Orbitz customer [dis|-service (rant)

Old Jan 19, 10, 12:37 pm
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Orbitz customer [dis|-service (rant)

Usually use Orbitz, but am now questioning that choice. Came across an interesting error in the interaction between Orbitz and an airline's systems, but was most upset by their awful customer service. Looking for any suggestions for the future, as I think this trip is toast. In brief:

want to fly JFK->NKG->PEK->JFK on the 11th, 18th and 20th of Feb for two adults and a child:

Jan 15th (late thursday night-friday am): On Orbitz price out as $890PP on Air China. Go to purchase and get
“We're sorry, due to changes in availability, we're unable to confirm your selection with the airline. Please make another selection.”
Fine, these things happen, so I look at the new options presented and find another which is less than ideal but will suffice and clock on that, and get:

“We're sorry, due to changes in availability, we're unable to confirm your selection with the airline. Please make another selection.”
Now here's where things get weird; The new options proposed include the original flight, so I select this, and get (you guessed it):
“We're sorry, due to changes in availability, we're unable to confirm your selection with the airline. Please make another selection.”
Repeat this a few times. Do a few new searches, switch browsers, computers etc. Still the same error.

OK. Something wrong with their system. Maybe the price in the cache is a bit out of date. I'll just call “customer support” and buy the ticket. Unfortunately, they don't have real customer service, just a sales agent who will book for me for a $25 fee. She spends 20 minutes telling me that Orbitz has all sorts of great contracts with airlines so they can get great rates (yes, I know, that's why I want to buy the Tix from you) but she's unable to book anything on Air China for me, and comes up with a flight combination that's $1,500 more than what I can get elsewhere (about $2,000 more than what Orbitz was giving me online).

File an e-complaint: Get back the boilerplate:
“During the time between your flight search and booking the reservation, the airline may have changed the fare or the fare may have sold out. Airfares change throughout the day, based on demand for the flight and the airlines' right to modify them at any time.” and

“We have an excellent travel team who can assist you with your new reservation. Please call Orbitz at 1-888-656-4546, or 001-312-416-0018 if you are currently outside of the US. When prompted, say the word "New" to be directed to our sales department.”
Try to explain that this doesn't make sense; The fares aren't changing, the flight is available every new search I do, but I can't book any of them. After 2 different CSRs respond, I ask for escalation and get:

“I have forwarded your issue to a supervisor. They will review and respond as soon as possible. I apologize for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience while this matter is examined. When we do learn of a problem, Orbitz takes immediate action to prevent any future disappointing experiences for our customers.”
This all occurs on that night, while fares are still good.
Jan 16th (late friday night-sat am, 24 hours later) Still can't book. Prices are up $200 or so per ticket, still can't book. Still haven't heard back from a supervisor, sent an email asking for an update.

Jan 18th (Monday-3+ days later): Still nothing from a supervisor. File a new incident report, request a supervisor. After getting a note that this will be forwarded to a supervisor advise them of the original incident number so they can see the entire message trail

Jan 18th (Monday): Finally get a note from a supervisor that:

“Please understand that occasional technical issues are inevitable in the e-commerce industry, but Orbitz strives to quickly correct any website problems we may have. We thank you for bringing this technical issue to our attention. I have reported this issue to a pricing analyst so we can prevent any future disappointing experiences for our customers. Please be assured that Orbitz has no intention to mislead our customers and I regret that you have had this perception. Travel agencies cannot guarantee a fare until it is confirmed by the airline and ticketed. We hope that you will understand our position in this matter.”
Great—at least it sounds like someone might actually try to reproduce my issue. Of course it's now (Tuesday afternoon) almost 24 hours later (and 4+ days from the original problem) and still the system can't sell me a ticket on the route I want (despite prices of ~$500 more per ticket).

Oh, and the Whole time I was getting "Only 4 tickets left at this price" LOL.


Some of the big customer service no-nos that I think were made here (and that will likely have me switch or Expedia or Travelocity):
  1. No one bothered to replicate my issue until at least 3 days later. As of this morning (the 19th) the system has much higher prices, but still is unable to book anything.
  2. If you promise a supervisor will get back to someone, they should get back to you ASAP, even if only to tell you that there will be a delay in looking into this. There's no excuse for me having to file another case 2 days later to get a supervisor to respond.
  3. There should be a process for Orbitz to flush the cache on old fares when a customer tries to book and can't. It's unacceptable that I kept getting the same apparently incorrect fare and availability over and over.

Last edited by JustAnotherPoorSlob; Jan 19, 10 at 3:32 pm
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Old Jan 23, 10, 12:57 pm
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Dude, that's how Orbitz makes business!

Imagine dude, most of my Orbitz bookings arrive at the hotel with wrong names....

