This is a long-ish rant about why I will never use Travelocity to book a ticket again; it’s a wonderful tale of incompetent customer service. If you’re interested.. read more!
Tiff and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary this year in the Dominican Republic. In April ’08, we picked a resort, and shopped around for the best price for a combination of flight, resort, and car. Travelocity came in a few hundred dollars cheaper than the alternatives. (The next cheapest was actually to book it ourselves with each individual company, which kind of surprised me!) In any case, we went ahead and booked the trip. After we had confirmed the purchase, we got a confirmation message back that said that they had booked the flight and resort, but were unable to book the car, and we should call them to get that set up. Not a big deal, right? I gave them a call right away.. after sitting on hold for a half hour, someone who hardly spoke English picked up the phone. I explained the message I received from the site with the rental car; he went ahead and tried to book it for us. After about an hour and a half of trying (insane), he said that he was having trouble with the system, and we should go ahead and book it ourselves (Travelocity had not charged us for it.) I was able to get the same price on the car directly from Avis, so I went ahead and booked it – not a big deal; just annoying that I was on the phone for two hours for no good reason. So in the end, we had our trip to the DR booked – leaving the US on August 9 ’08, and returning on August 18 ’08.
Fast forward to June 14. We received an e-mail from Travelocity, saying that our trip had changed. I read over the e-mail, and did not see any changes in the flight times, etc, so I gave them a call. An agent (who spoke perfect English) picked up quickly this time. He took a look, and said that the flight numbers had changed, and nothing else. No big deal!
Now, we’re on to August 8, the day before we are leaving on our trip. I went to Delta’s site, and checked in for our outbound flights. I also went to Travelocity’s site, and printed out the trip details and such from there. Everything was as expected – the same travel times, dates, etc, and the updated flight numbers.
On August 9, we hopped on the plane, and had a good flight down to the DR. We had a great time, up until the evening of our anniversary (August 16). Tiff wasn’t feeling great, and I was bored, so I got my laptop out and checked my e-mail. Much to my surprise, I had an e-mail from Delta, saying it was time to check in for our flight on August 17 (note – our flight back was supposed to be on August 18.) I logged onto Delta’s site, and checked our flight itinerary. Much to my surprise, the itinerary showed that we were flying from the DR to Atlanta on August 17, and then flying back from Atlanta to Minneapolis on the evening of the 18th. Needless to say, I was a little surprised, so I went and verified the trip at Travelocity’s web site. On their site, it still said the flight was supposed to leave on the 18th, which matched the paperwork I had printed too. I assumed that Delta had mis-transcribed something, and gave them a call. (Fortunately, we had a laptop with VoIP software on it, so we weren’t paying US$.25/min+ for the calls — I was on the phone for over two hours that night.) The first Delta rep was not helpful at all; she just said my flight had been changed from the 18th to the 17th because our flight on the 18th had been canceled, and there was nothing she could do about it. Needless to say, this wasn’t acceptable, so I asked for a supervisor. The supervisor listened to my story, and said “hold for a minute”. When the phone was picked back up, it was by a lady in rebooking, who had no idea why I was calling. (Sigh.) I discussed the situation with her, and she was actually quite helpful. It turns out that Delta had cancelled flights to Puerto Plata for four months, starting on August 18th. She said they had notified Travelocity on Jun 20, and that they should have notified me. After I told her I was certainly not notified, she did her best to get us on an alternate airline on the 18th, but all that was available was first-class seats on Continental, which Delta was unwilling to pay to upgrade us to, as it was not their fault. (Travelocity should have contacted us, and gotten us rebooked on economy seats with an alternate airline on the 18th.) At this point, she said there was nothing that she could do to get us out on the 18th, and went ahead and moved the Atlanta to Minneapolis segment to the 17th, so at least we wouldn’t be spending 26 hours in Atlanta. She also provided me with the customer relations information at Delta, and advised me to write a letter to Delta when we got home, to see if there was anything they could do to compensate us (even though it was not their fault.)
