How the OTAs are Handling Hurricane Cancellations

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Neil Maley

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An article from Travel
Market Report


OTA Customers Again Left Stranded When Mother Nature Throws a Curveball

September 15, 2017

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) spend billions of dollars each year enticing consumers to book online, showcasing the ease of using their platform and the money they’ll be able to save.

But digging through Consumer Affairs complaints made during hurricane season for the country’s most popular OTA’s reveals something different. It shows the different side to OTA bookings, one where travelers are left stranded without someone to stick up for them.

There’s no one to turn to
For one Omaha, Neb., customer, a flight to Costa Rica cancelled because of Hurricane Harvey meant hours waiting for Expedia to get in touch with an airline agent who could approve a refund.

“The agent wasted 3 hours of my time waiting on the line for United to answer just to finally hang up assuring me he would call back when he gets an answer from them. He called back maybe two hours later,” a user named Allegra wrote on Consumer Affairs.

Eventually, the user got the agent to give her a refund, but only for one leg of her trip.

“When I asked him the total, he gave me the total to the flight leaving out but not the flight coming back. When I asked about this he said, ‘Oh you want to cancel the return flight as well?’”

After verbal confirmation that a refund would be coming, the user then spent another week checking email for confirmation, but never got it.

“I lost it with them ended up hanging up and three days later I am still waiting on an email and my refund.”

There’s no face behind the phone
“I will never use them again,” a user named Ryan from Greenville, S.C. said of Hotels.com after the website refused to refund money as a state of emergency was declared for South Carolina.

“Hurricane Irma is going to hit Charleston the day we are supposed to check in,” he wrote. “The governor of SC declared SC to be in a state-of-emergency, and Hotels.com held on to our money. They would not refund it.”

With only faceless call-center help, Ryan was left on the hook for the bill, even when it was impossible for him to get to the hotel.

There’s no one to advocate for you
One Travelocity booker had to cancel a fully booked and paid-for trip because of the chaos caused by Irma and Harvey, but is now left on the hook to foot the bill.

“I had to cancel my trip because of the hurricane. Trouble is, the hotel won't talk to me because I booked through Travelocity,” a user called Terry from Ooltewah, Tenn. wrote.

The OTAs work as a middle man between the consumer and the hotel, much like a travel agent. The difference is that when something goes awry, a dedicated agent will be on the phone, making sure his or her client is taken care of.

According to Terry’s complaint, it took Travelocity a full 25 hours to call back.

“Why even bother? Now I am out $200 for a hotel room I cannot use. Lesson learned; I will never again book anything through Travelocity.”

There’s no one with your best interest in mind
When one user, Maria of Melbourne, Fla., was forced to leave east Florida because of Hurricane Irma, Priceline provided an easy way to book a hotel room in north Florida, a safe distance away from the storm’s destruction.

“Booked for 3 days but wanted to add one more day,” Maria wrote. When she called the hotel, she was told that they were full and they couldn’t do six nights, so Maria wanted to cancel and find another place to say.

“Of course Priceline had already charged my credit card,” she wrote.

Maria finally got a representative on the phone to help her with her refund. The good news? Priceline would be able to get her money back. The bad news? It’s going to take up to three weeks.

“How can they sell you a motel room that does not exist?” Maria wrote. “We now cannot find a hotel to evacuate to and are forced to stay here.”

http://www.travelmarketreport.com/t...ture-Throws-a-Curveball#.WbyC6_8tEXV.facebook
 

jsn55

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The first example of hanging on the phone waiting for United when there were 18 vicious storms swirling around ... why not wait a week or so to request a refund? One guy is complaining that it took the OTA 25 hours to phone back about his refund. Does he not understand what was happening during that awful time? Another does not understand how Priceline works. Why are people so myopic? I understand that travellers might not be familiar with how things are done today, but it's just common sense to think about the whole picture when there's a huge emergency going on that affects thousands of travellers and travel providers.
 
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Neil Maley

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I just had to do the same thing with United today- we were going to Puerto Rico tomorrow and as soon as the waiver was issued, when we called United they told us we had to rebook a ticket before we were scheduled to fly tomorrow(which is think is incorrect).

So time was of the essence- but we out in for a call back
 
Jun 27, 2017
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Hopefully, many will learn from this article that if you make your own travel plans book directly with the hotel or airline of your choice and read the cancellation clauses BEFORE hitting the BUY button. And read your confirmation paperwork, too. And if you can't do that, get a travel agent that has been booking travel for years. I bet that the Elliott forums will be flooded with complaints in the next few weeks from consumers whose travel plans were ruined by the hurricanes.
 

