When a flight’s canceled, who’s responsible?

Question: I booked a ticket on United Airlines through Cheaptickets.com from Washington to Colorado Springs, Colo., recently. My reservation even appeared on the United Airlines website (I’m an elite-level customer on United).

All’s good, right? Five days before my flight, I checked and the reservation was gone. I went to Cheaptickets and the website had a note that my reservation was canceled. No notification — nothing.

I called Cheaptickets and a representative told me that United had declined to issue a ticket and the reservation was canceled. The original fare was $595, and now it’s $1,246. Cheaptickets is offering a refund only. I think they should honor my reservation.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications. The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Have you heard of this happening? What should I do? — John Rutledge, Washington

Answer: This looks like an accidental flight cancellation, a problem I’ve seen a time or two. But the question is, whose accident was it? Did you push the wrong button, did your airline, or did your online agency?

I’m inclined to rule you out. You’re a frequent flier on United, so it’s unlikely you would have accidentally canceled your reservation. That leaves the airline and your online travel agency.

Given that Cheaptickets offered a full refund, I’m guessing something happened on its end. Normally, the rules are pretty strict when you cancel a ticket a few days before your flight, so for an online agency to offer a full refund probably means there was some kind of glitch that caused your ticket to be voided.

The right thing to do, under those circumstances, is to work with the airline to honor your itinerary — even if it means your agency has to rebook the ticket at a higher fare. A refund will just make it your problem. And it isn’t your problem.

I can think of several ways you might have resolved this after the sudden cancellation. You could have appealed directly to United or sent a brief, polite email to a manager at Cheaptickets or Orbitz (both are owned by the same parent company). You can find links to all of the names and numbers on my customer service wiki, On Your Side.

I don’t think you should have to pay an extra $651 for a flight that’s already been confirmed. I contacted Cheaptickets on your behalf, and it apologized for the cancellation and rebooked your ticket at no extra cost to you.

96 thoughts on “When a flight’s canceled, who’s responsible?

  1. In the case of a cancellation or change, it’s the agency’s job to notify the customer.  If they fail to do so, it seems pretty unambiguous that they should be the ones to pony up to rebook you.

  2. The one who caused the problem…  I can’t click that, Could be the TA or the airline Who’s system glitch caused it should pay..

    The problem should be fixed, and the TA/Airline can work it out behind scenes, in the back office. 

  3. I think whoever caused the error should correct it without additional charge to the customer.

    Glad this one worked out for the traveller.  

  4. Whoever caused the system error should be responsible for the effects, including any costs of rebooking or otherwise repairing the travel plans.  It should definitely not be passed off to the customer (unless the customer caused the problem, which I think is rare).

  5. No brainer, as others said – the one who caused, or under whose watch the “glitch” happened, should be the responsible party. I voted the airline because in most cases, the airline sells the ticket and should take ownership, but I can see it could be the TA or purchaser.

  6. Am I missing something here? He pays the OTA, it issues a ticket with the confirmation online, then it says the airline has declined to issue a ticket. Chris Elliott, does the OP have his original eticket numbers? If so please tell me the first 3 digits of the 13 digit number. Thanks.

    ADDED are you sure this is not a mistake fare or a tricked ticket?

    1. One other item to point out.  The OP states the reservation showed up on United’s system… 

      “My reservation even appeared on the United Airlines website (I’m an elite-level customer on United).”

      It sounds like United did issue a ticket and Cheaptickets is using a cheap excuse trying to blame United for not issuing the ticket.  I’m not sure how the entire system works, but I would think that United wouldn’t be listing in it’s system if it hadn’t issued a ticket.  Glad it all got worked out but it shouldn’t have taken Chris to step in to get it fixed.

      1. Cheaptickets should have been the issuing agency, not UA.  UA can show a reservation that hasn’t been issued.  A reservation number doesn’t mean a ticketed PNR.  Only a ticket number proves a ticketed reservation.

      2.  Not always. I made a reservation on united.com on June 7 for travel on August 13. The reservation is instantly appeared on my account on united.com but was not ticketed as of July 5. Luckily it was not cancelled. I called United on July 5 and they issued tickets right when I was on the phone with a representative.

