Kathleen Dowsek’s case is like a favorite movie you watch over and over. You’re not even sure why you watch the film, but there’s something about it that fascinates you.
I have a movie like that. I’ll tell you more about it in a second.
Sometimes, it’s not the film, but the actors that make you go for the encore. In Dowsek’s case, it’s two favorite actors — Expedia and American Airlines — that appear in so many stories, we could probably limit ourselves to just those two companies and we’d still have enough material to publish a site.
Dowsek’s problems began last March, when she bought two roundtrip flights to Miami from Chicago and a Carnival Cruise through Expedia.
“I booked a 6 p.m. flight to Miami, leaving the day of the cruise,” she say. “Obviously, I made a mistake in booking the time but did not realize it until three days later.”
Oops. She wouldn’t have had an opportunity to fix the tickets for two reasons. First, it was past the 24 hour “hold” American allowed. And second, American’s policy at the time was different from most other airlines; it only offered a poorly disclosed “hold” option.
“I immediately called Expedia to report my mistake knowing that I would have to pay a penalty,” she says. “I spoke with a rep and explained that I had meant to book a 6 a.m. flight and asked her to change the two tickets for a flight leaving at 6 a.m. and returning at the same time as initially booked.”
The change fee and fare differential: $664.
(Travel agents, I can already see your comments about the dangers of going all DIY. The first one to call Expedia a “vending machine” wins the “I-told-you-so” prize.)
“When I received my bank statement, there were charges for $632, $664 and $752. I was being charged for two additional tickets to Miami. Instead of simply changing the time of departure, the rep I spoke to in another country booked two more tickets to Miami,” she says.
That led her to making a dozen phone calls to Expedia or American Airlines, all ending in frustration.
“I have spoken to an endless amount of people, been transferred numerous times, been put on hold for hours, listened to god-awful music, been told it was Expedia’s fault, been told it was American’s fault and on and on and on,” she says.
Her last call, which lasted two hours, was particularly trying. She had to explain her situation to a series of representatives and a supervisor. Then she was transferred to yet another supervisor, who asked her to tell the story again.
“At this point, I almost lost it,” she says. “This has been going on now for five months. I can’t bear to make another call and get the same runaround. I currently have paid over $2,000 for tickets and penalties for simply two round-trip coach tickets to Miami. I have lived up to my part of the agreement — I made a mistake and paid dearly in penalties. However, Expedia made a mistake and I am now paying for their mistake as well.”
That’s the movie I keep watching over and over. You know, the 2003 movie with Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. I think there’s something about the incorrigible frat boys in that film that I find amusing. I know I shouldn’t be laughing most of the time.
I think there’s an analogy to all these stories involving Expedia and American. We shouldn’t be reading them again and again, and we definitely shouldn’t be getting any entertainment value from them.
Yet here we are. These are modern-day Laurel and Hardys of the corporate world; we can’t look away.
Our team is on the case, and we’ll have an update. But it’s probably a matter of days, in not hours, before the next American case comes along. Or Expedia case.
I’ll be here to cover it.