Friday, December 22, 2006

Orbitz Sucks!

Orbitz Sucks!

I purchase five plane tickets from Orbitz on June 6 and realized three days later that I needed a sixth ticket. When I tried to find a matching itinerary using Orbitz, I couldn’t. I decided to buy the sixth ticket on a different day and let my wife use that ticket and then change my wife’s ticket to the sixth person’s name. I had just purchased the sixth ticket and realized that I put the wrong name on the ticket. I couldn’t find a way to fix the name on-line, so I called Orbitz to see if they could help me. A recording let me know that I couldn't change the names on the tickets at all. At this point, I was really in need of some help, so I called the Orbitz customer service center.

I explained my problem to the "customer service representative" and she told me that I couldn’t change the name. I asked her if I could cancel the tickets and immediately re-book them under the correct name. She looked up my account and again asked me what kind of change I wanted to make to the ticket. I told her that I was trying to get the names straightened out and she told me again that I couldn’t change the name on a ticket. It was at this point that I realized she wasn’t very friendly and wasn’t going to help me. I asked her to cancel the ticket I had just booked, figuring I would find another way to straighten this out.

She put me on hold for several minutes while she called the carrier (Air Canada) to check restrictions. She then told me that the ticket was non-refundable, but that I could get a credit for most of the price of the ticket. I told her that I wanted to cancel the ticket and use the credit now, so I could book the correct ticket. Then, she got rude and told me to listen to her. She then said the exact same thing, I could get a credit for most of the ticket and there were fees for the carrier and Orbitz for cancelling the ticket. Again, I said that I wanted to cancel the ticket and use the credit. Then, she told me again that I couldn’t change the name on a ticket. I told her I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to cancel the ticket and use the credit. Then, she finally told me that I wasn’t allowed to do that either. The credit had to be used at the same airline for the same passenger. I repeated what she said, because it didn’t make sense – I could cancel the ticket, with penalties, but get a credit, but I had to use that credit at the same airline for the exact same passenger and nothing was transferable to anyone else, even me, the person that paid for it. At that point, I told her I didn't want to do anything and that I would call the carrier myself because she wasn’t being very helpful. She then got very rude and started to talk over me, so I hung up the phone.

I went back on the Orbitz site to book the correct ticket, thinking that I would try to use the credit for my wife on a future trip. I had difficulty logging on because that woman was still accessing my account. When I finally did logon, I found that I was able to cancel the ticket, without penalty, because I had just made the purchase. The representative never mentioned this to me. Instead, she tried to charge me fees, not allow me to get any money back for the ticket and give me a credit with restrictions that didn’t make sense.

My next step was to call Air Canada directly to see about getting another flight, since Orbitz had me annoyed at that point. I got a very friendly customer service representative that took care of me and added a sixth ticket with the exact itinerary as the first five I booked. He was based in Florida, was pleasant, helpful and took care of all my needs quickly.

I was stunned by the difference in attitude, the level of service and the overall friendliness of the customer service representatives. I was able to directly compare two customer service representatives within minutes of each other – one outsourced, one not. The difference was stark.

I decided to complain to Orbitz. The Orbitz web form didn’t allow enough space to enter my full story, so I just left a message there asking how to file a complaint. I got an e-mail from someone named Olive at OrbitzTLC saying to send the complaint to her. I typed up a long e-mail, explaining in-depth the issues and demanding that disciplinary action be taken against the representative. No one ever responded to the e-mail.

Orbitz had always been my first stop for airline tickets because they always had the cheapest prices. But, in one debacle, I nearly lost all of the savings from all previous purchases. I'll now be using the AMEX travel service. They kiss my butt up one side and down the other. It isn’t that I want that, though it is nice. What I want is access to relatively cheap tickets through a company that will help me solve any problems I have. I’ll pay a little more to make sure they get it right, rather than risk getting screwed. I am confident that AMEX will do that, as they have never failed me before.

Orbitz has lost some good money by ignoring me. Since then, I've traveled to Canada again, Florida twice, Missouri, California and Mexico three times. They missed out on fees for 8 flights. In 2007, I expect to book about 15 flights just for myself, plus others for my wife, mother and children. I also told all of my colleagues and they quit using Orbitz. I convinced one of my clients to write a policy that forbids the use of Orbitz.

Orbitz is losing a ton of money, all because of poor customer service (see here, here and lots of stories here). I hope that anyone reading this will avoid Orbitz as well. Purchasing plane tickets isn’t that common of a thing for most people. It can be a little scary, logging on to all of the various sites to compare prices. Trust me - pay the extra 20 bucks at Expedia or Travelocity. If something goes wrong, they’ll fix it and you won’t be screwed out of the entire cost of the reservation.

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