to Aruba, but a nonrefundable hotel in Tahiti. I have tried numerous times to get this corrected with absolutely no help. I’ve done this through phone calls, emails, Facebook Messenger, and the Orbitz website chat.

This switch that Orbitz made without our permission has cost us several hundred dollars because of change fees and penalties. Our original flight was refundable with a $250 change fee per person. Can you help us? — Jennifer Waters, Salem, Mass.

Answer

Orbitz should have never changed your original reservation. It’s unclear why Orbitz made this flight switch without your permission and also without changing your hotel.

Unless we went back to the call, we can’t know who said what. And although most call center conversations are recorded, a company will rarely allow a customer access to those recordings without a court order.

That’s one reason we always recommend that you use the website to make any changes to your reservation with an online agency. Like most major online agencies, Orbitz keeps a record of every click and keystroke. Also, you would have received an immediate email verifying the change to your itinerary.

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Whatever happened here — and after a full investigation, that’s still not entirely clear — a lot of things went wrong.

According to your account, your husband was on the phone with an Orbitz representative discussing flight options. You were considering changing your vacation because you were concerned that COVID testing requirements might make getting to Tahiti too tricky. However, before your husband could get all the details, the call either got cut off, or the agent hung up — you’re not sure which.

A web chat or an email could have provided a paper trail. But it looks like you tried to call Orbitz after the dropped call, so there was no paper trail. Any record of the conversations would be in call center recordings that Orbitz won’t let you listen to. You don’t know definitely what your husband said or what the agent said.

Reservation confusion: Did you ask Orbitz to switch your flight?

In a perfect world, you would be able to record every phone call with Orbitz and have access to the transcript. But recording a phone conversation is a hassle, and call center employees are often instructed to hang up when you tell them you’re recording the call. I guess only they can record.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped some consumers from independently making recordings. Those transcripts prove that, just like everyone else in the world, call center employees can make mistakes. And those mistakes can financially impact the company’s customers. (See: What does American Airlines really owe you if it cancels your flight?)

But I digress.

Your vacation was part of a package, which means that you booked all of the components together, so it’s even more confusing to me that Orbitz could have switched your flight but not the hotel. Yep, this one’s a head-scratcher.

Orbitz switched this travelers flight to Aruba but left the family with a nonrefundable hotel in Tahiti.
Nope. This won’t work. Why would Orbitz switch this traveler’s flight to Aruba but leave the family with a nonrefundable hotel 6000 miles away in Tahiti?

You could have reached out to an executive at Orbitz to find out how to fix this. We list the names, numbers, and email addresses of the customer service managers at Orbitz (Expedia) in our company contacts directory.

It turns out Orbitz had already offered you a credit for the price difference between the Tahiti vacation package and the one in Aruba.

Because Orbitz has been willing to review call center recordings for its customers who have contacted us in the past, I reached out to its team on your behalf.  They took another look at your case.

“A refund of $1,185 was processed back to the customer’s card due to the miscommunication that occurred,” a spokeswoman told me. That resolution worked for you. (Christopher Elliott, Elliott Advocacy)

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