gushi: (Bitey Gushi)
[personal profile] gushi

I've been in a long-distance relationship for the past few years. As a result, I book quite a bit of travel. The company I've chosen to do this with, is Travelocity. I've spent a LOT of money with them, mainly in flying my friends from all over here to the Bay Area.

  • I've had several occasions where I click on a flight, only to get to the checkout screen and find out that "The Price for this flight has changed". This is frustrating, but not inherently Travelocity's fault -- the airlines have two databases, one for availability and one for bookings, and pricing info differs occasionally.

  • I've had at least a few occasions where I've done several searches for a thing (different days, different times, etc), and have booked a flight...only to find that the flight I have is not the one I thought I booked. On at least one occasion, the answer to this has been "okay, book another flight" -- this has happened with other people in the room who watched me book it and have sanity checked me, but since we don't have a time machine, we may never know.

Travelocity staff: if you want to look over the number of "no-go" flights I've booked in the past few years, please do.

  • I've had one occasion where a flight couldn't be made due to illness, and I had bought Travelocity's insurance. I was told in no uncertain terms that the type of illness (cramps) didn't qualify, and I was out the price of a ticket, PLUS the fee for the insurance. Haven't bought it since.

  • I've occasionally just seen Travelocity's web site loop endlessly and tell me there's no flights, redirecting me back to their home page. I seem to recall it was doing this the night I booked this flight, which is why I used the app. Next time I see this behavior, I'll record it.


The "big issue" happened today.

On July 11th of this year, I booked a flight for my girl Mary Kathryn Williams (known to me as Kat) from Tampa, Florida to San Francisco. On the travelocity website, if you visit with an ipad, it pops up a display that says "Use our app!", so I did. Booked the usual flight. Traveler "Mary Williams". DOB Hers. When it asks for a confirmation email, I choose hers, not mine (because I can always log into the account to see details). Just so I have a record, I take a screenshot of the ipad screen. (My photo stream seems to be my second brain of late).

Trip ID: 631935337643. American Airlines flights 2009/1355. August 9th.

Fast forward to today: I get a call from Kat -- at the airport -- saying "There's a problem -- this ticket's in Dan Mahoney's name". We have tickets to the very last showing of a live concert, tomorrow at 8PM.

I haven't ever seen the confirmation emails, I always send them to her, so I can't say for certain whether it would have been obvious that there was a problem -- after all, my name's likely to be in there somewhere, it's MY ACCOUNT, so this is probably easy to gloss over.

I call travelocity from my desk phone -- and sit on hold for 20 minutes.

I then try them at a different number -- and get past the hold queue in five minutes, to someone who is reasonably easy to understand, but still has an "outsourced" feel. I drop the call from my desk phone.

I explain the situation to the agent that answered. He says "this is up to the airline", and places me on hold for about ten minutes. He comes back on the line and tells me that the airline "has refused" to make the change, and the only thing they can do is try booking another seat.

He checks, quickly, and tells me there's no seats available, at any time today, on any airline, at any price.

I ask him for the number for the American, and hang up.


I call the airline (American) -- get through to someone in about three minutes. Explain the situation. He tells me I need to speak with Travelocity -- and I explain that Travelocity is saying I need to speak with the airline. Since the person who tells Kat if she can get on the plane has a uniform with an American logo on it, and the big flying metal tube says American, I'm pretty sure the airline's the right answer.

The gentleman laughs a bit at this logic "I need to ask my helpdesk about this", and comes back in about five minutes.

He tells me that there's three options, and they're not great options, but they're options.

First, would be to try and move the flight out to a different day, which gives us more wiggle room on this, time to solve the problem. I don't find this particularly acceptable.

Second, is that the person who actually has the call on this is the Airport Manager, and that she can ask to speak to them and get the name change approved. While I might suggest this if I were there to flash my ID and my credit card and say "look, Travelocity messed up", I'm not there to do so.

