Paris for 10 euros a night — uh, make that 100 euros

Question: I recently booked a hotel in Paris through Travelocity for 10 euros a night. Great rate, huh? Afterward, I booked airline tickets separately.

Not long after that, in the course of e-mail conversations with the hotel, they told me this was a mistake and that they could not honor the rate. Instead, they offered to increase my rate to 100 euros a night.

I then contacted Travelocity via phone, told them the problem and they called back and left me a voice mail saying it was a mistake and to go ahead and travel and then when I got back to contact the consumer relations department for a refund. I still have the voice mail. I contacted the hotel via e-mail and I said I would accept the new rate.

Now Travelocity has offered me a $50 voucher for my trouble. A few days later, they upped it to $250. This is pretty much worthless to me as I usually travel using miles and book my hotels using points. Can you help? — Patrick Kerr, St Louis

Answer: You’re right, that’s a great rate for a hotel room. Unbelievably good. And if Travelocity hadn’t left a voice mail promising to refund 90 euros a night, your case wouldn’t stand much of a chance.
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And the online travel agency with the most complaints is …

Expedia. That’s according to a survey of my authoritative email “in” box, which contains seven years of complaint data from travelers. Coming in second? Travelocity, followed by Orbitz.

Alright, my methods may not be completely scientific (after all, my email contains all of my correspondence, not just complaints) but it’s a pretty good indicator.
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Can this trip be saved? No one told her about the flight restrictions for kids

Note: This is the second installment of “Can this trip be saved?” where you get to vote on whether I mediate a case. The first case was solved last week (see update).

Even though she did her best to ensure her 15-year-old grandson could make the flight from St. Louis to Fort Myers, Fla., things didn’t quite work out for Victoria Horwitz-Denger. He ended up having to pay another $100 to fly down to Florida and bought a brand-new ticket to get home.

Now Horwitz-Denger wants some of her money back — either from her online travel agency, Travelocity, or from her airline.

Why? No one mentioned the restrictions on the ticket for minors.

Should I intervene on her behalf, and ask Travelocity or the air carrier to return her money, or have they done enough?
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Rooms for $58 a night at the Ritz Carlton Chicago? No way!

When Jack Whalen found an unbelievable room rate of $58 a night at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago — and on a holiday weekend, no less — he was thrilled. “This was to have been an anniversary trip, and my wife would love to stay at a high end hotel at a great price,” he says.

But the price, which he found through Travelocity, was unbelievable. Turns out it was a fat finger rate. A Ritz-Carlton employee had misplaced a decimal point, turning $580 rooms into $58 rooms. Oops.

Although Ritz-Carlton tried to make it up to him by offering a discounted, but significantly more expensive rate, Whalen is unhappy.
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“The woman seemed mad that we had made the reservation through Travelocity”

It’s a common problem with an uncommon resolution. Stephen Andrews accidentally typed his name as “Stehen” when he booked a package tour through Travelocity, and he thought a quick call to the airline might fix the problem. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

“The woman seemed mad that we had made the reservation through Travelocity and was adamant that neither she or anyone else at her call center could change the spelling of my name,” he says. “She said that Travelocity had to fix it.”

Whoa. Why would Hawaiian be mad that anyone booked through a travel agency? (There are many possible answers, but I’ll save that for another post entitled “Travel agents versus airlines: The untold story.”)

Until then, let’s just say the Hawaiian employee should have kept her opinion to herself. How the airline feels about online travel agencies is no concern of their customers.

A solution to his his ticket typo? That concerns anyone reading this site.
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“It is a blatant ambush of personal credit card information”

The pop-up ad Kathy Agosta says she saw after finishing a reservation on Travelocity recently looked like a confirmation screen from the online travel agency, and it offered $20 cash back if she signed up for a service. Although she never shared her credit card information with the advertiser, she found a troubling connection.

“As it turns out, merely clicking on the hyperlink to get more information about the offer apparently allows the advertiser to charge a fee on the same credit card just used to purchase the airline tickets from Travelocity’s website,” she told me. “There is no credit card approval step on this pop-up to warn the Travelocity customer that a charge will be placed by this advertiser on the credit card they just used.”

Is this a more sophisticated version of the opt-out scheme, which Travelocity and other online agencies practice? Or perhaps another shady post-transaction marketing scheme, which may be about to become illegal?

Maybe. Maybe not.
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No airline cookie conspiracy? What about this trail of crumbs?

Airlines and online travel agencies surreptitiously use computer “cookies” they’ve implanted on your Web browser to track your activity on their sites and then raise prices when it appears that you’re interested in a fare. That’s the rumor, at least.

I inadvertently resurrected a long-simmering controversy over this rumor a few weeks ago, when I blamed airfare fluctuations on a practice called “caching,” which lets airlines or travel agencies store a copy of all fare information on their sites. Caching is efficient and cost-effective for the company, but less than 5 percent of the fares may no longer be available.

So what’s really going on?
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