Neil Maley

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We have to put a claim in ourselves for our hotel we booked the night before our flight. They required cancellation 72 hours before the stay or we get charged. Since we didn't know if our flights were going to be canceled until the day before, if we can't talk the hotel into making an exception, we have to file a claim.

That's what insurance is for.
 
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Jun 27, 2017
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And if there is one thing I've learned from reading the forums, it is to always buy travel insurance and to book hotels and airline flights directly, never through an OTA. And beyond that, we contact our local (live and in-person) travel agent.
 
Jan 5, 2015
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And if there is one thing I've learned from reading the forums, it is to always buy travel insurance and to book hotels and airline flights directly, never through an OTA. And beyond that, we contact our local (live and in-person) travel agent.
I agree. The OTAs may save a very few dollars more but if anything goes wrong, you're on your own. I use them to compare routes/pricing, then book direct.
 
Sep 6, 2017
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Turns out my Mom wasn't able to get out of Miami for Irma due to some health reasons. I called AA to cancel the ticket (1:30 am on Thursday September 7), about 7 hours before the flight. Without prompting, they refunded the round trip ticket to Charlotte. I called the Marriott help line about her hotel (Renaissance downtown), which had a 24 hour cancellation policy, and after asking politely, they agreed not to charge me for her first night.

Thank goodness I had booked her flight and hotel directly!
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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I just had to do the same thing with United today- we were going to Puerto Rico tomorrow and as soon as the waiver was issued, when we called United they told us we had to rebook a ticket before we were scheduled to fly tomorrow(which is think is incorrect).

So time was of the essence- but we out in for a call back
Neil, am I reading that you called to rebook your trip and UA insists that you pick a date to rebook right now? That's pretty harsh after weather disasters like we've just seen, isn't it? Unless you want to book a trip for Christmas 2018 when you assume that everything will be OK. They would not allow you to cancel for refund/vouchers, only rebook w/o penalty? Seems pretty cold.
 

Neil Maley

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We had a choice of rebooking now with no penalties to PR, or changing it to another destination with a $50 change fee or taking a credit but being charged the $200 change fee.

And we called two different times and were told the same thing. The ticket was one we had won so there's have been different rules for it. Would have loved to have rebooked to PR later but who knows what the storm results are going to be.
 
Jul 27, 2016
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Wow, does that article scream biased viewpoint. Not hugely surprising, I wouldn't expect "Car Dealers Monthly" to offer a balanced view of Tesla's direct sales model, either.
 
May 17, 2016
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The first example of hanging on the phone waiting for United when there were 18 vicious storms swirling around ... why not wait a week or so to request a refund? One guy is complaining that it took the OTA 25 hours to phone back about his refund. Does he not understand what was happening during that awful time? Another does not understand how Priceline works. Why are people so myopic? I understand that travellers might not be familiar with how things are done today, but it's just common sense to think about the whole picture when there's a huge emergency going on that affects thousands of travellers and travel providers.
Because the world revolves around me, me me!
 
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AMA

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I just received an email from AAA advertising their various vacation packages, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten. Seriously?
 
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[SARCAM]See the human tragedy! Experience the suffering! Learn and Practice survival skills! Take Home malaria! [/SARCASM]

Stay home and donate to charity to help the areas isn't nearly as exciting, I guess.

One of the guys I work with who is - interesting - wanted cruise ships to stop in port for a few days to have the passengers assist with cleanup (on a volunteer basis). It took the office all day to explain to him why he was wrong and I still don't know if he was concinved.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,366
23,327
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www.promalvacations.com
[SARCAM]See the human tragedy! Experience the suffering! Learn and Practice survival skills! Take Home malaria! [/SARCASM]

Stay home and donate to charity to help the areas isn't nearly as exciting, I guess.

One of the guys I work with who is - interesting - wanted cruise ships to stop in port for a few days to have the passengers assist with cleanup (on a volunteer basis). It took the office all day to explain to him why he was wrong and I still don't know if he was concinved.
Oh God an you imagine the complaints from passengers paying thousands of dollars for a cruise ticket to find out they were stopping in a port on a country completely closed down and being forced to clean up?

We have clients screaming that they are being moved to new ports they don't want to go to because the original countries are totally out of commission. They aren't going to want to stop in a country with a closed port.
 
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AMA

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On the other end of the spectrum, my friend and I are trying to find volunteer opportunities on St. Maarten or one of the other islands, and nothing is posted right now. They are probably trying to get the airports/transportation back in order. Maybe in a couple of months there will be some service programs. We want to help those people who were so kind to us when we were there.
 
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