        07/05/12
        07/05/12
        CONTINENTAL AIRLINES HOUSTON TX
        $

      1. Excuse Me! What is it that I [Tony A.] and Bodega do all day? As far as I know, we travel agents issue tickets. In fact we tell the airline the ticket numbers we issued. Maybe I need to quit my job and you can take over 🙂

        Added: In fact I am busy doing tickets now so I cannot even participate actively in this forum now. Later.

        1.  You do the physical work but the airline is ultimately owns the ticket since you do use airline ticket stock and airline does pay you a small cut for it.

          1. Sorry, but an agency has plates. A travel agency ISSUES tickets ON BEHALF of the airlines it has appointments.

            Sershev are you an agent with ARC certification or are you an airline employee?
            Please …

          2.  Exactly, if you issue a ticket on behalf on the airlines, it means you have their permission to do so. The point is to make a reservation and to issue ticket are two separate steps of the process. If the tickets are not issued in timely manner the reservation is subject to cancellation and even if it is not cancelled you will not be able to take flight.

          3. its a good thing then you don’t have badges cause we don’t need no stinking badges . . . .

          4.  Perhaps, when a reservation is made through a corporate travel there is a statement about additional ticketing charge added.

        1.  How do you explain this: I had a non refundable ticket purchased through a corporate travel agent last year. Plans changed and I cancelled the ticket by calling directly to United and used different airline. Eleven months later the ticket was about to expire and I called directly to united and used it for a new ticket. They even refunded $5 difference to a travel agent’s credit card.

  7. I think you need another choice: Network Gremlins.

    If we are to believe this was a system glitch and not UA saying, “Hells to the no, we’re not honoring this fare!” then…it really wasn’t anyone’s fault, was it?

    Glad this one worked out for the traveler, though.

    1. But we don’t know if CheapTickets actually issued the tickets, or just held a reservation.  Big diff!  (And yes, the reservation will show on United’s site, you just have to look on the bottom to see if there are actual ticket numbers!

  8. Well, it depends on whose fault the glitch is.
    But I haven’t heard of or experienced glitch like this when booking directly through the airline, so it seems that travel agents would be most at fault in these situations. 

    1. I did have a glitch like this some time ago with SWA.  I ordered a ticket and got a confirmation number.  After not seeing the charge go through for several days, I called SWA back to ask what was going on.  Gave them the confirmation number but they said they couldn’t find the number in their system.  Ended up having to pay even more for another ticket.  That was the last time I ever flew SWA.

      1. Happened to me, too, with Cathay Pacific. They were offering a lower price online than the net cost of a travel agent so I decided to buy online. After I entered my credit card, I waited forever for the confirmation numbers. Called my Card company and the airline did charge about 7k. Called the airline and someone in Canada transfered me to Hong Kong. Told me the system goofed and I had to repeat the process again. The problem was I had to demand first to get my money back. So it is definitely possible an online process can get your money without you getting tickets.

  9. This is typical of CheapTickets, et al, etc.   They constantly make mistakes and dump the problem on the passenger and the airline they are flying.  ….”United declined issuing a ticket and the reservation was cancelled” (???)……
    CHEAPTICKETS was paid by the passenger, CHEAPTICKETS has their money – it’s their responsibility to provide the product paid for.  I feel bad for passengers when this happens and many times have been dickering by phone while passengers are at the ticket counter trying to check in.   They are notorious about doing this – if they didn’t have control over the whole situation, how can they offer a refund ??

  10. Dear Mr Rutledge,

    If you are an United elite member, why, oh why, did you book your ticket through Cheaptickets.com? I’m happy for you that Mr. Elliott was able to “fix” the problem, but if you travel as much as you do, didn’t you see this coming?

      1. Better yet, use a good ticketing travel agent.  Why?  Because what you see on the airline’s website isn’t live and or complete with all available flights.  Websites are not regulated, but our GDS’ are.

