Sunday, July 15, 2007

Letter

Dear Travelport Customer Service Representative,

I am writing with regard to three round-trip tickets purchased through your travel portal, CheapTickets, and to request compensation for the expense and inconvenience I experienced in connection with that purchase. I am contacting Travelport, the parent company, rather than working directly with CheapTickets because the problems I experienced stemmed from a simple flight cancellation, but grew into nearly three days of frustration and expense due to CheapTickets' failure to communicate with me or respond to my inquiries.

Ticket and itinerary information:

CheapTickets record locator:
AP270301RFT40I5R

Airline record locator:
US Airways - DK4H2Y
Olympic Airlines - LS22VD

Ticket numbers:
0377627716195
0377627716196
0377627716194

Itinerary:
Flight 1 - Monday, June 4, 2007, US Airways 704 (CLT-FRA)
Flight 2 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007, Lufthansa 3382 (FRA-ATH)

Flight 3 - Wednesday, June 27, 2007, Olympic Airlines 271 (ATH-LGW)
Flight 4 - Wednesday, June 27, 2007, US Airways 733 (LGW-CLT)

Total flight cost:
$3,496.21 USD

Detailed explanation of the situation and CheapTickets' failure to respond

I purchased three adult round-trip tickets from Charlotte, NC (USA) to Athens, Greece, departing Monday June 4, 2007 and returning Wednesday, June 27, 2007. I purchased the tickets online from CheapTickets.com on May 31, 2007. I received my paper tickets in a timely fashion, and received a Travel Document via E-mail (indicating that CheapTickets does have the correct E-mail address associated with my account, and that E-mail from CheapTickets is delivered to my Inbox and not misrouted to my Spam folder).

We did not experience any difficulties with our outbound flights. I had Internet access at several times during the trip, and was able to check my E-mail and review the contents of my Spam folder every two to three days throughout the trip, and almost daily during the last week. At no point did I receive any communication from CheapTickets regarding my travel arrangements.

The morning before our return flights, I received word from my father (who was not on the trip); in the course of double-checking our flight information, he discovered that the first leg of our return trip (Olympic Airlines 271, Athens to London Gatwick) had been canceled.

He called CheapTickets to ask what alternate arrangements had been made, and was told that an E-mail had been sent to me on June 15, stating that our reservation had been changed to a later flight (Olympic Airlines 259, Athens to London Heathrow). This new flight would prevent us from catching our existing London-Charlotte flight. The CheapTickets agent who spoke with my father said he did not have any information about a connecting flight out of London, although this flight appears in my online travel details, my paper tickets and in the Travel Document that was originally sent to me by E-mail.

Knowing that I had not received notification of the change, my father asked the CheapTickets agent to re-send the June 15 E-mail, and to CC him (my father) as well. The CheapTickets agent agreed to do so. However, neither my father nor I ever received the E-mail. (Interestingly, the call did cause CheapTickets to send me an automated request to complete an online survey regarding "my" experience with customer service, again confirming that CheapTickets has my correct E-mail address.)

When my father contacted me to explain the situation, I logged into my CheapTickets account and went to the "My Trips" section to see what alternate arrangements had been made. The system still showed the original itinerary. When I clicked on "View full trip details," I received an error message. I tried this a number of times, but the error message persisted - perhaps because the flight no longer existed?

I clicked on the "E-mail itinerary" link to have the itinerary re-sent to my E-mail address, but I never received the itinerary.

I filled out the online customer service form asking that updated information be sent, and also requesting clarification as to what connecting flight I was to take out of London. I received an immediate automated response from Customer Service, and eventually also received a boilerplate response that did not provide the information, but stated that an updated Travel Document had been sent to my E-mail address. However, no Travel Document or updated itinerary was ever provided in any form.

Please note that, having discovered on our own that there was a problem with this reservation, we made five different attempts (see underlined text above) to obtain the updated itinerary information, but never received anything but error messages or boilerplate responses from CheapTickets. Even today, the "My Trips" section of my CheapTickets account still shows the original itinerary, with no indication that the flight was ever canceled.

My father contacted both US Airlines and Olympic Airlines directly to try to find out what alternate arrangements had been made for our travel the following day. However, since each airline was aware of only one leg of our trip, both claimed that they were under no obligation to protect our connection.

Olympic Airlines simply noted that our reservation had been changed to the later flight. US Airways showed no change in our itinerary, and warned that if we arrived more than two hours late for the London-Charlotte flight, we would forfeit our tickets and our only option would be to purchase new one-way tickets at the walk-up fare of $1400 per person - more than the cost of our original round-trip tickets.

CheapTickets sold us round-trip tickets and, as our travel agent, was responsible for arranging for our transportation to our final destination. We were willing to accept changes in our itinerary, carriers, schedule, etc., but no alternative was ever made available to us, even when we contacted CheapTickets directly, and repeatedly, to ask.

