Something got lost in translation when Daniel Joseph visited Romania recently. You’ll never guess what it was.
Well, maybe you will. If I told you he’d booked his trip with Expedia, would you care to make a guess?
Joseph had booked six different flight destinations through the online travel agency for his long-awaited trip abroad. While en route to Europe, he received an email from Expedia that one of his flights had been substantially changed, which would cause him to miss a connecting flight. The message also informed him that Expedia was looking into alternate flights and would get back to him.
But Joseph and Expedia never connected.
The flight change was a connecting flight from Belgrade to Chişinău via Bucharest on Tarom Airlines. It was scheduled for the tenth day of his trip. Joseph made several attempts to contact Expedia via email and by phone. His ability to communicate was impeded as his cell phone did not work abroad.
Joseph borrowed a phone and was relieved to finally connect with Expedia. That relief was short-lived as he waited on hold for 1 1/2 hours until the cell phone cut out after exceeding the roaming limit.
Expedia notified Joseph that it had been repeatedly trying to contact him without success and needed a response. Joseph couldn’t get through to Expedia, either. As the days counted down with no flight being booked, Joseph started to worry.
You can learn a lot from this case.
It appears that both parties were trying to resolve the issue, but were unable to interface with one another. Flights change, so it is up to travelers to check the status of their flights prior to departure and throughout the trip if they are flying to multiple destinations.
The sooner a flight is rebooked, the better the chances are of getting a seat and reducing the airfare.
Many of Joseph’s grievances could have been avoided had he contacted the airline directly, rather than waiting on Expedia. Having a means of communication is vital when traveling abroad. However, in this instance it did not make a difference.
Expedia’s reason for the lengthy hold time was that it was having difficulty connecting with Tarom Airlines. It gave Joseph the option of canceling his connecting flight on Tarom — incurring a high penalty fee — and rebooking on an alternate date. This would have resulted in an overnight stay of more than 14 hours in the Bucharest airport, and he would have to forfeit the prepayment made on a hotel room in Chişinău. That was not acceptable, according to Joseph.
In desperation, on the ninth day of his travels, Joseph sent yet another email to Expedia with flight options that he had received while at the Belgrade airport. He needed to fly to Chişinău the following day.
He didn’t receive a response, so he booked his own flight on Turkish Airlines through Expedia.com — and paid substantially more in airfare. This stressful situation was heightened by the fact that he was in a foreign airport surrounded by people who did not speak English.
Joseph says he felt “abandoned” by Expedia.
This debacle stemmed from a series of miscommunications. Expedia was contacting Joseph via email and by calling his contact number — which happened to be his home phone. Joseph was having difficulty connecting to Expedia by phone and by email. Both sides expressed concern about the urgency in needing a response.
Expedia may not always be easy to contact. On Expedia’s website under “contact us”, for flight changes or booking, it offers the option of calling Expedia or having it call you — there is no email option. Expedia may communicate with customers regarding flight changes and booking options through email, but it may not respond to the customer’s reply in a timely manner. That is where it drops the ball in correspondence.
It looks like Expedia may have misinformed Joseph about the penalty fee for changing his flight with Tarom. In fact, Joseph later learned from Tarom that it would have “gladly” made the flight change without any additional charges. Expedia did, however, request a full refund for his flight on Tarom.
Joseph had been relying on Expedia for assistance — which is understandable — but it ended up causing him problems that could have been avoided.
In listing his home number as the contact, Joseph inadvertently added to the misfortune. Even though he gave Expedia the number of the borrowed cell phone while abroad, companies generally end up calling the contact number on file.
According to Joseph, this sad ordeal added undue stress throughout his vacation and cost him financially. Joseph believes that Expedia should reimburse him for the difference in airfare and cell phone charges — or at least give him reward points toward a future flight.
He contacted Expedia’s executives, which are listed on our company contacts section, but got nowhere. He did, however, receive an apology from Expedia for his inconvenience and a contact link to Tarom Airlines in case he wanted to pursue the matter with the airline.
After Joseph contacted Expedia — with no resolution — he turned to our advocates. We negotiated with Expedia on Joseph’s behalf, but unfortunately, Expedia did not change its position.
Since Joseph is a frequent customer of Expedia, it would be a nice gesture to offer some type of compensation to show its appreciation for his continued business and as an apology for the miscommunication.
So, to repeat: In order to avoid similar problems when traveling, check the flight schedule prior to departure and get updates online with the airline or on a phone app. Flight times and seat assignments can change at any time. Contact the airline directly if a flight needs to be rebooked.
When booking flights, list your cell phone number as the contact, rather than your home number. If any problems arise, the company will be able to reach you after your departure date. Most cell phone providers are able to supply some type of international calling plan. Input the non-800 numbers and the country code in your contacts for your hotel, travel or online booking agent, airline, and car rental agency.