  11. When we buy an airline ticket through an online travel agency,  the credit card is charged by the airline. Original funds hold will be shown as from travel agency on a bank website but when tickets are issued the charge will appear from the airline directly with linked ticket numbers. When original reservation made tickets are not issued right away. It might take an airline from few hours to a few days to issue the ticket. Here is a situation that might lead to cancellation: a flight reservation is made on an online website. The website obtained authorization from a credit card, put hold for the funds and sent your reservation to the airline. The reservation can be seen on the airline website, however tickets are not issued yet. Shortly after that, the airline internally process the reservation and trying to issue tickets. Depending on how the system is set up, the airline may ask for another authorization from the credit card, while there is already a hold on the amount of the ticket from online travel agency. And if there is no available funds at the moment due to prior authorization the reservation could be cancelled. I always check for issued tickets after making reservation and if tickets are not issued in timely manner I call directly to the airline and ask if there is a problem. After tickets are issued it is almost impossible for reservation to be cancelled unless someone actually clicks on a cancel button or flights are cancelled.

    1. I have purchased several tickets online and *NEVER* has my bank statement changed the source of the charge from the OTA to the airline.  From reading this blog for awhile, it is my understanding that the OTA purchases the ticket from the airline through their financial accounts.  They never, or they are not suppose to, pass your credit card information on to the airline.

      I have purchased tickets using sever different banks/credit cards and like I said, have never had the charger’s name changed so it wasn’t just something with one bank or credit card.

      1. If you purchase an regular published fare airline ticket from an OTA, the airline will be the merchant on your credit card.  If you purchased a bulk/net fare ticket from an OTA, the OTA will show up as the merchant. 

      2. Here is an example from my credit card statement. You can see the charge is from United Airlines and a separate charge for each ticket. A charge from OTA would only appear if it is an airline based outside of the US or if it is a bulk fare
        05/18/12 05/18/12 UNITED AIRLINES ARC ELK GROVE TOWIL
        EXPEDIA INC ATLANTA G $ 327.70
        05/18/12 05/18/12 UNITED AIRLINES ARC ELK GROVE TOWIL
        EXPEDIA INC ATLANTA G $ 327.70

        And here is a screen shot from the ticket receipt I can see in my reservations section on united.com. The airline has my credit card info even I purchased tickets on expedia.com

        FARE INFORMATION
        Fare Breakdown
        Airfare: 297.00 USD
        U.S. Federal Transportation Tax: 16.70
        September 11th Security Fee: 5.00
        U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: 9.00
        Per Person Total: 327.70
        USD
        eTicket Total: 655.40
        USD

        Form of Payment:
        DISCOVER NETWORK
        Last Four Digits 0777

      3. Sorry, I tried to take screen shots from my credit card statement for a tickets I recently purchased on expedia and from ticket receipt but it did not appear in the reply I posted above. I had just copy and paste from the receipt and the statement.

    2.  Usually there is a 24 hr window from the time reservation is made until tickets are issued to guarantee fare. Here is a standard wording from fare rules for United tickets. If the reservation is not ticketed within specified time from when it was made it is subject to cancellation and the airline is not obligated to honor fare. It may not be a right thing to do but it is possible.

      TICKETING MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 1 DAY AFTER
      RESERVATIONS ARE MADE OR AT LEAST 7 DAYS BEFORE DEPARTURE
      WHICHEVER IS EARLIER.

      1. I haven’t had the chance to test the airlines on the 24 hours window to see if they guarantee the fare.  As per your post, no mention of it, just that you can hold a reservation now for 24 hours if you make the reservation with them, providing the advance purchse of the fare is being met.  We have always been able to hold a reservation, but the fare is never guaranteed until ticketed and we still state that. 

        I have had fares change during the ticketing process.  It is a PITA on my end, but the carrier has always honored the fare that was stored in the PNR at the time I was trying to issue the ticket.

        1.  aa.com and united.com (it is tricky but possible on united.com) for example give you an option to hold a reservation until 11:59 pm of the next day before you actually provide a credit card info. If the reservation is not paid by then it will be cancelled, but until then the fare is guaranteed. delta.com or OTA does not give you that option. However if you call Delta, depending on a representative they may create a reservation and hold it for 24 hr.

          1. Yes, they now allow a reservation to be held.  But I don’t see in the copy you provided that they state that they ‘guarantee’ the fare. I never guarantee the fare until ticketed.

          2. Usually there is a statement Fares are not guaranteed unless ticketed. However, it does. I am in long distance relationship and we fly every weekend. I always try to put on hold and wait till next day to see if price changes or a better flight availability etc. Often when I have reservation on hold next day the price goes up, I just pay what it was at the time it is created. Even if I am unable to put on hold, I always check next day because of 24 hr risk free cancellation in case a better option is available next day.