Orbitz and Expedia are both the same no-customer and no-service companies. Avoid them whenever you can!
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Old Jan 23, 10, 1:10 pm
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travelocity has the same BS. I used to like their last minute fares -- they used to be really cheap, used to have coupon codes, and used to actually be available for purchase at the price they quite.

Now they're really cheap, but when you actually try to buy it, it says that package is sold out. when you start a new search, it's back! Or, when you go to pick a flight, it will say the flights availabel at your price are gone, but we found tehse for you (for $100 more). when you start a new search, the same old cheaper flights return.

all scammers.
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Old Jan 24, 10, 11:01 am
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While I see the OP frustration, he should have just gone to the Air China website and booked them directly. Or immediately gone to another airline's website directly to book. I believe booking through Air China directly would have been just as cheap, if not more so and you have the comfort of booking directly through the airline, eliminating a 3rd party, which will just cause problems.
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Old Jan 24, 10, 11:52 am
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Originally Posted by cslovacek View Post
While I see the OP frustration, he should have just gone to the Air China website and booked them directly. Or immediately gone to another airline's website directly to book. I believe booking through Air China directly would have been just as cheap, if not more so and you have the comfort of booking directly through the airline, eliminating a 3rd party, which will just cause problems.
At least back in the day, prices did vary somewhat between different resellers depending on special deals, hookups with consolidators etc. The Air China website and Expedia both had different higher prices (between each other and Orbitz). The other problem is that the Orbitz system was barfing on any itinerary that has any Air China component, even mixed sets of flights (AC, Continental, China Eastern etc) which the Air China website wont book themselves.

Orbitz did call me to talk about the problem (after seeing this post), told me that Air China was feeding them bad rates and is unwilling to honor them, and that they would fix it. That was Thursday--as of 5 minutes ago (Sunday) they are still showing "only 4 tickets left" and you still can't book it. Fare have been as high as 1,400 and are now 1,100 (according to Orbitz). As far as I can tell, Air China is much higher now....

So, are there any websites that still get good fares and can do a good comprehensive search (e.g., Orbitz matrix isn't even showing Continental out of EWR, which shows up on Expedia (I search with NYC))?
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Old Jan 24, 10, 1:12 pm
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It doesn't happen as often as an increased fare, but it's not rare for Orbitz to show a cheaper price, even a substantially cheaper price, when you click through. I don't think Orbitz is scamming; they just have an imperfect database system. The important thing is that you never have to book a ticket for any cost other than what you know it is.
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Old Jan 26, 10, 5:42 pm
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Still, you think they could fix this. It's been almost 2 weeks and you still get Air China results that you can't book.
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Old Feb 4, 10, 1:37 pm
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Sorry to bump my own thread

Orbitz sent me a customer satisfaction survey which brought this back to top-of-mind, and so I just ran the same search again.

It's been about 20 days since I first reported the problem to them, a few days less since they said they would do something.

It's still giving the same bogus fares that you can't book.
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Old Feb 25, 10, 11:24 am
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I have been a happy Orbitz customer since 2002, but on occasion have had the exact same happen to me. The first was when I was flying to Lima, Peru 4x a year, occasionally I'd see a price that was about $200 less than I was normally spending when I would get to the point that I'd see the “We're sorry, due to changes in availability..." message. Eventually, I'd end up purchasing my ticket for the standard going rate.

The most recent was when purchasing a three leg, four city trip from the US to Asia. Orbitz offered the flights for $1,575, but when I went to purchase the ticket, it was no longer available. I called and talked to a customer support rep in the Philippines who confirmed with me that it wasn't a valid fare and spent a good half hour with me on the phone trying to find an alternative. The best she could do was some less desirable flights for about $1,850 (I declined) I checked a few hours later and the $1,575 fare was no longer an option. Interestingly, I just tried it again and it was back, however when trying to purchase this time, I got "Due to changing availability, the fare you selected is no longer available. Here's the lowest fare for your flight(s): $3,264.18"

I ended up still booking the flight on Orbitz by creating two completely separate bookings (an open jaw + a one way) myself and saved a couple of hundred bucks in the end.

Why do I still use Orbitz? I honestly don't think they're trying to rip anyone off. I think when this happens it is due to a glitch between the systems that advertise fares and the booking system. I don't think Orbitz or any of the others are out to scam us - I mean how many people are honestly going to say "Oh, the $1,575 fare isn't available? Sure, I'll take the $3,264 one instead!". I don't think these companies would survive very long on a bait and switch platform.

Also, I LOVE Orbitz's matrix display. I love that I can see clearly on one page all of the flights available, including departure/arrival time, price, aircraft type and layover time. I've not found any other consolidator or airline's website to be so easy to read and user friendly when choosing flights.
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