Svetlana Belaia-Martiniouk bought airline tickets from Priceline, and while the price was right, the ticket was wrong. As a result, she had to shell out money to continue her journey to visit a sick aunt in Minsk. Can our advocates help Priceline make good on the error?
Question: I recently purchased a ticket on Priceline from Toronto to Minsk through London, with a direct Minsk-Toronto return. When I arrived in London, an airline representative said that Priceline had made an error and that my ticket was not properly attached to the reservation and was invalid. To make matters worse, at that time I found out that my aunt had passed away and that I would be going to Minsk for a funeral.
I attempted to call Priceline from London to resolve the issue, but customer service was not available, so I was forced to pay $668 for a new ticket from London to Minsk or risk missing the funeral.
I called Priceline from Minsk several times and spent more than 15 hours because I was told that my ticket from from Minsk to Toronto was also issued incorrectly. After five days of calling Priceline, they finally issued me a new ticket, Minsk-Frankfurt-Toronto, but arriving home on a different day.
To make matters worse, because of the schedule change, my husband was unable to drive to Toronto from Cleveland to pick me up, so I had to pay another $68 for a bus ticket home.
When I returned home, I called Priceline immediately. They told me I had to contact Air Canada for a refund. I wrote Air Canada a letter and attached the incorrect ticket from the airline computer, as well as the new ticket, and asked about a refund. Their response was an offer of only a 30 percent discount on my future flights with Air Canada.
Could you please help me with this issue because I don’t know what to do to recover my loss. Thank you very much. — Svetlana Belaia-Martiniouk, North Olmsted, Ohio
Answer: It’s tempting to use a low-priced travel discounter like Priceline to book your travel. The danger of a “Name Your Own Price” program is that you have no control over the airline the company will use to get you on your way. In this case, Priceline’s travel provider, Air Canada, used three different airlines to get you to Minsk and back — itself and partner airlines Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa.
As Priceline’s terms and conditions state:
Some airlines enter into “code share” agreements with a limited number of select airline partners. This means that on certain routes, the airline carrier selling or marketing the flight does not fly its own aircraft to that destination. Instead, it contracts with a partner airline to fly to that destination. The partner airline is listed as “operated by.” In most cases you will check in with your “operating” carrier, you should verify your flight check-in location with your ticketing carrier. If your flight is a code share, it will be disclosed to you in the booking process and prior to your payment on a price disclosed, retail airline ticket. If your Name Your Own Price itinerary contains a code share, it will be disclosed to you if your offer is accepted, along with other itinerary information.
For an unexplained reason, there was a discrepancy with your ticket from London to Minsk, and Austrian Airlines gave you no choice but to pony up $668 to get you on your way.
Priceline was not there to back you up since it had indirectly partnered with Austrian. When you attempted to resolve the issue, Priceline claimed it was blameless and said that you had to contact Austrian’s partner, Air Canada, for a refund. Unfortunately, Air Canada was less than generous, most likely not standing behind an itinerary that you could have booked from them directly.
You could have gone to our Priceline executive contacts to resolve your dispute.
Instead, you reached out to our advocates, who contacted Priceline on your behalf. Shortly thereafter, you received a refund of your airfare plus your bus fare home. We’re sorry for your loss, but relieved that you were satisfied with the outcome of your case.