Her plans changed, but now her travel agent wants her to pay up

By | August 13th, 2012

Any day now, I’m expecting a call from Heather Barksdale’s travel agent. That’s because she owes the agency for a plane ticket to Europe — or at least, that’s what they claim.

Barksdale wants to do the right thing, and she’s asked for my help. Should she pay up?

I’m not sure, but maybe you have the correct answer.

Here are a few details: Barksdale made her initial travel plans through a bricks-and-mortar agency. And with good reason. An agency can handle a more complex itinerary and offer advice you might not find online.

Her agency sent her a contract in which she agreed to allow the agency to make a booking on her behalf, even if it didn’t have her credit card information. Barksdale signed the contract electronically, but admits she didn’t read the document carefully.

“I did not realize it was stating that the agency would purchase the plane ticket on my behalf prior to receiving the requested check payment,” she says.

Then Barksdale asked her agent to book tickets through KLM by email. But within a few hours, her plans changed. She says she had misgivings about the agency — the itinerary, she said, “didn’t feel secure” and so she booked the tickets herself online.

But a few days later, she received an email from her agency, requesting a payment for the tickets.


“A close friend works with this agency frequently for international travel,” she says. “I do not want to be unfair in my refusal to pay for a ticket I didn’t intend to purchase and I do not want to go up against any type of legal proceedings.”

Related story:   Ticket refund on "hold" while travel agency squabbles with airline

What should she do?

I think it’s unusual for an agency to not ask for a credit card number before making a booking on behalf of a customer. So that’s my first flag. But Barksdale confirmed that the agency doesn’t have her card on file, just a signed contract.

I asked Barksdale if she’s sure she instructed the agent to buy the KLM tickets. Again, she verified that yes, she’d asked for the tickets.

Did she notify the agency that she wanted to cancel?

Yes. Within 24 hours of my initial communication I emailed the agent to express my thanks for her assistance but that my travel plans had changed.

She acknowledged this with a return email.

Per the KLM’s 24-hour cancellation policy, they allow cancellation of reservations without penalty for 24 hours after the reservation is made.

Barksdale emailed this information to the agent with a check for her professional service fee of $75. But she refused to pay for the tickets.

She wants to know: Did she do the right thing?

Here’s where I could use your help. The travel agent should have asked for a credit card number. When Barksdale emailed her to cancel the transaction, the agent should have also canceled the plane tickets.

But I haven’t reviewed the emails between the two parties, so I don’t know how clear they were with each other. Given the lack of attention to detail on the part of both parties, I think there’s a high probability that something got lost in the translation.



  • sdir

    What is the cancellation policy of the agency? Just because the airline has a 24-hr cancellation policy doesn’t mean the agency does. I’d like know what the back-and-forth emails really contained. While I find it strange that the agency would go through with booking without actual payment, I find it equally odd that Barksdale so readily paid a $75 “professional service fee” for something she thought was canceled. There’s a lot we don’t know here.

  • I’m not surprised at the $75 fee. You can’t expect travel agents to work for free, especially for customers who are overly needy.

    But honestly, the OP sounds like a bit of a mess. She told them to book the tickets. Then she tells them she changed her mind. If it were me, I wouldn’t have left this up to email. What if the agent didn’t read / get the message? That’s playing with fire. Did the acknowledgement specifically say that the ticket had been cancelled?

    I think in the end, it all comes down to timing. If the travel agency got the message and cancelled the ticket in time, I don’t think the OP should be charged.

  • I must respectfully disagree with your analysis.

    If the agency is acting as a traditional travel agency, i..e not a reseller, then its cancellation policy should not be any more restrictive that the travel provider’s. If the OP made a timely that the ticket be cancelled, then the agency should cancel the ticket. The key word being timely.

    I also don’t see the issue with the $75.00. The travel agency did work, they are entitled to their fee. That part of the discussion shouldn’t be up for dispute.

  • I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the agency is asking the OP to pay for a ticket that was cancelled. I took it to mean that the ticket was not cancelled and the agency wants to the OP to pay for it.

  • sirwired

    I cannot imagine why she’s under the impression that the ticket has “not technically been issued.” All that’s needed to make a reservation is a name and your authorization, nothing more. There’s no legal requirement that an agency collect anything else before taking action on your behalf.

    It sounds like this agency makes reservations without credit cards as a service to their clients, especially since she didn’t plan to pay by credit card; despite their near-ubiquity, not everybody in the world yet has a credit card. They have to travel somehow. So I don’t see how the agency can be faulted for doing exactly what the client asked and trusting they’d be paid according to the agreed-upon method.

    It might be very true that the airline has a 24-hour cancellation policy. However, that doesn’t mean that the agency actually read and processed the e-mail in time. I suspect the reservation DID get cancelled, but not in time, meaning she now has a large credit to her name.

    Since she was going to be paying by check, what did she expect the agency to do? If the agency waited until payment arrived to make the reservation, fare availability could have changed quite a bit.

    And how exactly did she pay the $75 service fee? How does one “e-mail” a check?

    If she could make her online booking by credit card, why didn’t she do so to begin with? What’s all this talk of checks anyway?

    They have a signed contract; unless this was twenty pages of legalese, it’s not the agency’s fault she utterly failed to read it. The agency did exactly as she asked. She should pay up.

  • sirwired

    I suspect the itinerary is cancelled, but not in time for a full refund. So she’s likely stuck with a ticket credit to her name.