Aware that we were in danger of being stranded in London if we waited and took our rescheduled flight the next morning, we cut our guided tour short on the day before our scheduled departure, returned to our hotel for our baggage and rushed to the airport to try to get on Olympic Airlines' last flight to London that evening. Olympic Airlines was happy to put us on standby, but the flight was overbooked and in fact had to deny boarding to at least one ticketed passenger.

Fortunately, Olympic Airlines eventually did assume responsibility for helping us reach our final destination, even though we only held tickets from Athens to London on that airline.

When we were unable to board the Olympic flight to London the day before our scheduled travel, Olympic tried to place us on a US Airways flight from Athens to Philadelphia the next morning, followed by a connecting flight from Philadelphia to Charlotte. We placed our baggage in storage at the airport and returned to our hotel in Athens for the night.

When we returned to the airport the next morning, we were told that the US Airways flight was subject to unusually strict weight restrictions due to the heat wave affecting Greece at the time, and was unable to accept any standby passengers.

Olympic then tried to place us on an Olympic flight from Athens to New York, but several airport personnel misinterpreted our Flight Interruption Manifest and sent us to the wrong check-in window. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late to catch the flight.

Olympic Airlines provided us with hotel and meal vouchers, and placed us on the same Olympic flight to New York the following day. We did finally fly to New York on Olympic Airlines flight 411. Olympic Airlines had arranged for a US Airways connecting flight from New York to Charlotte. Hhowever, when we reached LaGuardia airport (having flown in to JFK), we discovered that this flight, too, was canceled.

Due to multiple flight cancellations, US Airways could not get us to Charlotte until two days later. However, they were able to place us on a shuttle flight to Washington, DC the following morning. Family members drove from North Carolina to Washington DC to pick us up.

As a result of CheapTickets' failure to resolve the situation:

We reached our final destination over 48 hours late, having been on standby for at least five different flights to a variety of destinations, and having slept (or attempted to) on the floor of baggage claim at LaGuardia airport in order to be among the first in line to check in at 4:00 a.m. for a flight that was not even taking us to our intended destination. One of my travel companions missed two days of work as a result of the situation.

Our family members drove a total of 12 hours to pick us up in Washington DC in order to save us the time and expense of a second night in baggage claim or at a NYC hotel.

As noted above, a CheapTickets agent acknowledged by telephone that the company was aware of the flight cancelation, and yet no alternate arrangements were made and at no point did CheapTickets even notify us that there had been a change in the itinerary, much less arrange to meet its obligation, as our travel agent, to provide service to our final destionation.

CheapTickets absolutely does have my correct E-mail address, and no E-mail from CheapTickets has ever been diverted to my Spam folder, which I check carefully every time I check E-mail. To this day, CheapTickets' website shows the original itinerary, including a flight that did not exist.

Compensation:

Our out-of-pocket expenses in connection with this problem totaled over $400 for three travelers (I will be happy to itemize these expenses if necessary), as well as two days of missed work for one of my travel companions ($XYZ) and the extraordinary inconvenience and discomfort of over 48 hours of nonstop travel, delays and uncertainty, one night without accommodations and not, in fact, receiving service to our intended destination.

I expect compensation in the amount of $1000 from either CheapTickets or Travelport. This is less than 30% of our total ticket price, even though CheapTickets' failure to uphold its obligations prevented us from using 50% of the tickets we purchased.

I will accept a cash refund, credit card reimbursement, or transferable travel vouchers.

I absolutely expect my concerns to be addressed directly and in a timely manner.


Thank you for your attention to this matter. I will be happy to provide any additional information you may require. I can be reached via E-mail at any time, or by telephone or fax at XXX-XXX-XXX-XXX.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Tucker

9 comments:

Robin July 15, 2007 5:10 PM  

I hope they respond quickly and properly. If not, is there such thing as a Better Business Bureau in Greece?

Jennifer July 15, 2007 5:17 PM  

I hope so too.

The flight was out of Greece, but the company is US-based.

Jennifer July 15, 2007 5:46 PM  

(BTW, it goes against my grain & training to send such a long letter to a business - I was taught to get my point across as succinctly as possible. But a friend who is in the business recommended explaining all the steps we went through, so I went that way. If I have to send a follow-up letter, I'll go the short/sweet route. Or maybe short/sour.)

theotherbear July 15, 2007 6:35 PM  

Yeah good luck with that - I think you will have to get more threatening like you'll take them to whatever forum deals with this kind of thing in the us, or the media, or both.

Jennifer July 15, 2007 6:43 PM  

Maybe so, but I figure you have to at least start out with a civil tongue in your mouth. (In addition to which, this is about as threatening as I normally ever get.)

The Teacher July 16, 2007 2:11 PM  

Wow...way to go! Good luck in getting things happening. :)

Poppy Fields July 17, 2007 6:34 AM  

Good Luck. I have found that one usually gets some kind of compensation when a formal complaint is made.

Love Bears All Things July 17, 2007 8:15 AM  

And, it helps to write it out when you're upset. Feel some better, I'm sure.
Keep us updated on any response.

Anita July 25, 2007 1:21 PM  

Any news or response from your great letter!?

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Added 6/12/06

  © Blogger template 'Personal Blog' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP