Even Physicists Are Not Smart Enough to Avoid Getting Screwed By Orbitz

We’re not saying the rest of you are dumb, but when physicists from CalTech can’t manage to make travel arrangements without getting stuck with hundreds of dollars in “change fees,” there might be a problem with the website. And by problem we might mean “scam.” And by scam, we might mean, “policies designed to increase fees by being deliberately confusing and overly restrictive.” In this case, Sean, a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, was trying to book a new ticket with money from a credit on a previously canceled ticket, which is much harder than identifying the unified field theory.

From “Orbitz is the Workshop of Satan “:

    “So I called again, and explained the problem. In particular, I explained that I had asked to take that flight all the way back to LAX, and their agent had obviously not typed that in, which was their mistake. They pointed out that the agent verified the itinerary with me before booking it, which I’m ready to believe is true. It was my mistake not to catch that the flight he had me on didn’t continue to LA, although an easy mistake to make — that’s what happens when you pay attention primarily to the flight numbers and departure times.

    Can they fix things by putting me on the flight that I had asked for, the leg going from Dulles to LAX? Sure they can — for the fare difference, plus another $200 change fee, for a total of $300 extra. Even though they had screwed up? Yes. Could that $300 come out of the $600 of free money I was already giving them? No. How many minutes of frustrating phone conversation would it take to uncover these pleasant truths? About 45.”

Said physicist is asking for help discovering new ways to book fairly complicated travel arrangements. We use Farecast.com. —MEGHANN MARCO(Thanks, Patti!)

Orbitz is the Workshop of Satan [Cosmic Variance]

Comments

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  1. William Mize says:

    Farecast looks rocking good; but unfortunately it doesn’t do International flights. Anyone got a good recommendation for a site that handles both?

  2. DutchFlat says:

    I had problems with Orbitz last summer. The entire company is a scam. They post a bunch of flights to the destination you specify. The prices for the roundtrip seem pretty good. Then, you choose your flight TO. Then you choose your RETURN flight. But wait! The roundtrip price is suddenly based on the return flight. Somehow, the roundtrip price you originally saw is gone, replaced by a much higher fare based on your return flight. At first, I couldn’t quite believe or comprehend this. I thought I was doing something wrong. Hmmm, I thoughtm, I must be missing something here. Nope. That’s how it works, and it is a complete scam. Orbitz should be avoided at all costs. There are many discount travel sites on the web; ‘no need to use Orbitz.

  3. acambras says:

    William, I’ve been using Yahoo’s Farechase for a while. It’s easy to use, and they handle both domestic and international flights. They search a bunch of sites, including airlines’ webpages. Orbitz.com is one of the sites they search, but the nice thing about Farechase is that you don’t have to put up with annoying pop-ups. Once I find the flight I think I want, I can click on a link, go to that airline’s website, and book through them. That’s the thing — Farechase is more of a search engine — you don’t buy tickets through them.

    Another thing I really like about Farechase is that the price shown is the REAL price — it includes airfare both ways, plus taxes and fees. There’s nothing more disappointing than going to a website, finding a really low fare, and then realizing that it’s the price before taxes and fees and that it’s only for the outbound trip.

    If you decide to try it, go to Yahoo.com, then click on their “travel” link, then be sure to click the “Farechase” tab toward the right of your screen (it’s different from Yahoo’s basic flight search).

    BTW, I don’t have any affiliation with or financial interest in Farechase or Yahoo. I’ve just used it a lot and I like it.

  4. Farecast has been great for me. And what I just noticed (while checking if there’s any hint that they’ll ad int’l flights soon, but there isn’t) is that you can track an itinerary by RSS! So you can easily track flight prices and buy when the price is right.

  5. Pelagius says:

    Call me a luddite, but when I was traveling for work on some fairly complicated itineraries, I found it worth the money to use an actual travel agent. A human being working for or running their own small business with a vested interest in keeping the customer happy.