  • emanon256

    I can’t vote unless she shares her e-mail. If she specifically asked the agency to cancel the ticket within 24 hours, they acknowledged, and she still paid their fee, then I think she is fine. If she just said her plans had changed, but didn’t say how they changed, then how would the agent know she booked the ticker herself? Why not call the agent before booking the ticket herself.

    I can’t fathom why she would hire an agent, instruct them on what tickets to buy, and then had misgivings and not feel secure, so book them herself instead. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

    As far as being billed, that does not seem out of the ordinary for someone paying by check as she stated, they did have her sign the contract first. Perhaps things have changed, but I used to use an agent who did that when we paid by check. That was quite a few years ago, not sure if it’s still common practice, but since a lot of other business provide the service first and then bill, it does not seem abnormal.

  • SoBeSparky

    “They could force her to pay for a ticket she never wanted.”

    But she DID want it. She told them to go ahead. When does yes mean no after you sign a contract?

  • absherlock

    She signed a contract allowing the agent to act on her behalf and tickets were purchased. She’s on the hook unless she can prove malpractice on the part of the agency.

    I’m most interested by the fact that she decided to book the tickets herself online because the itinerary “didn’t feel secure”. Sounds like, $75 aside, she was letting them do the work and then trying to cut them out of what she owed.

  • Kevin Mathews

    Chris,
    We need a few more details here.
    1) What Time did she send the e-mail to the Travel Agent to buy the initial tickets?
    2) What Time did she send the e-mail to the TA to Cancel the tickets?
    Being honest, this lady sounds like she would’ve ended up on your website regardless of how she planned her trip. She admitted to a complex travel itinerary yet she decided that she is better suited to plan her trip than a professional TA? Sounds like a recipe to end up here.

  • john4868

    I think she owes them for her ticket. She signed a contract agreeing to pay for it. Buyer’s remorse doesn’t appear to have been covered. As long as the agency issued the ticket, I don’t see a way out for her. Given the amounts involved, I don’t see the agency eating the cost of the ticket either.

  • If she went ahead and booked the same flights the agency found for her, it sounds as though she wanted the agency to do the research for her, but didn’t want to pay the ticketing fee. So she booked and purchased it herself. I’m surprised the airline did not cancel both bookings as it was double booked.

  • BillCCC

    I suspect that she found a better deal online after her friend agreed to help her out.

    Not knowing what exactly she signed makes it hard to say just what she should and should not pay for. The timeline is also unclear, she apparently only found out about the tickets at the travel agency a few days after they were purchased. I would think that she would have received an email almost immediately and would have tried to cancel.

    I must say that I really don’t buy her story.

  • Nica

    I would need to see the email transaction between her and the agent. I think it is kind of odd that an agency would put in a contract that they can book the flight even without the credit card information. I would think that might put the agency in a situation like this – where they have the tickets, but not the credit card information in order to recoup their expenses.

    I would think if she truly sent in a note after 24 hours and the agent responded in kind, I think she is correct in just paying the agent fee and nothing more.

  • flutiefan

    but she did pay for fee: $75 for the TA’s professional services. doesn’t sound to me like she way trying to get out of that part of it…

  • EvilEmpryss

    If Barksdale has a confirmation email showing that the agent received her cancellation within the agent’s 24 hour reservation grace period, then no, she doesn’t owe anything. She followed their rules so why should she have to pay? That Barksdale went ahead and gave them money for their efforts is a bonus and more than enough.

  • JenniferFinger

    Since she does have a signed contract with the agent authorizing them to book a ticket for her, with or without a credit card number, it sounds like she owes them for the ticket, Pretty cut and dried.

  • Unlikely. If that were true she wouldn’t have so quickly paid $75 travel agent fee.

  • I had to read the story a few times to make sure I understood what happened. Based on some of the comments, I think that I’m not the only one who was confused.

    One point that is very confusing is whether she cancelled within the time limit established by KLM. It sounds like she authorized the tickets, cancelled within 24 hours, then a few days later first learned that the tickets had been issued.

    As I understand it, she paid the travel agent professional services fee without hesitation and before contacting Chris. That pretty much disproves any notion that she was trying to get their work for free.

    She almost certainly has a binding contract. Lack of a credit card is just noise.

    The question comes down to whether she canceled the ticket in a timely manner. In this case, timely means that she sent clear cancellation instructions, via an authorized means, within the appropriate time limits. We don’t know what those are so we can’t comment on the specifics. However, it appears that the travel agency accepts e-mails as a means of doing business. Accordingly, it doesn’t matter whether the agent read the e-mail or not. That’s outside of the OPs control. Its no different than if the travel agency accepted cancellations via voice mail.

    If she cancelled timely then the travel agency is on the hook. If she didn’t then she’s on the hook for the ticket.

  • Carchar

    ” But I haven’t reviewed the emails between the two parties, so I don’t know how clear they were with each other.”

    Why not? Did either or both parties refuse to show them to you? In quite a few of your articles, Chris, I feel you should seek more information before presenting the facts to the public. I couldn’t vote in this case, but it is an interesting one.

  • absherlock

    Unless she felt that was all they were due. I’ve known plenty of people who try and “renegotiate” with contractors once the work is done, regardless of a previously agreed upon price.

  • Unless she asked the agency to cancel within the 24 hours period

  • I am confused. There is a set of about three people who keep voting thumbs down to every post that asserts that if the OP cancelled within 24 hours she is not liable. I would be very curious to know what is their issue with that statement?

