How not to purchase and cancel a flight

By | March 10th, 2017

Joan Monks’ story is a case of self-booking gone terribly wrong. She thought she was buying airline tickets from Delta Air Lines. When she found out she was mistaken, she took steps that made her situation worse, including a credit card chargeback.

Monks contacted us for help when the chargeback was reversed. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to help her. There are correct and incorrect ways to book and cancel flights – and Monks’ case is a grim reminder of the consequences of choosing incorrect methods of making airline reservations.

The story begins with Monks’ purchase of tickets on a Delta flight to Ireland last May. She Googled Delta, called a telephone number that she believed was the airline’s and booked two tickets for herself and her husband, charging $1,772 to her American Express card. The agent to whom she spoke promised that she would receive an email confirmation of the reservation within the hour. But the confirmation never arrived.

After 10 hours, Monks called the number back and spent 27 minutes on hold.

At that point, Monks decided to cancel her flight. But instead of speaking to a Delta agent to cancel the flights, she called American Express and initiated a chargeback. She then called Delta (apparently double-checking this time that the number she called was a Delta customer service number) and booked two flights on the same flight on which she had previously made reservations.

Monks didn’t realize that her previous reservations were still intact because she had never canceled them. In fact, she had never dealt directly with Delta at all. The first number she had called did not belong to Delta, but to a consolidator travel agency named Hari World Travel.

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According to Monks, “I was unsuccessful in my attempts to call the travel agency. Over the next five months Amex took the charges on and off my account. Up until September, every Amex agent assured me I had no problem. In September Amex stated I was responsible for the charges: $226 [to the] travel agency and $1,545 [to Delta].”


Monks received a voucher for a discount off the cost of a future Delta flight, good until May 13, 2017 (we don’t know the amount of the discount). But when she tried to use the voucher, she was charged $800 as a “rebooking and tax fee” by another travel agency, Otis Travel.
“After several phone calls and a threat to call [the] Better Business [Bureau], Otis Travel agreed to credit the $800 back to my charge card,” says Monks.

Monks contacted our advocates, asking for a refund for the tickets she thought she had canceled or a usable voucher for a future Delta flight. In her help request, she claimed to be angry that no one at American Express, Delta or the travel agencies told her that a chargeback does not actually cancel reservations. Because she had not canceled her original reservations, she and her husband were considered “no-shows.” It also turned out that her original tickets were nonrefundable.

Delta’s international contract of carriage provides that “Delta will not refund any portion of a fare or surcharge that is nonrefundable,” but also indicates that it “may permit a portion of the fare paid for an unused nonrefundable ticket to be applied toward the purchase of future travel on Delta.” This would explain Monks’ voucher, although why she was charged an $800 fee to use it is unclear.

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Our advocate advised Monks to write a polite note to the executive contacts for Delta that are listed on our website, asking to be allowed to use the voucher without being charged additional fees. As of this writing, Monks has written a letter to Delta’s executives and is awaiting a response. Meanwhile, she considers her experience a tough lesson learned about contacting an airline or travel agent to cancel a flight and not doing a chargeback.



  • Hanope

    Gotta check your web addresses. I’ve noticed that almost 100% of the time, when I google a particular entity, the first entry is never the entity’s website, but some third-party website whole sell me the entity’s goods or services (no doubt for an extra fee). You gotta make sure you are actually on the entity’s website. In this case, any website not delta.com would be a clue.

  • Alan Gore

    “Phishers” can be very creative in making a website look like the one you were searching for. If you must make a phone call, get the number from the airline site.

  • Ben

    > instead of speaking to a Delta agent to cancel the flights

    Flights she wasn’t sure were booked because she never received the confirmation email and the travel agency wouldn’t answer their phone? Yes, she messed up in a number of ways, but I can certainly see where she was coming from and can understand her frustration. She should at least have won the chargeback against the agent’s fee.

  • Grandma

    I lost.
    First she bought ticket from Hari World Ticket for a Delta flight. Then she initiated a charge back. It did not cancel her booking. So she had confirmed tickets when she called Delta to buy tickets for the same flight. Two tickets for the same person on the same flight??

    Who gave out the voucher? How Otis got into this mess?

    Non-refundable international tickets on Delta can be reused for $400 – for one year. ($800 for two people.) This fee is similar on any other airlinies.

    On Delta site cancellation rules, change fees are clearly disclosed. I wish she had google-d “how to cancel an airline/Delta ticket”.

  • Grandma

    If you google Delta, the first two are Delta airline links.
    (Though it is possible she searched for something more elaborate.)

  • SierraRose 49

    Another interesting and disheartening case about booking/buying/ordering anything online. I, too, have made errors and have paid the price, thankfully not to the great expense the Monks incurred. There is a lesson in this story not just for the Monks, but for all of us. As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus in Hill Street Blues always said, “Let’s be careful out there.”

  • AAGK

    The OP unfortunately doesn’t know how her credit card works, how plane tickets work, how the computer works or how a phone works or she would’ve completed her cancellation in the first instance. This person should use a travel agent next time.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Imagine if she’d actually gotten to Ireland and managed to get hold of a car ! Could have been the biggest calamity to hit the place since the potato famine!

  • greg watson

    Hari World Travel should have sent a confirmation email within minutes of the OP making the reservation. Something smells fishy here, & it isn’t the tuna. I had a similar problem contacting Microsoft because of all the similar sites on the internet, fortunately it didn’t cost me anything.

  • PsyGuy

    This sounds like fraud on behalf of the TA. I’d contact the States AG. Aside from that I’m a bit shocked by AMEX they usually side with the card holder. The one thing i don’t get is why the LW would think initiating a dispute would cancel a reservation.

