Watch Out When Booking an Airline Ticket on Orbitz if Your Travel Plans are Not Definite

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.

Uh, oh.

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.

Uh, oh.

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.”

Uh, oh.

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.

Summary

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.

6 thoughts on “Watch Out When Booking an Airline Ticket on Orbitz if Your Travel Plans are Not Definite”

  1. Gene says:

    @ Brian — Here’s an even better tip — do not use OTAs, unless there is a specific compelling reason to do so (like getting a convoluted routing, mixing airlines, grabbing a great fare than has been pulled from the airline’s own website, etc.). Otherwise, it is not worth risking having to deal with their horrible customer service in exchange for measly 1% cashback via a portal (the most common reason for using OTAs in the point and miles world) .

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Sadly, you are probably correct, Gene.

      There are plenty of comments of FlyerTalk members posted over the years who used Internet travel agencies for mistake fares and got burned one way or another…

  2. Danny says:

    I feel your pain. I was on the phone with Orbitz for three hours last week over a schedule change the airline had made on my flight. They conference called the airline who made the change however the ticket stock belonged to yet another airline on my itinerary. It was a painful experience and still isn’t resolved.

    I agree with booking directly with the airline if at all possible.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am sorry to learn about that, Danny.

      I do hope that the issue you described gets resolved in your favor as soon as possible; and please consider posting updates.

  3. Ramsey says:

    B. C. …… Hope you are enjoying the Mets, I wish i could be there at the games. I read that a Mets fan was beat up at Dodger Stadium the other night. We (NYC) should kick Larry Kings butt. Not revenge because he is a big Dodger fan, but because he was such a horrible interviewer.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Although I have attended the opening day game this year in Atlanta where the Braves hosted the Mets, Ramsey, I have not watched a Mets game since — not even the playoffs…

      …and it seems that the injured player for the Mets — resulting from that brutal slide from a base runner for the Dodgers — has taken priority attention over that injured spectator.

      I never understood the appeal for Larry King. Does he walk around with that oversized microphone in front of him at all times?!?

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