    And where are our resident travel agents? Their insights and expertise would be very useful and illuminating.

  • john4868

    @facebook-1284012132:disqus I disagree with the following statement

    If the agency is acting as a traditional travel agency, i..e not a reseller, then its cancellation policy should not be any more restrictive that the travel provider’s. If the OP made a timely that the ticket be cancelled, then the agency should cancel the ticket. The key word being timely.

    We don’t know the T&Cs on the ticket that was purchased. The OP is assuming that it has the same T&Cs as the ticket purchased in the retail environment but TAs have access to tickets with better pricing but different (tighter) fare restrictions. The ticket they purchased for her could have been one of these tickets.
    We do know that the OP signed a contract agreeing to pay for any ticket that she authorized. We know that she then authorized the TA to purchase a ticket. As long as the TA purchased the ticket, I don’t see where the OP has any room to wiggle as long as the TA acted appropriately.

  • Lauren Bear

    She signed a contract, that was in lieu of a credit card on file. Not all tickets offer the 24 hour cancellation fee. This agency was likely working with “Consolidators” who offer better prices on group space they own on regular carriers, but you generally lose the cancel window. The agency most likely still has to pay for the ticket, so yes, she should pay them for what she told them to purchase for her. What does she think a contract is for?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I think our resident travel agents are busy answering e-mails that came in over the weekend and situations that have cropped up while they were out of the office. Maybe like this one?

  • Lindabator

    Plus, the vendor used may not have been the airline directly, but a consolidator instead, and the cancellation terms and conditions may not allow for a refund. I think the agent could have been clearer as to the terms and conditions, but this client signed a contract, ASKED her to issue the tickets, and then decided against travel, so I feel she SHOULD pay – if she was uncomfortable with the booking, she should never have asked the agent to ticket in the first place, or should have CALLED immediately (before getting the tickets herself) to see what the terms were, and to ensure no tickets were booked. I feel she is just trying to avoid her responsibility here.

  • Lindabator

    Correct – it is something which can be done. i know I have a client CONFIRM they are asking me to ticket, that the tickets are nonrefundable, and that they understand the terms & conditions if other than a standard 24 hours. But I would expect a client who ASKED me to issue the tickets to PAY!

  • Grant Ritchie

    The only issue I see is whether Barksdale contacted the agency to cancel her reservation within 24 hours (per KLM’s policy). If she did, and can prove it, then the agency didn’t carry out her instructions in a timely manner and needs to eat the cost.

  • Lindabator

    IF the ticket is issued through a consolidator, the terms & conditions of a standard airline ticket no longer apply. Change and/or cancellation fees can be quite different than a standard ticket, and that may have been the case here. If the agency had purchased a bulk ticket on the client’s behalf, it may have held far stricter cancellation terms. I know when I have a case such as this, I explain fully to my clients what the differences are, but that being said, her purchasing online AFTER agreeing, and then CONFIRMING the agency was to issue the tickets, leaves me to feel she IS responsible. IF she had reservations (sorry about the pun), she should have called the agent immediately, and perhaps then would have realized her responsibility for the costs, and could have avoided all this mess.

  • Lindabator

    True! But although I feel the agent could have been clearer in explaining the terms & conditions of the booking, the client had already signed the contract, emailed the agent to book the tickets, and then decided to do this on her own and expect to not pay? IF she was uncomfortable, she should have called the agent immediately – and then I feel this whole mess would not be the problem it is, because the agent would have explained that the ticket was already issued, was nonrefundable, and that she owed them for it! Too many people feel a travel agent’s job is to be the google search engine or their public library. Folks – we don’t get paid to do research! (And it takes away from legitimate clients’ needs)

  • Lindabator

    However, that is provided she cancelled in a timely manner, not 2 minutes before the deadline, or that the original ticket followed such a guideline (again, if NOT a standard ticket, may not follow the same cancellation rules)

  • Lindabator

    Not necessarily – I have clients who book nonrefundable tickets, cancel them outside the time frame, and know they have the tickets still to use – not sure if this was what the agent assumed was the case here? In either case, she did sign a contract – people need to realize that when you agree to terms & conditions, it doesn’t mean only so long as you like them.

  • bodega3

    West coast agent checking in.
    The OP signed a contract. She was doing business with the agency, not with the carrier directly. Most likely this was a consolidator fare that had credit card fees, which many carriers are trying to pass on to the traveler, so for the best fare, the OP was offered a cash price. Rules on consolidator fares aren’t the same as dealing with the carrier. She assumed something that might cost her.
    When you purchase something from a business, you have their policies to meet which can be different than the vendors. She signed a contract, so she needs to pay up as she screwed up.

  • Lindabator

    Thanks! My point here exactly

  • ExplorationTravMag

    She contacted a travel agent, she gave them permission to buy a ticket in her name, she signed a contract granting them the authority to buy said ticket in her name, they bought the ticket and she now doesn’t feel she should pay them because she changed her mind about using them and they might or might not have gotten the cancellation in time?

    To me, the sticking point here is not that her plans changed, they didn’t. It’s that she decided to buy the tickets herself online. Her initial reasoning for using a travel agent at all was because she felt the itinerary was complicated. Did it suddenly become uncomplicated?

