Why haven’t I been charged for my honeymoon flight?

Here’s a question that came to me by way of the Monday afternoon Washington Post chat on travel (and by the way, if you haven’t dropped in to ask a question, please do). Karen Luong booked her honeymoon flights from Baltimore to Naples, Italy through Orbitz in mid-June. She received reservation number from the online agency, but hasn’t been charged yet.

How can she be sure she has a ticket?

This is a question that’s come up a time or two. What, exactly, is a ticket? Is it a record locator? A ticket number? A reservation number for your online travel agency?

She writes,

I spoke to an Orbitz Customer Service Representative on July 3 and I was told that the airlines (Delta and Air France) was responsible for collecting ticket charges and that was why the charges have not appeared on my credit card.

When I spoke to the airlines, I was told that Orbitz was responsible for collecting the ticket charges. I was reassured again and again by Orbitz, Delta, and Air France that as long as I had my ticket confirmation and e-ticket numbers then I was confirmed on the flight and I had nothing to worry about.

However, it has been almost one month since I booked these tickets on Orbitz and my credit card has still not been charge. I am very worried that something has gone awry with my reservation and as this is for my honeymoon trip I am very worried that I might miss my honeymoon as a result.

Hmm. I’ve heard of airlines that are slow to refund money. But slow to charge? That’s a relatively new one.

Here’s how it should happen: You book your airline tickets, and you’re charged right away. You also get all of the necessary confirmations, including record locators, from your agent.

Orbitz was correct; in my experience, having a record locator and ticket numbers means you have a real ticket. But I might have called Delta and Air France to double-check, particularly if there had been no charge to my credit card.

Call me skeptical, but in this day and age of electronic reservations, some of which get lost, I’m not entirely happy unless I have something in writing from the airline verifying my itinerary and ticket status.

I suggested that she ask Orbitz about the charges. A few weeks later, I got an update:

I am just about at my wit’s end. I tried contacting Orbitz again, but they keep giving me the same line that the charges will appear on my credit card in a few days. It’s been almost a month now!

Finally, I contacted Orbitz on Luong’s behalf. I just heard back from her:

I got a very nice email from Orbitz. They said they would help me resolve the issue. And now my credit card was finally charge for the plane tickets. It’s a big sigh of relief.

What if she hadn’t been charged, and Delta or Air France had denied her boarding? She’d have to buy tickets at a far more expensive walk-up fare and then take the matter up with Orbitz, which would have almost certainly been a time-consuming and frustrating process.

So when can you be certain that you have a ticket, and not just a reservation? Everyone seems to have a different answer to that question.

(Photo: g arda/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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