    3. Re:When we buy an airline ticket through an online travel agency,  the credit card is charged by the airline.
      Sorry, Wrong Again.

      Note the wording in your statement:
      05/18/12 05/18/12 UNITED AIRLINES ARC ELK GROVE TOWIL

      *** CORRECTIONS MADE BELOW ***
      If you or anyone (in the USA) buys an airline ticket from an AGENCY, your credit card will be *processed* EITHER by:
      (1) ARC – Airline Reporting Comp, a company owned by the airlines (together)
      (2) the Agency itself and they will in turn settle the payment (in cash account)  thru ARC.

      The airlines use ARC in the USA as the payment settlement company for all agencies (as far as I know). ARC collects and then pays the airline later.
      *** ADDED ***
      However, the agency (if allowed by airline) can enter your credit card number as a Form of Payment (FOP) and ARC will process the transaction where the credit card issuing bank will pay the airline directly and not the travel agency. The airline them becomes the merchant in this credit card transaction.

      It is a complex process since Airlines can issue and validate tickets on other airlines, too.

      1.  Doesn’t make any difference:
        Step 1. I go to OTA website, make reservation.
        Step 2. OTA requests credit card authorization, sends communication to airline (or ARC) computer system and creates confirmation number.
        Step 3. Whoever (Airline, ARC or travel agent or computer program) issues tickets and charges credit card.
        If there is a glitch between step 2 and 3, which can be due to a bank’s issue, the reservation could be cancelled.

        1. The OTA doesn’t request an authorize to get a confirmation number. 

          The internet is a dangerous thing.  People who use it to buy airlines tickets don’t know how all this really works as you are using a mask.  What you see on the screen could change when the actual reservation on the agency’s computer handles the issue.  They then have to contact you, but what you see on the screen isn’t live.

      2. This is not technically accurate, at least with respect to bricks and mortar agencies. When a ticket is charged to a credit card, the money is collected by the card issuer and remitted to ARC which will in turn pay it to the airline as part of their settlement of what is owed back and froth. The charge on the credit card statement will show the airline  as the entity which made the charge. I dion’t know how this works with the OTAs but I assume it’s the same.

        1. Ha? Why do we need ARC for as agents? ARC is the USA settlement for all travel agents. If I sell a ticket for cash, who collects money in my bank account – ARC, correct ??? Isn’t that what happens on Tuesdays???

        2. joel, if the travel agent simply enters the ccard of the customer as a FOP, ARC processes the data transaction but does not collect the money from the cc company. The cc company pays the airline that validated the ticket. The airline is the merchant and pays the fees to the cc comp. The cc comp also applies any holdbacks against the airlines account.
          On the hand, if the agency does not enter the customers cc card, then the agent owes ARC money. ARC will collect from agency and remit net amounts to airlines.
          I do not know how Cheaptickets collected payment. In shershevs case it looks like ARC simply processed the transaction and the cc company paid the airline directly. Sorry for the confusion. Very busy day.

  12. This happened to my sister a couple years back: she found a good fare, booked it through an online agent, and they canceled it a few days later (they did bother to tell her). They were happy to offer to rebook it at double the fare, but wouldn’t honor their contract to get her from point A to point B for cost X.

    After several hours on the phone, we were able to convince them to rebook the ticket on the original flight (which they had claimed was canceled until I pulled it up on their website) and even gave her a voucher. Still, this seems to be another example of an online travel agent booking a cheap fare, thinking better of it, canceling it, and only honoring their agreement for the few people who have the time, energy and wherewithal to complain.

  13. Technically the airlines and Cheaptickets (not a real person TA) are responsible for the malfunction of their systems. But Cheaptickets is the direct seller and must compensate the traveler whatever the outcome of the dispute with the Airlines.

  14. I am wondering if a schedule change came through and a Cheaptickets employee in cleaning up the PNR, as we call it, canceled the reservation by mistake. 

