Reader Question: Orbitz/Expedia, South African Airways & SA Airlink Mess

A LoyaltyLobby reader sent us a question by email about an issue he is having with Expedia owned Orbitz due to SA Airlink flight cancellation.

SA Airlink

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Here’s the email from the reader:

Purchased 7 tickets via Orbitz using Amex Plat on SAA Skylink from Sun City to CPT last year. Flights were cancelled and re-booked only to JNB [ I have emails ].

Had to purchase new tickets [ on Amex Plat ] using BA [ Comair ] last minute.

Called Orbitz, they differed to SAA who deferred to SAA Skylink [ they have no contact number as are handled by SAA Rez ].

Called AMEX back in USA who agreed and gave credit for the 7 tickets.

Expedia [ Orbitz ] now sent me to collections for the 7 tickets that remain unpaid, Orbitz customer service deferred me back to SAA.

This is nuts – Orbitz guarantee is garbage and AMEX says they are not responsible for the claim by Orbitz via collection company enlisted by Expedia [ Orbitz mother company ].

I have all paperwork and emails.

I asked from the reader if any of those tickets were partially used:

Nope not one – SAA RE routed us “ all 7 of us” to JNB only – the change came through via an Orbitz email.

I have ticket numbers and all. I bought last minute tickets on BA from JNB TO CPT.

I hired a van and driver to take us to JNB.

Moreover when we arrived in CPT. The very flight that was cancelled arrived in CPT 10 min ahead of us.

I took lots of angry pics.

It was the craziest event I have experienced and I travel all over the world.

I believe that the reader is here referring to SA Airlink that has agreement with both South African Airways (SAA) and South African Express Airways.

It is unclear on whose ticket stock the seven SA Airlink tickets were issued? Does SA Airlink even issue on their own ticket stock in the United States or South Africa or do they just rely on South African Airways (I assume that the reader is from North America because Orbitz doesn’t have presence elsewhere)?

Not sure why Orbitz brushed off the reader to SAA and then to SA Airlink? It would have been their responsibility as an agent to fix them.

Full refund should have been provided for the tickets because the airline couldn’t transport the party from the ticketed origin to the destination. It doesn’t make any difference that the airline had reissued the tickets for alternate flight dropping a city pair.

The reader should file a DOT Complaint against both Expedia and South African Airways (I believe that their ticket stock was used). The reader can do it here.

Collection agency should receive a certified letter with a return receipt explaining that the airline hadn’t provided services as rendered and thus the charge was disputed with the agent via Amex.

Conclusion

What a mess over cancellation of a flight. The airline should have rebooked the reader on other services that were available between city pairs.

I have found that Expedia companies are usually easier to deal with when it comes to cancellation and changes per the fare rules than other OTAs.

Surely this issue will be resolved once Expedia and SAA both receive a note from DOT asking for clarification.

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