Answer: Expedia should have only made one reservation for your parents. When it became clear that there were two, the online travel agency should have issued a quick refund.
Before I continue, let me make a quick observation: Expedia is a fine place to buy tickets and vacation packages, but it sounds as if your parents might have benefited from working with an offline travel agent. A qualified travel counselor could hold their hands through the process and ensure their card is only charged once. With an online travel agency, that’s less likely to happen.
You spent no less than three hours on the phone with Expedia trying to resolve this. Resist the temptation to pick up the phone the next time this happens (and I really hope it never happens to you again). Instead, send a brief, polite email to the company with your parents’ reservation number, and stating the problem and desired resolution.
Truth is, the phone got you and your parents into this trouble. I checked with Expedia, and according to its records, you provided it with an incorrect itinerary number when you first called to confirm your parents’ reservation. “Therefore, the customer service representative advised Ms. O’Brien to re-purchase the trip resulting in a duplicate booking,” a representative told me.
Had you confirmed your parents’ reservation by email, you might have received a different response, but more importantly, you would have had a paper trail to go back to — you offering a confirmation number, Expedia advising you to book again. That back and forth would have been useful in resolving this, and at the very least, you wouldn’t have had to spend so much time on the phone.
If Expedia didn’t address your parents’ problem to your satisfaction, you could have appealed your case to someone higher up. I list their names on my site.
Given that you tried to confirm your trip with Expedia, and that it advised you to rebook your tickets, I asked Expedia to revisit its denial. Expedia asked their airline for a refund on your parent’s behalf, and they received all of their money back.
(Photo: sanct um solitude/Flickr Creative Commons)