    How far in advance did the OP buy the ticket?  If it was a few weeks out, then his credit card company would show the purchase.  Tickets are reported to ARC once a week and the charge doesn’t show up until after the report has been filed.  A print out of the PNR’s history can be obtained from the GDS company, for a fee.  This would show the cancellation and if the carrier or issuing agency made it.  A canceled ticket doesn’t show up until it is reused in another PNR.  A voided ticket can only be handled within 24 hours and shows up in the report the week it was issued, unless it was handled on a Sunday and voided on a Monday, which then puts the ticket issue on on report for that week and the void in the next weeks report…a very stupid move for any agency to do.

    1.  For my upcoming travel I purchased ticket on expedia for travel on A3. Aegean cancelled flight. Expedia contacted me and gave two options: full refund or travel next day. I declined because if I get refund I need to buy a new ticket which is more $$ now, can’t travel next day due to a risk for international flight misconnect. I asked expedia to rebook with LH. They declined. I called Aegean they re-issued tickets and put us on LH flight. Aegean air and lufthansa websites both display new tickets and new itinerary. Expedia still listing a cancelled flight. I called expedia they confirmed new tickets has been issued but said the airline took over control of the reservation.

      1. No, Expedia can’t do what you were asking as in an exchange.  They can cancel, put in for the refund, then start from scratch with LH.  My hands were have been tied on this too.  What the carrier can do is up to them as it is their product. 

  15. How can you answer your question–who should pay? It depends on who was responsible for the glitch.  In this case, it appears that it was Cheap Tickets.  God help the passenger if the airline and the agency start blaming each other.  One can only hope that one or both would act in a reasonable fashion.

  16. I think when someone uses a travel agent’s services, brick and mortar or online, the costumer is ultimately choosing to deal with the agent as its “point of entry” into the mesh of air travel procedures, issues and service.

    So I think travel agents have a responsibility to deal with the problem, and sort themselves with the airlines about who foots the bill or how it gets solved.

    1. Yes, an agency has a responsibility.  When you use vending machine company, are you expecting service?  My tickets are dealt with immediately, not when Chris Elliott gets a letter!

      1. All vending machines are required to have contact information in most states and a way to resolve issues if the machine malfuctions. I’ve gotten refunds before. Once I had a postal vending machine fail to dispense, and I called up the number right from my phone and had a replacement sent within days.

  17. First question – who canceled the reservation.  That’s who pays.  

    Customer enters into a contract with a travel agency.  They are the agent of whom?  Another question.  

    If there EVER was a ticket number issued the question then is pretty simple:  Who cancelled.  

    If the airline somehow canceled the res – they must provide transportation at the agreed upon fare.  

    If the travel agency computer somehow canceled the flight due to a glitch – then its Cheap Tickets problem to find and book or reimburse a customer for the differnece in fare. 

    “The airline ‘declined’ to issue a ticket?”  WTF does that mean?   If Cheap Tickets sold inventory that did not exist then its on the hook for the ticket.  Its just that simple.   Once they take your money [did a charge hit the credit card?] then they a contract has been created.  

    Answer the first question, and the answer presents itself.   Looks like Cheap Tickets knows the answer and when called on it did what they had to do . . . otherwise there is no way they would pay for someone elses flight that they had nothing to do with causing the problem.

    1. “The airline ‘declined’ to issue a ticket?”  WTF does that mean?

      I got this issue a few times in my travel agency days. Mostly, it’s the travel agent/agency who issues the ticket if the flight is purchased through them.

      Without being too technical, the travel agent/agency has to submit whatever requirements the airline wants. Class of service, correct taxes, everything that meets the airline’s ticket rules.

      If the travel agent/agency eventually sends the details where, say, the class of service is no longer available, the airline “declines” issuing a ticket or having a ticket issued for that. It’s not totally accurate, but that should give you an idea.

      Usually it’ll take too long to find out who or what did wrong. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the customer with the clock ticking and prices likely to go up.

      Personally, the one “responsible” is the one you contract directly with. Then, one pushes as far as s/he can go.

      DavidZ

      1. Dave, if you look closer at some GDS, they offer APIs usually in XML for developers. I surmise that a programmer can create a program that mimics what a travel agent goes through to sell a ticket. But what happens to an online ticketing engine when an external process returns an unexpected result?

        In this case, either a ticket was originally issued by the OTA and then voided by the OTA. Or, a ticket was never issued at all and the reservation was auto cancelled. Or worse, ticket issued but the coupons not transmitted to the carrier so the airline auto canceled.

        All fingers point to OTA and not the airline.