    I also agree with another poster here that relying on e-mail when it comes to a cancellation is a bit dicey. Relying on e-mail to cancel a contract gets into a grey area, to be sure. While sending an e-mail in a timely manner DOES get the cancellation out, it doesn’t mean the receiving party is there to read it in a timely manner. If the agent responded to the cancellation before the 24 hours was up, and this is assuming the TA was offering a 24 hour cancellation policy (as @facebook-1286112016:disqus pointed out – not all offer this, depending on the ticket) then the agent needs to let this one go. However, if the agent responded to the e-mail cancellation AFTER the window, then my thinking is, the OP needs to pay the TA for the ticket.

  • bodega3

    You don’t know the rules of the fare purchased. It might not follow the 24 hour rule if it was a net/bulk fare. She went for a discounted fare and dealt with an agency, not the carrier.

  • Lindabator

    But you don’t know that WAS the terms & conditions on THIS ticket — certain bulk tickets/consolidator fares have no such window and are far more restrictive, hence the better pricing. She signed a contract – she should pay. Its called taking responsibility for our actions.

  • bodega3

    Yes, the OP might have assumed something that didn’t apply to her fare.

  • bodega3

    We haven’t been given the cancelation policy on this ticket to know if the 24 hour rule applies. The OP may have assumed something that wasn’t correct.

  • bodega3

    The 24 hour rule might not apply to her ticket. We don’t know the rules of the fare since the ticket appears to have been purchased through a consolidator.

  • Grant Ritchie

    According to Chris, “Barksdale asked her agent to book tickets through KLM.”; not through a consolidator… through KLM. If the agency chose to use a consolidator that didn’t offer KLM’s cancellation window then the agency gets to eat the cost.

  • emanon256

    Except KLM may be using a consolidator to sell the tickets. Unless she said to book them directly on KLMs website, the agent is going to find the best deal for KLM tickets.

  • bodega3

    We need to know the wording of the contract she signed, Did she know it was a consolidator fare?

  • DavidYoung2

    Totally agree – This isn’t even close. Contract or no, she asked for the tickets and they got them for her. Doesn’t even matter if the agent COULD have canceled them. The OP asked for the tickets and the agent got them for her. Period, end of story. Pay up, deadbeat.

  • EvilEmpryss

    @ Bodega and Linda: You don’t need to know what the airline rules were, you know what the AGENT’s rules were: according to the post, in their contract (which she signed and should be binding to BOTH parties) the agent offered a 24 hour grace period to cancel the reservation.

    All I’m saying is that *if* she canceled within the AGENT’s grace period, and *if* she got an email from the agent confirming receipt of the cancellation request, then I think she owes nothing. In that case it’s the agent’s fault for making the reservation anyway.

    Now if she missed that cancellation window, or didn’t make it clear that she was canceling, or if the response from the agent was in any way ambiguous as to understanding that she was wanting to cancel and she didn’t clarify it, then she’s on the hook for the ticket.

  • Lindabator

    Most agencies which book bulk or consolidator tickets realize there is an additional cost for using credit cards, so offer cash/check purchases of the tickets instead. HOWEVER – these tickets do not follow ticketing guidelines the same as the standard airline tickets do – they are far striccter, and usually have no such 24 hour period.

  • Bodega

    I have two questions. If the travel agent did indeed cancel the ticket, I assume she’s not liable, even if it were a consolidator fare?

    If its a consolidator fare, does that mean that the travel agent is reselling a ticket for a profiit? If so, then is it ethical to also charge a $75.00 fee on top of that.

    Ok, it was three questions. :)

  • That’s a good question. When is it appropriate for a travel agent to book a consolidator as opposed to directly with the travel provider? And should the customer be notified before the transaction? Personally, I’d be pissed if my travel agent booked me some weird travel package with unanticipated restrictions.

  • If it were a consolidator that makes sense. I do wonder though is it appropriate to purchase a consolidator ticket without informing the passenger?

  • Grant Ritchie

    According to Chris, “Barksdale asked the agent to book tickets through KLM.” I take that to mean that she would naturally expect KLM’s 24-hour cancellation rules to apply.

  • Well they got paid $75.00 so that’s not an issue here

  • Yes, the entire question is the timeliness of the cancellation. One minute before the deadline is not timely in my opinion.

  • Fredo805

    Chris, if I were you, I would stay out of this one. It is unclear who is being honest here.

    Barksdale and the travel agency seem to have met their match. AND the language being used in the emails does not seem to make it clear about what was agreed upon up front.

    In air travel, a “booking” is not a ticket. It is only a reservation made with the airline. As a travel agent, I can make this on behalf of my client. No ticket has been issued. No money has changed hands. AND no obligation has been made by the client yet, to buy a ticket. For international travel, these can usually be held for 72-hours. For domestic travel these can be held for 24-hours.

    A “ticket” is what one purchases after they have approved or confirmed that this “booking” is correct and what they wish to purchase.

    I have been a travel agent handling airline tickets for over 15 years and at least 50% of these tickets have been done with the client never sitting in my office. I always make sure the client understands that a “booking” is never a ticket, but a “ticket” required a “booking” before it was issues. Generally (meaning with exceptions of less than 2% of the tickets I have ever generated for a client) I will never issue a ticket without the client seeing a fully defined booking for their review and approval. This usually means sending them a printable copy of the whole booking (by email or hand carried) before the ticket is issued.

    The format of authorization used by Barksdale’s travel agency, to issue a ticket, seems very unusual to me. I would expect a credit card to be used and only accept a check from a known client. But once signed by Barksdale, she agreed to buy the ticket, unless she only authorized a “booking”.