Third, he tells me, is I can just buy her another ticket. He checks, and suprisingly, he DOES have another slot free for her -- a slot that wouldn't be available to Travelocity's people. Problem is, it's not cheap, since it's basically a same-day flight. $500ish.

I say "Okay, this is a problem I can solve by throwing money at it. You guys take Visa?"

We go back and forth a bit, because initially, he's telling me Kat will need to pay (but Kat has a credit card on my account, so this isn't a problem -- yay for forward thinking), but then the system appears to let him book it. He gives me a confirmation code, I text it to Kat, and life is good.

Finally, he asks me what to do about this other reservation, and tells me that it's my choice on whether he cancels it or not, but that if nobody checks in, and it goes to a "no-go" status, then I'm more likely to be out the money. I agree, and he cancels it.


I call back Travelocity, and get a different agent. I give them the story to date, and say "okay, so I've now got a credit, right?". And they confirm, yes, I have a credit. Which must be used through travelocity and for flight by me on the same airline.

He tries telling me that "the airline holds the credit, not travelocity" -- and I don't understand that. Okay, so I have a credit with the airline. There's presumably some kind of ID they can give me, and step out of the transaction at this point. Right? Wrong.

I'm a heavy guy, and a bit of a libertarian. By flying, I inconvenience other passengers, so I don't fly without a really good reason. I flew out a year ago for Kat's conversion (and a friend hooked me up with First Class travel, which was a world of difference from nearly every point of view). I fly if business mandates it -- once every two years or so, and even then I have my company buy the second seat.

I confirm that in the future, if need be, I can use this credit by calling travelocity (which would eliminate pretty much the convenience of using a web site -- or being able to search multiple airlines for deals.


Ergo, I call my bank, Chase. I explain the situation -- that the app messed up, because there's no possible way I would ever list myself as a traveler, flying out of a city I don't live in, and I initiate a chargeback. Travelocity's software (either on my ipad, or on their site) had a glitch.

They tell me the funds -- $240.80 -- will be back in my account within 12 hours, and thank me for being a customer. Yes, travelocity may dispute this chargeback, but that's why I'm documenting this here.


I've shouted out to Travelocity on Twitter -- I'm still shocked that one can get a message through to customer support and people who are enabled to act faster there than by calling a phone number and speaking to people 1:1.

My advice: You've lost a customer. From now on, we're going to figure out which airline works for us, and book through them.

All you have to do to solve this problem FOR ME is "don't dispute that chargeback". Your app messed up. I'm a techie, I'm good with the computers, and I'm 100 percent certain of what I put in those fields in your app.


Update:

@travelocity (still not sure if that should be capitalized) started following me on twitter, and asked me for my trip ID and my phone number. I linked them to THIS ENTRY (which is everything you're reading except this update section), and said "If you still feel we should talk, here's my number")

I was called a few minutes later by someone who...

  • hadn't read the link -- in fact, hadn't even been FORWARDED the link. (Sorry, was 140 characters too much to pass on?). Strike one.
  • Called me Ma'am, more than once, after being corrected.
  • Told me that they'd only grant me a refund if the "footprints from the app reveal an error" -- I guess meaning they're handing this to the dev team. I responded that yes, I'd love this fixed, but they've already lost a customer, and I've already had my bank give me my money back. The best thing you can do, once again, is don't dispute that claim when it comes in.
  • Before hanging up, told me "Thank you for calling travelocity". WTF? YOU CALLED ME! Are you really that incompetent that you can't remember who dialed and who answered?

Epilogue:

The show we were going to see has extended its run for another three weeks, so there's a silver lining.

The flight wasn't meant to be: All flights out of Tampa were delayed because of a tornado watch, so Kat would have missed her connection at DFW, and would have gotten the privilege of sitting at the airport until 7AM, so the flight had to be scheduled for the following day, anyway. I don't have a phone number or twitter handle for the entity responsible for tornadoes...but I do hear He's on Google+.

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