        I have never worked for an OTA, but I assume that they are very large and can get a low merchant fee from their card processors and so they can charge the credit cards themselves and settle in net with ARC. I am guessing that they did charge the OP’s card, so they are responsible for producing the ticket. 

        So yes WTF do they mean when they said the AIRLINE refused to issue a ticket.

  18. Even if were the airlines ‘glitch’ I would still expect my booking agent to make it right.  They can then fight with the airline on their own time

  19. What I don’t understand if you’re an elite with UAL (as am I) why the heck would you not book directly on the carrier’s website? I’ve used sites like orbitz and travelocity to find the cheapest ticket but then I book directly at the carrier’s website. It avoids issues like this. 

    I’m wondering if the low fare was misquoted by someone which ultimately resulted in the reservation not being honored. 

    Either way, safest bet is to book directly with the carrier. 

    1. Very good observation. Lots of elite folks are active members of FT and MP and are very good at gaming (or tricking) the system.

      If you look at UA’s fare structure for WAS-COS, the cheaper fares ($5xx) require at least 7-day advanced purchase. I have seen OTAs make a number of errors with ADV requirements and fare classes probably because they CACHE their flights like a vending machine. It’s possible they missed a validation step (ie autotprice) right after you click Select and Buy.

      It would be interesting to know when he actually bought the “ticket” and  how far away it was prior to departure. But I am with you, why would an ELITE buy from cheapticket? UA online should be the same price since this is a published fare.

      1. My thoughts exactly too. Especially since UA often won’t let you upgrade or earn miles when its bought through a discount site, even when its a regular published fare.

  20. Another Scam! The person should have gotten the ticket when they called and not had to call someone to help them.  They were trying to rip this person off as usual.

  21. One more time, this time in bold…
    Can anyone tell me if the OTA really issued e-tickets when and if it sent the customer the confirmation letter (if it did at all) ?
    .

    You cannot begin to investigate this without knowing this plain and simple fact.
    Also you might have noticed the OP never claimed that his credit card was charged anything at all . Even if the OP says the OTA is offering a full refund, I want to make sure his credit card was charged in the first place. All he is saying is that the *new* ticket would cost $651 more.

    If OTA got his money (charged the card) then the OTA is responsible for producing the ticket.

    Note it is possible that e-tickets were issued by the OTA but the transmission of TKNE got screwed up. If this happened, the airline would not see that the reservation was ticketed and will cancel it after 24 hours. The OTA can blame the GDS for transmission issues and try to make the GDS company eat the cost difference of the ticket.

    So, Chris would you kindly get more facts, please …
    Tony
     

    1. more facts don’t matter here Tony – the OTA simply paid up.  Story is over -no one else is going to get anymore information. 

  22. I think we need more information.
    Why was the OP’s itinerary cancelled? Did UA cancel OP’s ticket because maybe the OP jumped on an error fare and is now expecting UA to honour it?
    Otherwise, whoever cancelled it without *just* reason should be responsible.

    1. The fare looks fine. Well within UA’s W-class fare for WAS-COS.
      WASCOS-UA 13JUL12 $$ AA DL F9 US                              
      US TAXES VARY / SEG/PFC CHARGES MAY APPLY                     
      LINE FARE   RT   FARE  TRAVEL DATES  TKT DTE  RTG AP MIN/   BKG
      NBR  CODE   OW    USD   EFF    DISC  FST/LST  NBR DT    MAX CDE
       1  SE21SCN  R  468.00 20APR2   –       –     815 ## SU/ –  S 
       2  WE143CN  R  536.00 20APR2   –       –     815 ##  V/ –  W 
       3  WR7CN    R  562.00 25APR2   –       –     815 ## – / –  W 

      Don’t think that is the problem. Must be something else.

    2. It is possible the OTA is selling a 7-day adv fare with less than 7 days prior. That would be an error. And if found out later, the OTA may void it so they will not lose money.
      Another possible error is they were selling W or S class fares without seat availability. Then they realized later, the ticket would cost more so they voided the sale.
      Who knows what can go wrong with these vending machines ???
      Unfortunately we have to speculate because of lack of facts.

      1. The question begging to ask is, Why didn’t the OTA contact the OP?  It does make you wonder if the ticket number didn’t transmit, otherwise, the OTA stays on the bottom rung of customer service.