  • If the 24 hours rule doesn’t apply she’s SOL, unless purchasing through a consolidator is inappropriate

  • That’s why we have lots of ifs.

    If its not a consolidator
    If she had a 24 hours window
    If she cancelled within the 24 hours window.

    I’m not even pretending to have the answer to any of these questions. But if the answer to all the above is YES, then the OP is only on the hoof for $75.00. The answers may be no. I don’t know yet.

    Edited:
    Looking closer, I don’t see where we actually disagree. The OP is bound by the T&C of the ticket. That is what controls whether her actions were sufficient to relieve her of responsibility.

  • She may still owe the $75.00. Many brokers/agents make it clear than cancellation will not relieve the obligation to pay the flat fee. And that’s fair because the TA did work.

  • What is the agent’s responsibility for following the terms of its contract. IF there a grace period, and I’m not saying there is, then they have a responsibility to cancel the ticket within the grace period.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Doesn’t it matter that the OP asked the agent to book the tickets through KLM? If the agent chose to use a consolidator with different cancellation rules, isn’t that on them?

  • I did some checking. It appears that all KLM tickets are cancellable withi 24 hours unless the flight is within one week. Per the KLM’s website

    We allow reservations to be cancelled without penalty for 24-hours after
    the reservation is made if the reservation is made one week or more
    prior to a flight’s departure.

  • Grant Ritchie

    She asked her agent to book through KLM, not on KLM, not with KLM… through KLM. If the agency chose to work with consolidators and lose the cancellation window, how can that possibly be on the OP? Am I missing something?

  • This is a travel agent, not Walmart. You can’t sign a contract, agree to an itinerary then walk away and try to return it. Pay up.

  • bodega3

    One payment is guaranteed, which we can do by giving an agency check number to a vendor, all cancel policies apply. Not sure where the $75 comes into play here. Was that on the contract for cancellations or is that the consoliadtor’s cancel fee? We aren’t being told.
    Yes, a fee on top of a sale is allowed.
    Yes, we are allowed to mark up consolidator fares, if they are bulk or net.

  • bodega3

    Her wording, but what was on the contract? Where did she know the ticket was being issued through? I always tell my client if a consolidator will be issuing the tickets or if I will be doing it, as the cancel penalties are different.

  • I believe it’s imperative to inform your clients if you’re booking their flights through a consolidator. I always disclose this information as it entails more restrictions on their ticket. How can a client make the right decisions without the all the correct information? And I never book for a client on our dime with or w/out a contract. I believe you’re asking for trouble doing it that way. Intentions are much more clear & concise when a client gives you their credit card information. They’re ready to commit!

  • bodega3

    I always tell my clients where the ticket will be purchased as the cancel fees will vary. I haven’t done a consolidator ticket in 2012 as their are getting lousy fares from their carriers and to save my client money, they have to pay by check/cash since credit card fees will be added, thanks to the carriers new policies. I prefer my clients have the safety net of using their credit card and just issue the ticket, with my fee and keep control of their resevation.
    I have also realized that we don’t know if a consolidator was used, just assuming or if the agency has their own contract for special fares with KLM. That latter is very possible. But please note, that contracted fares have different rules so the 24 hour policy probably doesn’t apply.

  • bodega3

    I certainly wouldn’t. Remember,we also don’t know what was disclosed on the contract.

  • That doesn’t make sense. The agency’s fee for performing the service was $75 which they made. The agency wouldn’t make any additional money from booking the flight unless it was a marked up consolidator fare. If I am wrong, can one of the TAs explain my misunderstanding.

  • john4868

    Where do you see that the AGENT offered a grace period? The only thing in Chris’s story is that the OP says KLM, not the agent, offers a 24 hr grace period online.
    Again, that’s for tickets booked retail on their site. We have no idea what the T&Cs on the purchased ticket was.

  • bodega3

    If will depend on where the ticket was purchased and the rules of the fare. Once payment is given and an agency check guarantee can be an accepted form of payment between an agency and vendor, then cancel policies of the airline, the vendor and agency all have to be met. Now the agency could have been the issuer if they had a contract, separate from the GDS fares. We don’t know the terms of this or the contract. Only GDS publish fares have the 24 hour cancel policy and since a check was being used for payment, we know this wasn’t the fare being issued.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Sorry, was trying to point out that maybe travel agents were actually attending to business first thing in the morning and maybe, just maybe, taking care of an e-mail that came in on Saturday or so that might have created a situation like this one. When I worked insurance, we’d get those e-mails or voicemails and then would have to play clean-up on Monday mornings. Every once in a great while, there’d be a claim on a new vehicle that we were told about in an e-mail or voicemail – and then the fun began: were they insured or were they not insured?

    I sure don’t have a clue as to what the actually e-mails or contract said, but I’m not sanguine about this situation. I think there’s a lot left unsaid. I really appreciate the professional viewpoints expressed by you and other travel agents; it makes this story less one-sided.

  • bodega3

    Yes, for their published fares, but net/bulk, which are contracted fares have different rules. Their website would only be for published.

  • With that being said, I do believe she owes the travel agency for her ticket. She signed a contract saying so. Emailing to cancel a reservation is not being thorough. Nor is booking a new ticket before knowing that the first ticket has been cancelled w/out fees. She sounds a bit flighty to me.

  • john4868

    @GrantRitchie:disqus But Chris states that he never received the email chain so he really doesn’t know the term used. She may think “on” and “through” and synonymous but to a TA they aren’t.

