As the busiest travel season of the year approaches, consumers are warned to be careful about booking travel plans.
Booking through a bargain travel website may get you a deal — but it could also backfire.
Marian Goodwin is a SoCal transplant from London, England.
“I haven’t been in about three years, so I was planning to go this Christmas,” Goodwin said. She’s been planning the trip to see her family for months, she said.
“My mom, eight brothers and sisters, nephews, nieces,” she said.
In the spring, Goodwin purchased three tickets for roughly $3,800 dollars, on Expedia.com, to fly Virgin Atlantic from LA to London on Christmas Eve. She said she chose to buy her tickets from Expedia because the tickets seemed less expensive and had a broad selection of choices.
Flights booked, Goodwin’s thoughts turned to her upcoming trip, but weeks later she got an email from Expedia.
“They told me they needed to put me on an earlier flight and I said ‘I can’t do that I’m still at work, so I can go later,’” she said. “So (a representative) said she would write the airline and email for me and let them know and get me a full refund if they couldn’t accommodate me.”
The emails with Expedia continued. Goodwin offered to fly later but insisted earlier flights wouldn’t work. Getting nowhere, she contacted Virgin Atlantic.
“They told me they would give me a refund but to go back to Expedia because that was the booking agency, so they had to request it,” Goodwin said.
Travel agent Tama Holve, of Willett Travel in Studio City, said she’s seen this before: consumers being bounced between a travel website and travel provider for a refund when a flight’s schedule is changed.
Holve said travelers can get the same deals booking directly with an airline and an assurance of responsibility, but travel websites remain popular.
“People just believe that if I get this myself, I’m going to pay less,” she said.
The I-Team contacted Virgin Atlantic, which reviewed Goodwin’s ticket fiasco. Within hours a spokesperson for Virgin responded to NBC4 in an email: “We have issued a full refund to Ms. Goodwin and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”
Goodwin was thrilled to get her money back.
“That’s a lot of money,” she said, but noted that she remains puzzled as to why she wasn’t refunded her money immediately.
“Most people can go on a later flight, not many people can go on an earlier flight because if they could, they would have booked the earlier flight,” she said.
Expedia responded Monday afternoon to I-Team questions and said they regret the inconvenience this experience caused.
A spokeswoman also said that if consumers run into trouble with a booking — and customer service isn’t able to resolve your issue — that they can request to speak with a supervisor.
Virgin Atlantic Statement:
“We have issued a full refund to Ms. Goodwin and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused due to scheduling changes.
There are rare occasions where we do change our schedule. For example, we will take advantage of a better departure time when it provides more convenient connections for our customers. We try to keep these changes to a minimum, but where necessary, we will give as much notice as possible. If the change doesn’t work for our customers, we will always offer a full refund.”
“We appreciate NBC4 reaching out to us on behalf of Ms. Goodwin and regret the inconvenience this experience has caused. Expedia encourages consumers to reference the online customer service portal outlining Expedia’s policy on airline schedule changes when booking. Expedia customers can also reach out to the Expedia customer service team with any questions they have via phone (1-800-EXPEDIA) or email during the booking process, travel or post-travel. The Expedia customer service team is available to address all customer service questions or issues. If a customer would like additional help during a call experience, supervisors are also available to manage incoming requests.”