        1. I assume the TKNE transmission is automated. Maybe they do not check for acknowledgments.

          The OP (since he is an elite) probably knew to look for the eticket number in his United Reservation. I am surprised he did not go there and print his e-ticket receipt. That is your proof you have a ticket.

          Something fishy here !!!!

  23. Could it be a bank issue? We all agreed tickets are issued some time (from seconds to hours or even days) after the reservation is created. When the ticket are issued the payment is settled. If there is a bank computer glitch the payment is not received and reservation is cancelled. I had a situation like that with United. Made a reservation on united.com provided credit card info. Website shown reservation as confirmed but still internally processing for almost a month. Called united, they said credit card was declined. They tried again and it was processed just fine.

    1. Booking directly with the carrier, they can issue those tickets any time.  It is their product and they can override the system.

      Tickets issued through a OTA or brick and mortar agency, the credit card company issues us an approval code, the amount is held against the card, but the settlement doesn’t happen until ARC gets the report and takes care of it on their end.

    2.  With all due respect, you need to stop speculating and go by the book.

      We know a reservation was created. He saw it on the carriers site.
      Do we know if an e-ticket was issued from the OTA’s side. If so what is it?
      If no e-tickets were issued, did the OTA or ARC still charge the OP’s credit card?
      If e-tickets were issued, were TKNEs transmitted back to the airline(s).
      Finally, if TKNEs were transmitted and recorded by the airline, who actually cancelled the reservation?

      There is a very strict process agencies go through. No need to speculate. Let’s just get the facts from Elliott.

  24. Ok, I just read the poll.  Chris, you really need to talk with ‘real’ ticketing agent before posting a poll regarding airline tickets.

    An airline ticket can only be voided within 24 hours after the ticket was issued.  This doesn’t affect the PNR.  The segments remain.  After 24 hours, a ticket must be canceled, which means the reservation is canceled.  Two very different types of transactions.

    Therefore, you poll means nothing the way it is worded. 

        1. My main concern is we do not know if tickets were even issued at all. By asking about VOIDED tickets, then we have to assume that tickets were issued, otherwise there was nothing to void.
          But the OP said UA refused to issue tickets. So there was nothing to void ? I am scratching my head.

      1. Chris, the title is also a bit confusing because the flights were not canceled per se. The booking or reservation was canceled. The last few mornings were difficult. Need stronger coffee.

        IMO, this is an important case since it should remind everyone to look for a valid 13Digit Eticket number or an eticket receipt immediately after paying for a booking.

  25. It puzzles me as to why is a passenger who holds elite status on United is booking his domestic flights through an online agency? Third party agencies almost never save anybody money on domestic travel. I will sometimes check prices at online travel sites and then look at the same itinerary at the airline’s site. The quote from the airline is usually the same.  Had this passenger booked his travel at united.com and received a confirmation, there would have been no attempt to charge a higher fare if the reservation was accidentally deleted by the airline. 

    1. Agree.
      You really use an agent for SERVICE. Some folks do not have the time and inclination to do the searching process.
      INTERNATIONAL travel is different and a bit more complicated so agents can really be helpful.
      But if we are talking about is pricing, then what is left today are Ethnic destinations and an airline ticket consolidator will probably offer the lowest prices.

  26. I guess a takeaway from this is: no ticket number except for “e-ticketless” airlines if any, no actual confirmed reservation.

    DavidZ

  27. Actually I think Chris’ opinion poll is adequately reasonable. I may know a tad more about ticketing (but less than you guys, I’m sure) than the average fliers, but I don’t necessarily expect them to know these things.

    If anything, it’s just the wording in an attempt to capture the issue as accurately as possible. Probably “canceled” is a more acceptable general term than “voided”, because the latter is used more by airlines and travel agents for the “specific” scenario of canceling bookings without issued tickets.

    Anywho, the point there is who’s supposedly responsible if a screw up occurs. Usually depends on the screw up, though.

    DavidZ

    P.S. Ah darn it, I was replying to Chris’ comment about his opinion poll. And my comment appears elsewhere in spite of clicking Reply below his.

  28. not the agents fault !!!

    +

    They’re getting a measly 5-8% for the booking & that’s only on the fare not the taxes & charges.

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