  • bodega3

    I am guessing at this, but I think she used the TA, got the itinerary, went online found a better fare and then emailed for cancellation even though she signed a contract. I wouldn’t buy a client a ticket this way, but in our family business, my husband buys equipment for clients all the time using this business practice. It drives me nuts but works for the most part.

  • TonyA_says

    I challenge anyone here to tell me why she can’t cancel her ticket within 24 hours without penalty if her flight was departing at least 7 days prior. The law is clear —
    Requiring airlines to allow reservations to be held at
    the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at
    least 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made
    one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.

  • TonyA_says

    Can you quote the DOT rule that EXEMPTS consolidators or tickets sold with BULK fares from the 24 hour cancellation rule. I keep on hearing people say this but I cannot find the exception anywhere.
    Anyway ALL the consolidators I deal with on a daily basis have a 24 hour grace period.

  • john4868

    Are you sure that the law applies when a third party, like a TA, is involved? I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t apply for bookings made with non-airlines (like consolidators).

  • TonyA_says

    Why not? By the way, there is a lot of talk here about “CONSOLIDATORS”. They are nothing but another travel agency (a very large one, indeed). I know of no law that crafts an exemption to travel agencies called a consolidator. In fact, I know of no legal description of “consolidator” of airline tickets. The DOT does not distinguish them (whoever they are) from any other travel agency.

  • TonyA_says

    The US DOT makes the rules for airline ticket sales, period.
    That said, Airlines have non-published, negotiated [at net prices] fares given to SOME agencies. These fares are also called BULK fares. These agencies (nicknamed consolidators) MARKUP these type of fares so they can make money.

    Currently, I am not aware of ANY BULK fare to Europe that an airline will accept a credit card payment for. Therefore, the agency will have to pay with CASH [to the airline].

    There are good reasons to use a BULK fare:
    (1) longer max stays allowed.
    (2) one-way fares to Europe especially are cheaper
    (3) seasons may be different than PUBLISHED fare
    (4) may be cheaper than PUBLISHED fares.

    BTW, we don’t know if a BULK fare was involved in this story.
    Also, not all travel agents can see these fares on their GDS.

    The issue in this story is whether the DOT 24 hour cancellation rule applies to the OP.

  • $16635417

    Tony,
    I can’t find it in the regs, still searching, but i did find this:

    An overview of the new rules include:

    If a reservation is made more than 7 days in advance with an airline, the reservation must be held for the quoted price for 24 hours without cancellation or price increase. This rule does not apply to ticket agents.http://tourism.about.com/od/travelagentsandagencies/a/New-Dot-Airline-Consumer-Protection-Rules.htm

  • TonyA_says

    About.com is not the DOT. The DOT publishes its rules. So IF there is an exemption it should be published by the FED GOV’T.

    Travel Agencies already have the 24 hour grace period from ARC to void a ticket. But that does not mean the DOT rules do not apply to Travel Agencies of Airlines.

  • TonyA_says

    I voted NO. A travel agency should know they have a risk with the 24 hour cancellation rule. Why didn’t they take payment prior to ticketing? Sorry if they are that stupid. I can’t think of a better or nicer term.

  • $16635417

    Agreed about.com is not the DOT. Please note in my post that I indicated I am still searching the regs.

  • TonyA_says

    Good questions, Kevin. The time stamps should prove whether she asked them to CANCEL the tickets within 24 hours (of ticketing).
    This is par for the course in selling [international] tickets. I’ve seen worse.
    Bottom line, never ticket anything without receiving a payment first.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok but we do not know if a “consolidator” [whatever that means] is involved. This is pure speculation. It is usual and customary for members of USACA to void tickets within 24 hours. I do not understand why this is an issue.

  • TonyA_says

    Ask yourself this – why was this a cash transaction in the first place?
    If I were the OP, I, too, would run away. I would like to pay with a credit card so I have some protection. So, that is exactly what she did – buy ONLINE with a credit card (I suppose).

    RULE #1 to CONSUMERS – always pay your airline ticket with a credit card!

  • Lindabator

    Her liability depends upon the terms of the ticket, and her possible relationship with the vendor. Yes, it is ethical to charge a service fee on ANY airline ticket, as the revenue stream is based on the service fee – a consolidator, same as an airline, pays no commissions, so the service fee in essence IS the commission.

  • Lindabator

    The terms & conditions MAY have been clearly spelled out in the contract she signed (and failed to read). And I sell consolidator fares quite often, I just let the clients know that the terms and conditions are different from standard tickets (if that is the case).

  • Lindabator

    We don’t know WHAT she asked the agent – the agent offered the flights, and she then agreed to them – she may not have bothered to read the terms & conditions in the contract, for all we know.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, these tickets generally save the client a lot of money, and have no higher change fees, etc. But yes, they may not be able to cancel them in 24 hours – however, those terms & conditions would be spelled out by the agent – for all we know it was – in that contract she signed and failed to read. I book these fares for clients all the time – and they love the savings – I just ensure they know all terms & conditions in advance. :)

  • $16635417

    Agreed it’s usual and customary, but is it required? Someone at about dot com read the regs and thinks agents are exempt. I may search later, nothing more fun than reading government regulations!

    I love to hear the agency’s side of the story to see why they chose to go against the usual and customary.

  • Lindabator

    I never would – I always let a client know if I find them a better bargain thru a 3rd party where a different set of rules apply, but there is really nothing unethical about selling these tickets. If it saves a client money, and gives an agent a chance to make something for the sale, its a win-win overall.