After I got off the phone with her, I called Travelocity. Again, the first representative who picked up was not helpful at all; they just said “yeah, in our system it shows your flight back is on the 17th.” (This was very strange to me – as their web site still showed the 18th.) I asked to speak to a supervisor, and was transferred. The supervisor took a look, and said that they had sent an e-mail to me on June 26. I told him that I had not received that e-mail, and asked why they hadn’t attempted to call me when I didn’t contact them to fix the flights. His response was simply that Travelocity did not do that – they only contacted their members via e-mail. Needless to say, I was not pleased with that response, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do at that point, so I asked him to just try to get us back on the 18th. He responded that he would contact Delta to try to get us moved to a new flight; I told him that they had already told me that there was nothing available but first class, but he still wanted to discuss with them. I was put on hold; when he returned, he confirmed that Delta was unable to move us to a different flight, and that Delta was unwilling to pay for the upgrade to first class to get us out on the 18th. I responded that I totally understood that, as it seemed to be entirely Travelocity’s fault, and asked why Travelocity was unwilling to pay for the flight change. His response was that after the ticket is booked, Travelocity is unable to do anything to change the flights – all they can do is work with the airline that the ticket was booked on. So, after I was convinced that there was nothing he could do to get us out on the 18th, I asked if they would at least refund the extra night at the resort that we would be unable to use. His response? “I will call the hotel and try to work that out for you.” Sigh. He was then unable to get ahold of the resort’s customer service people (it was around midnight local time at this point), but he assured me that one of his team members would call the resort in the morning, and would let me know what the outcome was. Fortunately, the next morning a team member did give me a call, and let me know that we would be refunded for that one night. The morning of the 17th, we woke up, packed as quickly as we could, and safely made it home a day early.
So, from my viewpoint, here is how the fault plays out for this:
Things that were my fault:
- Using a bottom-dollar booking service to book my flight.
- Possibly having Travelocity’s e-mail filed as spam, if it was ever sent. (My logs and spam folder for June have already been rotated, so I am unable to confirm.)
- Trusting Travelocity’s itinerary to be accurate, and not checking Delta’s site for the itinerary also.
Things that were Delta’s fault:
- Cancelling flights to and from the Dominican Republic.
- Trusting their travel partners to notify the customers, when they did have my direct info.
Things that were Travelocity’s fault:
- Failing to ensure that I was notified when there was a change to the flight. A simple phone call (automated, even!) to either of the numbers I had on file with them would have reached me for sure.
- Failing to update the itinerary on their web site with the changes that had already been made to my flight, and were also made in their system already.
- Being unwilling to do anything but work with their partners to try to resolve the issues — if they had been willing to pay the difference in fares for something that was their fault, they could have trivially gotten us out on the 18th, on Continental’s first-class seats.
So, in the future, I think I will always book directly. Delta’s phone representative was very clear that they would have been made sure that we were notified of the change, and even if we had not been, Delta would have been willing to go the extra mile to make sure we got out on the 18th, even if it ended up costing them a little bit extra. No matter what I do, I will never do business with Travelocity again, and will make sure that anyone I know who mentions their name hears this story!
Update, 2008/08/23: Last night at 10:30PM, I sent Travelocity an e-mail detailing my experience. Much to my surprise, I received an e-mail from their VP of Customer Service a half hour later (11pm on a Friday night!), copying the executive team, and saying that they would get to the bottom of it. Today, I got a response back from the ‘Executive Resolution Coordinator’, with a ticket number and contact phone number for the person who will be investigating. They also asked me to give them three business days to come to a resolution. All in all, much better response than I had ever expected. I look forward to seeing what they come back with, and will be sure to update this page.
Update, 2008/08/29: A few days ago, I received a reply from Executive Resolutions. They gave us two $250 certificates for future orders, and apologized. Today, I sent an e-mail back thanking them for the certificates, and also letting them know that what I was really looking for was an explanation of how they would prevent this in the future. I’ll update again when I receive a response.