  • PsyGuy

    I did a G search and the real Delta came up first, also tried the feeling lucky search and still got Delta. I’d check your computer you might have some malware.

  • PsyGuy

    She could have even posted her problem in the forums and gotten a rapid answer of what to do.

  • PsyGuy

    In my observation the majority of these problems would vanish if the PAX just went to Kayak and then directly to the airline website. The difference is maybe a few dollars between the airline directly and somewhere like “Cheap-O-Air”, that few dollars is the cheapest insurance against scammy behavior as you can get.

  • PsyGuy

    Well she has an AMEX card so she understands how credit works.

  • SierraRose 49

    It seems a majority of the problems presented in the Elliott forums and on this site are from people who don’t travel very often or use a computer very often. They may not even be aware of sites such as Kayak, and if they are, they often don’t know that it’s best to purchase directly from the airline website. And yes, they jump at the lowest price before reading the entire page of notes and disclaimers. I, too, have made booking errors, but have learned. Hopefully the Monks and other reading their story will, too.

  • The Original Joe S

    Free Sound Recorder. Record the conversation. Get the name of the guy and have him walk you thru the website, if you have to use it to book. Make sure of the website – check it. Ask if you are talking to the AIRLINE, or another entity. If you must cancel, call the same number, get the name, cancel, get a confirm number. Check with the airline also. Make sure that all conversations are recorded. THEN you can charge back if they play games with you.

  • The Original Joe S

    It’s usually an AD, and that “AD” is not something that you can exclude by entering “none of these words”.
    My observation is that sometimes whole first pages of results are ads by scumbags trying to separate you from your money.

  • The Original Joe S

    Especially since the agency wouldn’t answer. Get with a better bank, OR use your credit union. Mine ALWAYS sides with me.

  • The Original Joe S

    Stay away from the forum. The IDES are coming up!

  • The Original Joe S

    “Cheap-O-Air” seems to describe it aptly, doesn’t it?

  • The Original Joe S

    it’s best to purchase directly from the airline website

    YUP. I found that the airline site was cheaper than the OTA sites, interestingly enuf.

  • The Original Joe S

    Even worse than the whiskey shortage?

  • The Original Joe S

    Not necessarily true. Some people have automobiles, but they don’t know how to drive.

  • The Original Joe S

    Microsloth was always trying to contact ME until I blocked them!

  • The Original Joe S

    If the average person is STUPID, what is the below-average? -George Carlin

  • cscasi

    And, if you make the call and, in the case of Delta Airlines, they do not answer with something like, Delta Airlines reservations, and gives his/her first and possibly last name, then you can be pretty certain you are not at Delta Airlines.

  • gpx21dlr

    Just returned from cruise and used Cheap-O-Air to book the flights online. Zero problems. Were we lucky?

  • Bill

    Thank you for referring it to a Google search rather than “Googling,” “Googled,” etc. Picayune and off-topic, I know, but it drives me insane and I appreciate your “proper” use.

  • PsyGuy

    Anywhere you buy tickets from is great when it works out. The problem always arises that when things don’t work out then each party (OTA and airline) play themselves off of one another in the blame game. That doesn’t and can’t happen when you book directly, it leaves out the middleman, and makes the entirety of the transaction between you the consumer and the merchant the airline. The middle man, the OTA, doesn’t justify the cost of saving a few dollars. It would be different for me if the savings the OTA saved were substantial, but they aren’t .

  • PsyGuy

    Drive well, can we agree there is a quality to operating an automobile, that isn’t the same as using a credit card, and managing a revolving credit account? I know a lot of drivers who do not drive well, but they know how to drive.

  • PsyGuy

    American…

  • PsyGuy

    It’s just easier and reduces the complexity of the transaction. I have to go to the carrier website anyway to print my boarding pass and what not anyway.

  • The Original Joe S

    ‘Murican?

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, but can they check the oil? And DO they?

  • The Original Joe S

    And better for you, unless your good airline has a partnership with a dirtbag airline. My good airline – the partner wouldn’t allow them access to the dirtbag’s system. The dirtbag changed the flight to the connection airport such that it was gonna be dicey to make the connection, Dirtbag said they’d gladly change the airplane flight to an earlier one if I paid them $100 for their screw-up. I will NEVER fly with those dirtbags ever again.

  • PsyGuy

    I think every airline has some connection to a dirt bag airline. Still there are airlines I don’t fly anymore.

  • PsyGuy

    Couldn’t check the oil on my last car anyway (a BMW) it didn’t have a dipstick for the oil at all.

  • The Original Joe S

    BMW makes CARS, too?

  • PsyGuy

    Last I checked.

  • joycexyz

    You don’t have a problem….until you have a problem, and then it’s a biggie.

  • LonnieC

    But Merriam-Webster defines “Google” as a transitive verb, and actually uses the words “googling” and “googled” in the usage examples it provides. Our language evolves (not always for the better).

  • LonnieC

    “IDES” ??

  • LonnieC

    Really??? No dipstick? How is the oil checked?

  • PsyGuy

    There’s a sensor that triggers a dummy signal (check oil) on the console.

  • Bill

    I agree 100% with your parenthetical!

  • LonnieC

    And that’s it? How can one tell how low the oil may be? How can it be topped up? What a lousy idea. I’ve worked extensively on cars my whole life, and I’d refuse to buy a car set up like this.

  • PsyGuy

    That’s it. There is an oil cap and intake to add oil.

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah as in:
    “How many hot dogs didja eat, Cæsar?”
    “Et two, Brutay!”

  • LonnieC

    Okay. Now I understand. Funny 😄

  • Lindabator

    no, they don’t. Frankly – I think she goofed up all along. (shaking my head)

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