  • Lindabator

    Of course, that is based on the type of ticket purchased, and whether or not this was actually “24 hours” Since she can’t be bothered to read the contracts she signs, I doubt she can be bothered to ensure she cancels within the actual window either. And I work with a lot of consolidators, and not ALL have the 24 cancel – although most of mine do, or will bend their rules due to our relationship. Don’t think we are getting the full story here, though.

  • Lindabator

    But consolidators CHARGE for the use of a credit card, voiding all savings in some cases – which is why the agency asked for a check – pretty standard nowadays with consolidators.

  • Lindabator

    When purchasing a PUBLISHED airfare – read the terms & conditions of consolidator tickets – they are different in most cases.

  • Lindabator

    And if you book with Delta Vacations, they then become the consolidator – and guess what? They have different rules, too.

  • Lindabator

    Where did you see that – certainly in NOTHING listed above. You are making a grand assumption, and nothing above even suggests that was the case – reread it!

  • Lindabator

    True – but did she pop off an email after midnight the same night it should have been cancelled? She may have considered that sufficient, but it may not have met any time limits either. We really need more info on this one.

  • Lindabator

    Perhaps making assumptions was her problem – for all we know, the terms & conditions were clearly stated in that contract she signed, and failed to read. Again, we really need a look-see at that here.

  • TonyA_says

    Except for ASIA (where I sell the most).

  • TonyA_says

    If you read it again, it appears the OP did not feel secure. I wouldn’t feel secure either issuing a CHECK to a travel agency (I don’t know). So she chickened out and bought from a vendor that probably took her CREDIT CARD.

    I deal with these issues every day. To avoid any problems I only sell using credit card [pass through to airlines] payments. I am with the OP here. I would not want to buy a KLM ticket paying a check to Abrakadabra Agency. I would like to pay KLM.

  • I don’t know if I’d want to hang my hat on a preposition.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I see what you’re saying, Tony, I really do. I just don’t think she handled this as well as she could have. The time to consider this is BEFORE she gives them permission. Once permission is given, it’s difficult to rescind it.

  • Why would someone hit the dislike button to TonyA’s post. That is just beyond belief. Since when is asking a question a bad thing?

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, if it ain’t required, then who will buy from an agency?
    You mean consumers will get LESS protection by buying from an agency? If I get 24 hours cooling off period buying directly from an airline, and get nothing from a travel agency, then why will I buy from an agency ???

  • TonyA_says

    The problem is the customer is NOT given this payment form (or contract) until some booking (a reservation) is done since the form has the booking details. So customers can get blindsided. They do not know they will need to pay by check to an AGENCY until they get the form.

  • Yes, we are only speculating at this point. But by accepting the initial transaction via e-mail, the company has given implicit permission for the OP to transact all business via e-mail with the company. Unless the contract makes specific references to cancelling by e-mail, an e-mail requesting cancellation will be legally sufficient.

  • TonyA_says

    As a travel agent myself who deals primarily with these so-called “consolidators” on a daily basis (since the ASIA market has great BULK fares payable by credit cards), I should know something about this. In fact, I should be voting in favor of the travel agent. No?
    Carver, I could not care less if a million dislike buttons were pressed.
    Consumer advocates have worked hard to get the 24 hour rule. A few dislike buttons won’t change that :-)

  • Perhaps. But a layperson shouldn’t be responsible for knowing industry jargon. The professional is responsible for educating the customer to ensure proper communication.

  • TonyA_says

    The way I read it, the OP wanted to PAY KLM not the agency.
    Would you pay a travel agency with a check named to them for a KLM ticket? I won’t.

  • bodega3

    We have received nothing about this ruling from our vendors, only from the carriers. Bulk and net fares are handled differently but, again, we don’t know the type of fare the OP was purchasing and from where.

  • bodega3

    I won’t sell a ticket for cash and so most of my international tickets are not being purchased through consolidators as the savings isn’t worth the risk.

  • TonyA_says

    I meant that for ASIA BULK FARE, airlines still allow charging credit cards. That’s good. I don’t do cash sales either. And I don’t have to make up tours or something that will force me to sell the airfare for cash. I would also add that unless you have a good commission contract with the airlines, it is hard to beat those “discounted – published*” fares offered by “consolidators”.

    * not bulk fare but published fare with tour code based high commissions.

  • TonyA_says

    All this talk makes one NOT want to buy from an agent.
    I thought people come to travel agents because they offer better service than airlines. If I can’t offer a 24 hour cancellation period for ANY fare, (published or bulk) then my clients do not need me. IMO she, the OP, was being sold a LOUSY deal because she could not pay with a credit card. I do not blame her from running away.

  • TonyA_says

    Unless the agency is STUCK with the ticket, your comparison with contractors does not work. The agency will have to show some damage before they have a good case.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, we don’t even know if the travel agent actually purchased a ticket, didn’t or couldn’t void it, and got stuck with the bill. If they we not damaged then this case is about nothing. They got $75 for the work, right?

  • EvilEmpryss

    My apologies, the article does say that *KLM* offers the cancellation period. But if the OP requested the cancellation within the 24 hours, it’s the agent’s job to make it happen. If the agent failed to do so, it’s still on the agent. It’s the price of doing business.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Here’s my solution. The OP should pay for the ticket. Then, since she in fact paid for the ticket, it belongs to her and the TA must then hand over the ticketing information to the OP. The OP can then cancel the flight and possibly be able to use the credit on a future trip to somewhere KLM flies. I think this would be fair to everyone.

