Expedia double-charged me — can I get a refund?

Laura Pang has two airline reservations on Expedia. But she only needs one. Now the online agency refuses to refund the second charge. Is there anything she can do to persuade it to help her?

Question: I recently booked one airline ticket through Expedia. At least that’s what I thought. I paid $310 for what I thought was one ticket, but when I was using the site, it felt a bit slow. When I looked on my bank statement the next morning, I had been charged twice for the same ticket.

I’ve called Expedia four times over the past two days, e-mailed two different representatives, and contacted them on Facebook and Twitter. But they claim the extra charge does not appear on their database and that therefore they have no obligation to refund me.

My bank says I should get in touch with the vendor, which I have. The subject heading for both charges is identical.

I am extremely upset having tried every method possible to get back that $310, but to no avail. I’m a postgraduate student and can’t afford to lose this much money — it goes toward schoolbooks, phone bills, housing. I’m panicking and I’m at a loss. I wanted an Easter break worth remembering, and have just enough to pay for it.

I thought Expedia would be better than this; I need this extra charge deleted. I live on a very tight budget and these kinds of things make my life far more difficult than it needs to be. Please help me. — Laura Pang, Sheffield, UK

Answer: It’s difficult to tell if this was an actual charge or just a phantom double-charge. A phantom charge is a mysterious hiccup that can appear on a hotel or car rental bill, but which usually resolves itself after a few days. I’ve experienced it a time or two.

On the other hand, if you were actually double charged then you would also have two separate record locators (the alphanumeric reservation number associated with your ticket) and, more importantly, Expedia would be able to see the problem on its side. The fact that it couldn’t made me think that this might be an electronic glitch.

The “website running slow” scenario is an old standard from the ‘90s, as far as travel complaints go. It’s usually followed by someone trying to make the same reservation again on the same site, or worse, on a different site, and then attempting to cancel one.

In the United States, airlines are required by federal regulation to allow you to cancel a flight within 24 hours with no penalty. In the UK, some airlines offer a “courtesy” cancellation if you want to change your flights within a day. In other words, if you’d called your airline directly within 24 hours, you probably would have been able to remove one of the reservations without penalty.

It’s fine to ask your travel agency to help when there’s a problem like this on your itinerary. But Expedia was right; you should have phoned your airline to get this fixed. I also list Expedia’s emails on my site.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf and it processed a refund.

Who is ultimately responsible for this double booking?

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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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  • gracekelley

    More like the site was slow so I kept on clicking more likely

  • Richard

    I agree. However, it should be sufficient to note “I do not have a lot of money and would really like to get this fixed as soon as possible”

  • Justin

    We don’t know, but stranger events do transpire. Im glad OP got a refund.

  • Richard

    I guess I read Chris’ and similar sources to learn what went wrong, how the issue was dealt with and how it was resolved and to see if I can learn from that experience. For human interest I like Miss Manners (but can’t take the new Ask Abby). A little context is always nice. But, in this case, the amount of “human interest” was greater than the factual content.

    I guess I see this as: If a poor nun and a rich mafia hit man both encountered the exact same bad, or even dishonest, service, would their personal circumstance make any difference? To me, the answer is no.

  • gracekelley

    This is true. Glad she got a refund too hopefully if it happens again for anything she’ll do so without such a hassle.

  • Helio

    I have several friends who use debit card because is easier for them to control their monthly expenses (according to them, the reason is if there is no balance, they stop spending).

    In my case, I prefer to use cc for all purchases, and my debit card sits in the bottom of a drawer.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I call BS.

    If the story was Bill Gates was upset because he was double billed out of say, $10 and wrote to Chris, the entire discussion would be why is Bill Gates concerned about $10 and not having one of his legions of staff attorneys handling it if it were so important to him

  • bodega3

    Keep in mind that she doesn’t appear to be in the US. Can’t assume other countries banking processes are the same as in the US.

  • Justin

    Principle of the situation. Bill Gates is entitled to same $10 as the OP. So I disagree with you 100%.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Depends on the hotel chain. Hilton didn’t complete the booking until the credit card was fully charged. Vegas strip hotels often run at least one night’s charge immediately, even for refundable reservations. Many Starwood chains generally don’t run the number at all until check in.

    But I think all hotels verify that the card is in the correct format, i.e. you couldn’t input any random string of numbers

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s not the point. The principle is the same and of course he would be entitled to his money, but the story and the responses change radically.

  • Justin

    I don’t think the socio-economic status of a person cheapens the fact he/she was ripped off by double billing.

