Q: We had a vacation to Tahiti booked through Orbitz. My husband recently called Orbitz to see how much it would cost to change the vacation to Aruba. Orbitz rebooked our tickets without permission.
But they didn’t completely switch the vacations. Now we have flights to Aruba, but our hotel remains 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.
The Orbitz error has cost me 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, Massachusetts
A: Orbitz never should have changed your original reservation. I don’t know why it did. I think unless we went back to the call, we wouldn’t know who said what.
That’s one reason I always recommend that you use the website to make any changes to your reservation with an online agency. Orbitz, like most major online agencies, keeps a record of every click and keystroke. Also, you would have received an immediate email verifying the change to your itinerary.
Whatever happened here — and after a full investigation, that’s still not entirely clear — a lot of things went wrong.
According to your account, you were on the phone with an Orbitz representative discussing flight options. You wanted to change your ticket because you were concerned that you might not get to Tahiti because of COVID-19 testing requirements. Then 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 definitively what you said or what the agent said.
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.
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 changed your flight but not the hotel. Yep, this one’s a head scratcher.
You could have reached out to an executive at Orbitz to find out how to fix this. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the customer service managers at Orbitz (Expedia) on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/expedia-customer-service-contacts/.
It turns out Orbitz had already offered you a credit for the price difference between the Tahiti vacation package and the one in Aruba. I contacted Orbitz, and it reviewed 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 is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or email@example.com.