A friend of mine contacted me few days ago regarding her trip on SAS that she had booked on Expedia’s US website, which is often cheaper than to booking with the airline directly. SAS had apparently retimed flight and rebooked using inconvenient connection.
Here’s the email:
Travel arrangements can be quite stressfull sometimes. Usually, if you book your tickets well in advance, you are fine. But not always.
Some time ago, I booked flights through Expedia.com to a Mediterranean capital city for October, to start another trip from that destination. Everything was fine until the changes started coming in.
First, our return flight was changed from one airline to another with minimal affect on our schedule (however routing changed significantly). This was okay.
The next change was more dramatic: The outbound flight itinerary was changed – the departure time of the connecting flight was changed – meaning that we would arrive in our destination 4 hours later than originally booked. This, because of our other arrangements, was extremely not okay.
So, I called Expedia.com customer service to change my flights to a connection that would actually take me to my destination in time to fit my other arrangements. (Naturally I had scheduled some slack in my itinerary, but not full 4 hours of it!) After a 39 minute (international) call I only got the advice to contact the airline directly to get the change done. The Expedia agent said they had tried to call the airline but no-one was picking up.
So I called the airline and heard that I must contact the travel agent as the ticket was issued in the USA. And as it was not a change concerning a flight departing within 24 hours, the travel agent deeds to make any changes. They also said that Expedia is doing this frequently, having customers call the airline when they really should call the dedicated travel agent line to handle this themselves…
As it was late at night in my time zone, I called it a day. In the morning, I called the airline again and explained the situation once more (in my mother tongue). The very helpful gentleman checked my reservation thoroughly and said the itinerary that I suggested as a replacement would be okay (complete with the fare classes and availability), but he could not proceed with the change, the travel agency needed to do it. He even promised to mark my reservation with preapproval so that when the travel agency would pull it up, it would right away show the approval of the changes from the airline.
So, again I call Expedia.com. This time the call takes longer, and as the agent refuses to make the change I also get to talk to her supervisor. He says they cannot reach the airline and they cannot make the change without the airline approval. I tell them that the approval shows in my reservation, and that I have already talked to the airline a few moments ago. They insist they cannot reach the airline in the dedicated travel agency line so I give them more phone numbers I find on the internet. I also tell them I refuse to leave the call until the change has been made. I hold the line for a total of one hour and 39 minutes until I get – accidentally, I bet 😉 – cut off.
After this, I call the airline once more. This time, after having wasted over 4 hours of my time on hold with various instances, the customer service agent suddenly said she actually could make the change – as they should have in the first place, as they were the ones responsible to the itinerary changing dramatically.
What I learned? I still have no idea who actually can change the flights after they are changed on me involuntarily. Next time, I’d think twice before booking anything important with Expedia.com.
When you book your flights well in advance, there is a higher than usual likelihood that the airlines will tinker their schedule and rebook you. In this case, SAS had retimed one of the Athens flight and assumed that it was OK with the passengers.
If you absolutely need to be somewhere, you should always arrange to arrive the night before. There can always be delays and cancellations along the way that can cause havoc and result arriving to your destination very late.
Should Expedia or SAS have rebooked you? Well. The change was result SAS changing their flight time. The airlines don’t want to touch tickets that are issued by agents (they try to drive more direct bookings). Expedia should have done the change after getting confirmation from SAS’ trade desk that they are allowed to do so. Expedia claimed that they couldn’t get through to SAS’ call center in the United States.
I book lot of flights using Expedia and their customer service is unfortunately abysmal and handled out of India. You end up spending way too much time if there is a change because agents are either not allowed to do anything without clearing it with their supervisor or just being completely incompetent.
I am sure that Expedia wouldn’t want to even be in the business of selling airline tickets unless it wouldn’t lead to more hotel bookings where Expedia has very good margins.
Nothing would have prevented SAS taking over the ticket on the first call and making the changes that they did on the third try. It never hurts to call again and try another agent (and hope that the PNR is not notated).
It is unfortunate that the reader had to spent several hours fixing this issue.