  6. Ah-ha, you can vote for cities you want Farecast to add, including international ones: http://www.farecast.com/addMyCity.do

  7. tjrchicago says:

    To Pelagius – Count your blessings! Our work travel agent is, you guessed it, Orbitz!

  8. William Mize says:

    @acambras – Thanks so much for the Farechase tip, I’m gonna scoot over there right now.

  9. stonestix says:

    It’s Caltech, not CalTech.

  10. Deryn says:

    I’ve hated and despised Orbitz almost since its inception. Its customer service was abysmal when I used it to purchase tickets at work, and I see not much has changed.

    I now use the Orbitz site to find the airline with the lowest price, then book that flight directly with the airline, just to have the pleasure of screwing Orbitz out of its fees. It’s a petty gesture, but I’m a petty gal.

    Also, maybe it is Caltech, but it _should_ be CalTech.

  11. acambras says:

    Deryn, Orbitz is one of those sites searched by Yahoo Farechase site (I mentioned Farechase in an earlier post on this thread).

    I got sick of dealing with Orbitz, Expedia, etc. because of those damn pop-up ads. Farechase doesn’t have those.

    After I find the ticket I want, I book directly with the airline.

  12. doe3001 says:

    Be careful with EXPEDIA too. They tried to scam me.
    Read my case at : http://www.victimsofexpedia.com/mycase.htm

    Good luck

  13. TownsendJobnik says:

    @DutchFlat:
    Bait and switch on Orbitz (variations on a theme).
    Several times over the course of an afternoon I searched for international
    flights on Orbitz. After taking the time to choose among the various days,
    times, etc., I selected a flight I was told that due to changes in
    availability the price had changed to three times the original amount but
    other far less desirable “tlc” options were available–including several
    “act fast, one ticket left at this price” options. This exact same scenario
    was repeated several times over the course of an afternoon, so it is
    clearly a scam. Since I wasted the limited time I had to buy a ticket in
    this manner, I ended up spending several hundred dollars more to buy a
    ticket through a travel agent. The travel agent told that this bait and
    switch scam is increasingly common on travel websites, but I can only
    confirm it for Orbitz.

  14. hedgeland says:

    DutchFlat:

    I work as an IT developer for Orbitz and I can absolutely, positively assure you that there is no baiting and switching going on. The process of searching, pricing, and booking a flight, car, or hotel is extremely, extremely complex. Usually what happens, in your case, is that Orbitz offers real time pricing. While you are viewing your search results, someone else on the web can be booking the flight moments before you book yours.

    Also, I might add that neither Orbitz nor Expedia, nor any other online travel agency has any control over airfare pricing. We don’t set it. The airlines do. Our pricing data comes from a central repository used by many other online and offline entities. What we do is grab that data and present the information to you and then reserve it for you.

    I understand your frustration completely. It drives me NUTS when I’m trying to book travel online and the process becomes long and painful. My suggestion to you if this happens again is to contact Orbitz customer service and ask them why this is happening. They will be able to help you out.

    Trust me, I wouldn’t work for a company that undertook dishonest policies. I have better things to do.

  15. hedgeland says:

    DutchFlat:

    I work as a web developer for Orbitz and I can absolutely, positively assure you that there is no baiting and switching going on. The process of searching, pricing, and booking a flight, car, or hotel is extremely, extremely complex. Usually what happens, in your case, is that Orbitz offers real time pricing. While you are viewing your search results, someone else on the web can be booking the flight moments before you book yours.

    Also, I might add that neither Orbitz nor Expedia, nor any other online travel agency has control over airfare pricing. We don’t set it. The airlines do. Our pricing data comes from a central repository used by many other online and offline entities. What we do is grab that data and present the information to you and then reserve it for you.

    I understand your frustration completely. It drives me NUTS when I’m trying to book travel online and the process becomes long and painful. My suggestion to you if this happens again is to contact Orbitz customer service and ask them why this is happening. They will be able to help you out.

    Trust me, I wouldn’t work for a company that undertook dishonest policies. I have better things to do.