    So what if Bill Gates has 40 or 50 billion dollars? The story and scenario remains the same. People who want to fault Mr. Gates are shallow and hypocritical.

  • Justin

    P.S. I doubt Mr. Gates wastes his legal team on a few hundred dollars. If there were several 0s behind the 100, the tune might change.

    I doubt you work for any less than 200/hr.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Again, that’s not the point that I am making. I don’t disagree with anything that you said.

    However, if Bill Gates wrote into Chris over $10, his wealth would be a distraction. It would dominate the conversation. It shouldn’t, but it would.

    That’s the point that I am making, not whether he should get his money, and yes he should.

  • Justin

    True. celebrity and notoriety are distractions for some. I for one don’t give a flying crap about either. Just because a person can act, hit a ball, play sports, or has boo-koo bucks, doesn’t make them a pariah.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    lol. That’s why I mentioned staff attorneys. They’re salaried by the corporation and don’t bill. They’re like any other employee. You’d be surprised at what corporate officers do. It’s a waste of money and resources, but it’s not unheard of for someone to try to turn staff attorneys into their private attack dogs.

  • Justin

    Intriguing. I want a slew of attack dog attorneys that are salaried and pounce on my beck and call. Where do I sign up?

  • Name

    I think she described how urgent the problem was because for her it was alot of money. Most of us could wait a week or so and see if the situation got resolved but the money may be needed for rent or food.

  • Justin

    I can’t recall what the Excalibur did when I stayed in Vegas. Only stayed a night as I cruised on through.

    I’m a lowly peon who usually shacks up at Comfort Inns, Clarion Inns, or Redroof Inn. Choice Hotels (Comfort inn, Clarion etc) arent’ refundable if booked online for their 20% advanced discount rate. Credit card is charged within 24-48 hours.

    Redroof doesn’t charge but per night stayed.

    At this juncture, I’ve already accured probably two dozen stays in a hotel over the last few months.

    Loyalty pays off. I alternate between the two depending on the area I’m in. Had 2 weeks I cashed in last year for Choice Hotels and already have another 7 more days racked up. Got 1 Courtesy stay owed to me from Red Roof soon.

    Op complains about $300 bucks… I think I’ve made Hotels rich with my slew of health problems + recent events of grandparents passing.

  • sdir

    Perhaps it’s my confusion about Chris’s response that’s mixing me up. Chris mentions a possibility of a “phantom charge” which would make sense if Expedia shows no record of the transaction. The OP says her bank told her to contact the vendor, but there’s no clarification whether the bank saw this as a pending authorization (possible phantom) or an actual double-billing. Did she receive two booking confirmations from Expedia? Does she remember double-clicking? Did Expedia simply tell her “no” or did they suggest she call the airline directly, which wouldn’t necessarily occur to me to try, since my purchase was made with Expedia and not directly with the airline. It’s not a matter of accepting Expedia’s opinion over my bank’s, it’s that I’m unclear on the exact scenario. Depending upon the details, I may either wait for a phantom charge to fall off my account or I’d going into panic mode.

  • bodega3

    Yes, this is possible in two ways. One, you can issue a ticket even if it has been issued before, but you do get a new ticket number. I had this happen by mistake once and was surprised that the GDS allowed. Two, you can have a reservation, with each segment being one way fares and issue each segment separately.

  • Bill___A

    Great that she got the refund. Things like that are very stressful and upsetting. Way to go, Chris. I hope she has a nice holiday now. Would be nice to know what caused it so this can be avoided in the future.

  • Miami510

    I’m thinking about remedy.

    1. She should keep records of all the attempts to correct the error.
    2. I’d immediately call the credit card company and have them deny one of the charges.
    3. With today’s security in place, I don’t believe it’s possible to book a flight for someone else in one’s own name. Two seats on the same plane should have alerted the airline to question the agency about the name of the person in the second seat. That line of inquiry would have uncovered the error.

  • Richard

    For the record, I don’t think anyone here has suggested that Chris edit out any information from his posts. I was complaining about the writers who feel that adding such information helps their case. Really, it is just ‘more clothing ‘ on the laundry list. and we all know how Chris feels about laundry lists.

  • Sometime_flier

    I’ve actually read some background on that image somewhere or another. Those planes are much farther apart than it looks.

  • Lindabator

    Not if she double booked – she would have two bookings – two ticket numbers and RECLOCs.

  • Lindabator

    Different dates – so NOT a double booking.