  • TonyA_says

    I think agents (consultants) should get paid to do research. That’s the hard part. Issuing a ticket after that is easy.

  • TonyA_says

    We really don’t know if the agency actually ticketed this or if they did and voided it. With the little amount of money to be made is selling airline tickets, there is no reason to take such a risk.

  • TonyA_says

    I can cancel and void any ticket I sold through ALL my “consolidators” within 24 hours. Have been doing this for years. BULK or PUBLISHED does not matter. I do this thing day in day out without even thinking about it.

  • bodega3

    They do on ‘published fares’ but bulk and net fares are contracted and we don’t know what the OP was getting. To be honest, the new ruling isn’t as clear cut as you might think it is.

  • I”m assuming that they agency is stuck with the ticket. If they cancelled it and got their money back then they should be going to jail for fraud.

  • My question though is can you charge BOTH a service fee AND mark up the ticket?

  • bodega3

    Then she shouldn’t have signed the contract and she certainly shouldn’t have purchased a new ticket until she made sure she had word from the agent on the cancellation or no cancellation.

  • Agreed. In my profession, I can draft paperwork in five minutes. Its the research that takes forever.

  • TonyA_says

    Shouldn’t they attempt to DELIVER the ticket and demand payment. Or are they just demanding payment without proof they already ticketed her.

  • TonyA_says

    She assumed she had the right to change her mind and cancel within 24 hours since that DOT rule was everywhere in the news.

  • TonyA_says

    Very good point. A consumer buys a ticket directly from KLM, reads the airline’s own website and assumes he has 24 hours to cancel it without penalty. Now why on earth would the same consumer NOT get the same benefit is he bought a KLM ticket from a KLM appointed agency? As far as I know the agent does not get to change the terms of the principal (the airline). So if the airline has to abide by the 24 hour cancellation rule, then so do all its appointed agents. In reality the agents gave 24 hour grace periods way before the law (Enhanced Passenger Protection) was enacted. Agents (including so called consolidators) always had the 24 hour ARC-VOID process to use. The law just made the airlines catch up with what their agents were already doing. This has nothing to do with a fare rule. Agents always had the ARC-VOID option regardless of type of fare. To say now that consumers do not get a 24 hour cooling off period is to turn the clock back in terms of consumer protection. This is just bad news for consumer advocacy. Agents should offer consumers the same protection that airlines do or else there is no need for agents.

  • Unless the ticket was purchased on a Monday and form of payment was cash (which would have been foolish on the part of the agent), the ticket could still have been voided before ARC report was completed.

  • BMG4ME

    I can’t answer the poll because I don’t have enough information. When you have told me the content of the e-mails then I can answer.

  • bodega3

    Yes.

  • bodega3

    But to purchase the second ticket before getting verification of the cancellation was a dumb move.

  • $16635417

    I wouldn’t, but I’m not questioning the wisdom of booking through an agency or not.

    It’s simply about when you purchase a bulk fare through an agency (or if the agency acts as an intermediary to secure those tickets) do the same rules apply?

  • Initially I thought she should pay, but not after reading KLM’s policy details. If they could cancel, and she instructed them to cancel, they should have. If, on the other hand, KLM didn’t have such a cancellation policy, I would say she should pay

  • TonyA_says

    it would be DUMBER if the travel agent ticketed without payment in hand. I really hope they did not do that. Not too long ago, one of our agents sold a consolidator ticket to what sounded like a Nigerian scammer with a fake Brooklyn address using a Barclayss credit card. She only told me of the inconsistencies more than a day later. The guy had a thick African accent yet presented a passport of a white guy in a business suit. Also our gal assumed a Barclays bank card is USA issued. Nope I told her it is a British card and you cannot do address verification. I asked her to call up the consolidator and have the ticket voided even if was way over 24hours. Done. No problem. In order for me to compete in pricing for most if not all tickets, I simply ticket my PNRs using consolidators with whom we had years of good experience.

  • sundirec

    As a Brick and Mortar TA who has been issuing tickets for 18 years, GDS(airline direct), consolidators, tour operators, there are a few things that stand out, on the way this agency does Airline ticketing. (The information below does not apply to established Corporate accounts)
    1) When a new customer wants to pay with check, the check must be received and clear their bank before we issue ticket. And yes the fare can change in that time frame. Also, customer can stop payment on a check leaving you stuck with the ticket, (that is why the check must clear first). There are legal proceedings you can take to try and recover your money, (for $75, “it ain’t worth it”).
    2) Try inforcing an agreed to ‘online contract’, legal fees and time; again, “it ain’t worth it”.
    3) Even with credit card transactions, a chargeback is time consuming and frustrating to deal with, and you don’t always win, (even when you are right). A signed and imprinted UCC (credit card) form is still the only 100 % item you have in your favor with airlines an CC companies. This is why consolidators want a copy of everything you (or the customer) owns, before they will issue a ticket.!
    4) If someone tells you that they want a specific itinerary on KLM or any airline for that matter, they have done some online research and have an idea what the ticket price is, but a friend told them to try, such and such Agency because “they alweays get me a good deal”. Based on experience, this person went back on line and found something more attractive, and just “booked it” and wanted out of the agent quote.
    5) Better to leave this type of situation to the OTA’s. They have Million dollar funds set up to deal with people who renege on ticket purchases.
    6) Bottom LIne: for $75, “it ain’t worth it”.