Hey Expedia, my flight is missing a leg!

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Something’s wrong with Joe Spooner’s airline ticket to New Zealand, and no one can help him fix it. Is he stuck with having to book a new flight?

Question: I recently bought tickets on Expedia to fly from San Francisco to Auckland via Honolulu. The flights were ticketed on Air New Zealand, and the first leg of my flight was on United Airlines.

When I tried to check in for my United flight to Honolulu, a representative told me that Expedia had canceled the first leg of my flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. The rest of the ticket was still confirmed, but I now had no way of getting to Honolulu.

A United representative tried to fix the problem by calling Expedia, but they couldn’t restore my reservation.
Unfortunately, I had to be in New Zealand to visit the oncologist with my mother, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

I ended up having to purchase a one-way ticket to New Zealand and another one-way ticket back to San Francisco, which cost me a further $2,637. I’d like to get a refund for those tickets, but Expedia refuses. Can you help? — Joe Spooner, San Francisco

Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s condition. Your reservation shouldn’t have been canceled, and even if it was, Expedia should have notified you of the cancellation before you arrived at the airport. Finding out that part of your ticket was invalid was no way to start a trip like this.

Once Expedia learned of your problem, it should have figured out a way to get you to New Zealand immediately without incurring any additional expenses. A review of the correspondence between you, the two airlines, and Expedia, found that no one knew how your flights were canceled and none of the parties were willing to refund your ticket.

You book airline tickets through an intermediary like an online travel agency because it promises it will advocate for you when something goes wrong. Well, something went wrong — very wrong — with your ticket, and no one advocated for you.

Would this have happened if you’d booked the flight directly with United or Air New Zealand? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes, someone just hits the wrong button and invalidates a ticket, although it’s extremely rare.

Asking your airline and travel agency to resolve the canceled ticket was the right move, but you ran out of time and had to book a new flight. Switching to email, so that you could keep a paper trail was a brilliant move. Now you have evidence that you tried to fix this through normal channels.

As a last-ditch effort, you could have appealed to one of Expedia’s executives. I list their names and number on my website.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf and it refunded the extra $2,637 you had to spend on your new ticket.

Who was responsible for fixing Joe Spooner flight cancellation?

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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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  • TonyA_says

    If you have been traveling for the last 40 years then you know the situation would be entirely different if the pax had paper tickets. You have physical proof that you are supposed to be on that flight.

    Well unfortunately people today are so dependent on the computer and cannot think clearly. If you can gain access to the e-ticket coupons and they are open and available for use, then all you need is to have the issuing airline push it over.
    It will be the same situation as if you see a paper coupon. And if you still have space, then board the pax.
    All the United agent had to do was make sure they will get paid by NZ – hence the ability to lift the coupon.

    The involvement of the agent (i.e. Expedia) after a ticket is issued is irrelevant. This is even more apparent when the airport has control of the tickets and booking (such as the day of departure). As long as the coupons are open for use then NZ has the money and has not delivered on anything.
    How much more simple can it get?

  • TonyA_says

    bodega google Joe Spooner Team Oracle USA.
    that’s a good reason for Expedia to pay up.

  • bodega3

    Ah, Team Oracle. They took our parking lot that we have used when attending Giants games….grrr! I have watched them race on the bay, very interesting boats. I am not sure this is why they gave back the money, but we won’t ever know.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I almost understand your point and agree with you. I do not trust one airline reservation system in the world, so we obviously try to keep people on the same airline. It cannot happen as easily today because of code share, destinations, and wide and crazy fares. That is why a client of this office, should they desire, walks out the door with a separate ticketed confirmation from each airline’s site as proof for this extemely wierd situation. Even working for Allegheny when joint fares were the vogue, and Pacer was the only res system out there, I have never seen this situation.

  • Nancy Nally

    Because I’m sure the NZ counter was in a totally different terminal due to their being international, and his intended departing UA flight being domestic.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes they are in different terminals (international vs domestic). But if the agent can call Expedia, they can surely call NZ, too.
    The SOP is see if there is a ticket coupon that can be used first.
    That did not seem to happen here.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Tony thanks for the tip.
    I have been reluctant to book airfare with Expedia but I have used Expedia for hotels.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s the way I deal with Expedia for airline tickets.
    After you buy a ticket from Expedia you will get an immediate confirmation email. That confirmation email will tell you to not worry as everything is confirmed. However, in many occasions for INTERNATIONAL tickets, it will not yet have eticket numbers.
    It will only have the PNR #. After a while, your account in Expedia will be updated with the eticket numbers. There are 3 things I do:
    (1) Go to the GDS used by Expedia. Usually that is Amadeus, Travelport or Sabre. Then display your PNR there. Check it.
    (2) go to the airline’s site and use the Expedia provided
    confirmation #s. Check if the itinerary is good.
    (3) go to the airline’s site and print an E-ticket Receipt (ETR).
    If you cannot use the airline’s site to print an ETR, then use the GDS site to print it.
    I print mine to pdf and then keep a copy in my phone.
    The reason I do this is this has the information for your real travel document(s). People need to know the their e-ticket coupons are the important. The e-ticket coupon must match the booking (reservation) itinerary.

    Finally, always check regularly (if your flight is still a long time away) and always check in online. The reason for this is you want to know if you have a problem as early as possible so you can fix it. The last thing you want is to make a ticket agent in the airport use their brains when there is a line of a hundred customers.
    Always have your eticket number handy.
    Hope this helps.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Yes, Tony – it helps a lot. I was always told to book a ticket with the airline itself, but all of the above directions make perfect sense.
    Kind of like “check and re-check.”
    Your instructions were clear and concise.
    Thanks again.