Watch Out When Booking an Airline Ticket on Orbitz if Your Travel Plans are Not Definite
O ccasionally, I will purchase airline tickets — typically international — through an Internet travel agency, as good deals are sometimes offered; and in the case of Orbitz, there is usually a risk-free cancellation policy where if the booking is canceled at any time before the expiration of the risk-free cancellation period, all funds are refunded with no penalty whatsoever.
As I was recently purchasing an airline ticket through Orbitz, there was an offer to add a hotel, which was a savings of five dollars. Out of convenience, I decided to go for it and add it to my booking.
Not long after that, I realized during the risk-free cancellation period that I would not be able to take the trip after all. I logged in to my account with Orbitz to cancel my reservation — only to be greeted with a message which informed me that I had to call a specific telephone number to cancel a “package” deal.
Due to “higher-than-normal” call volumes, I would not be able to speak to a live person for the next 27 minutes, according to a recorded message. While I do not recall the exact verbiage of that message, the wait time was no exaggeration. I opted for the system to call me back, which it did…
…and then I still had to wait with repetitive music while holding for several minutes for the next available agent.
Fine. I can use my laptop computer while I wait.
I could barely understand the woman who finally answered, as she not only had an accent; but there was also an annoying echo where hearing what she was saying was difficult — and I was using earbuds with my mobile telephone so that I may better hear what she was saying.
She asked for the usual information: name, reservation booking number, and other typical items to verify that I was me; and after viewing my reservation, she notified me that she had to transfer the telephone call to the package desk.
I waited on hold again with the repetitive music. Again, I could barely understand the woman who finally answered, as she not only had an accent; but there was also an annoying echo where hearing what she was saying was difficult — and I was using earbuds with my mobile telephone so that I may better hear what she was saying.
Did you just experience “déjà vu all over again”? Good. That was the effect for which I was attempting, as that was how I felt while using the telephone. If not, well — I tried.
“No problem, Mr. Brian” — it is a tell-tale sign that when a first name is used with a salutation, the person is typically from another country far away from the United States — “I will cancel your entire reservation; but once the process starts, it cannot be reversed.”
“Please go ahead and cancel the reservation,” I replied. “Thank you.”
I could just picture all of the “cheat sheets” in front of her from which she was reading as if she proceeded according to a script; but she was polite and pleasant…
…although the attempt to slip past me that the cancellation was going to cost me a minimum of $25.00 had failed.
“Wait — hold on a minute. I never agreed to any cancellation fee. I have a screen shot saying that I have until 10:00 in the evening to cancel without penalty.”
“Let me talk to my supervisor.”
Well, it was not really such an “uh, oh” after all, as I was only on hold for a couple of minutes at the most before she returned and said that I will indeed receive a full refund. Fortunately, the dispute was quick and rather painless.
Orbitz was singled out only because that was the Internet travel agency which I used and subsequently experienced with regard to “package deals”; but other Internet travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity may have similar policies.
Unless you are receiving a significant discount and are sure of your travel plans when you book, do not add anything to your airline reservation on Orbitz, as it automatically becomes a “package deal” which has different policies, rules, terms and conditions than if you booked the airfare and hotel reservation separately — and that includes a different refund policy which may preempt the risk-free refund policy.