Travelocity Doesn't Know What A Funeral Is, You Pay Extra $279

On Nov 22 my 36 year old brother Mike died suddenly. So I quickly hoped on-line to get a flight from San Francisco to Pittsburgh, leaving Nov 24th.

After a few minutes I realized that I booked the wrong “come back to San Francisco-return” date. I called Travelocity less than 5 minutes after booking my flight information on line. I told the man I was frantic over my brother’s death and needed to change the “return flight”—he became confused. I explained my concerns a few more times to him and he said he understood.

The man on the other end of the phone didn’t know what a funeral was!!!

He said he could help me but the computers were down and he would make a note that I called right after booking my ticket so I could change it without penalty. In addition, I purchased the flight insurance.

When the funeral was over I called again and they had no record of my call. I was put on hold and the phone hung up after about 28 minutes so I called again and logged into my account with you so I could have all my info right at my fingertips…

Here is a list of a few of the problems I encountered.
-Can’t get info on flights under the “my stuff” heading–was told the web site is having problems.
-Put on hold for upwards of 40 minutes–3 times.
-Hung up on twice.
-Customer service didn’t know what a funeral was!!!
-Non English speaking customer service.
-Loud background noise of people talking and laughing.
-My account was not updated with the numerous calls I made after the receptionist said they were.
I was quoted $580.00 to change my flight after I was told there would be no charge.

I would like to cancel my flight with you on December 7th.
I would like to be reimbursed the 279.00.

Thank you for your time and attention in this matter,

Jason Doctor

My brother’s death record.

http://www.vindy.com/content/records/deaths/290366058863793.php

http://www.vindy.com/content/records/tributes/290373562903006.php

http://www.vindy.com/extra/tributes/905414192.html

I am without words……

I only get put on hold or an automated message when I try to iron this out..

michellep.jpgJason, our condolences for your loss. You have to always be careful when ordering tickets online, but we can understand how, in your grief, you made a mistake. We found some contact information that might prove helpful. First, you have to stop calling their regular customer service line. The people they hire there don’t even know what a funeral is. You can’t reason with such people. Instead, we want you to call the corporate headquarters and try to reach the office of Michelle Peluso, the President. Here is a picture we found of her. You can tell she is just dying to help you. The corporate HQ # is (682) 605-3000. We think her office lines is (682) 605-1374 and her email could be michelle.peluso@travelocity.com. Use the techniques we describe in How To Be Customer Service Ninja, like being polite and succinct, and you may get handed off to an executive customer service rep who knows how to give you a refund, and if you’re lucky, may even know what a funeral is.

(Photo: bedpanjohn)

Comments

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  1. jeffeb3 says:

    Whoa, that’s a new record for customer service absurdity. I thought I read a few weeks ago, maybe it was here, that airlines have special fares for traveling home for funerals.

  2. Buran says:

    Geez. This is one reason I like Southwest: easy to change your flights, and NO rebook fee! They do fly SFO-PIT, but you already booked, so best of luck with Travelocity (ugh).

  3. Buran says:

    @jeffeb3: They do. I think this is a ESL gaffe, though. I don’t have a clue what the Indian (or whatever) word is for “funeral”, so if the situation was reversed I’d screw up too. Still, you’d think they’d train these people to know about funerals.

  4. TWSS says:

    My experience flying last-minute for funerals is that you will almost always get a better deal if you call the airline and ask about bereavement fares. The airline’s booking agent will be able to find the right class of seat at the right time, which isn’t going to be visible to you as a web user, especially using third-party sites like Travelocity or Expedia.

  5. mandarin says:

    Really they have to stop using non-english speaking customer support, it turns people off from using Travelocity.

    If they have to , at least pick a decent one with the right education.

  6. MikeB says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss and the trouble on top of that is just iceing on the cake.

    One weekend I was back home for my Grandfathers funeral, we were at my parents house when I got a call from my then finance telling me her father just died. My sister got on another line and I had a flight back home leaving about 2 hours after the call. No charge to change the flight even though it was not someone in my immediate family. And this was USAir even.

    Best bet is to always call the airline directly, but I can understand not thinking straight when it is your brother that dies.

  7. warf0x0r says:

    @jeffeb3: Are you sure that wasn’t Seinfeld?

  8. emt888 says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Most airlines do offer bereavement fares (also special fares if a family member is in the hospital). The price of the fare is usually half of the cost of a full price ticket, so it is usually still expensive.

    I flew home in September because my mom was in the hospital. I used Midwest Airlines as I was flying from Las Vegas to Milwaukee. The total cost for my ticket was $375.92 (I usually pay around $250 for a flight home). I made the reservations about 3 hours before I left for Milwaukee and I had to call their 800 number to make the reservations. My mom ended up dying, so I had to move out my departure date and Midwest did that for me without charge.

  9. typetive says:

    Though this doesn’t always work, I’ve found that berevement fares are a joke. Instead, once I find out a family member is ill, I book a trip. For sometime in the distant future or the next major holiday. For the best possible fare I can find.

    Then when you need to travel for berevement or critical illness, appeal to the airline to change the existing ticket. The worst I’ve had happen is being charged $25 by USAirways because a note from my grandfather’s doctor was not enough. Certainly better than a half-price rack rate.

  10. privatejoker75 says:

    I just had to book a trip to seattle with american airlines from austin. My mother-in-law has terminal cancer and they offer a bereavement fare. Long story short I saved $300

  11. overbysara says:

    I HATE foreign customer service. it’s hard enough to understand domestic, regional accents sometimes. Trying to communicate a problem to someone that a) doesn’t speak english as their primary language, b) doesn’t understand things like “funeral” or that washington is a city in the District of Columbia, and c) has a thick accent is SO FRUSTRATING. when I call customer service, I’m calling because I couldn’t resolve my issue online and I need someone that I can competently communicate with to solve a situation. I swore off flying united because their customer service is impossible to communicate with.

  12. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @typetive: Ah… great tip! My experience when bereavement fares is that they are still quite expensive as well. I can recall one (American) Delta agent telling me that they are that high because anyone can say “somebody died” and get a discount, so until I rolled my grandfather’s dead body up to the counter, I still had to pay $1200 to fly from ATL to LAX at the last minute. She also kindly suggested that the next time my 105-year-old grandfather goes into the hospital, I book a ticket “just in case”. This is the same wonderful person who wouldn’t let me use my 28,000 miles for the trip because I hadn’t flown in 9 months, a stipulation they had just instituted the day before I walked up to the counter.

    She’s very lucky I was a young, naive college student back then, ‘cuz in hindsight I should have whupped her natural behind.

  13. hotelemployee says:

    As an employee of several major hotel brands, I can tell you from experience. DO NOT BOOK WITH 3RD PARTY TRAVEL AGENTS. They are unwilling/unable to fix your problems when they book you wrong. Also they typically stick you with “what’s left”. Call the hotel/airline direct, ask about discount rates, you’ll be surprised how much a hotel will work with you. If you want to save five bucks to be treated like you don’t matter, by all means book with Travelocity or Priceline.

  14. Quellman says:

    What a horrible story, my prayers for you and your family.

    I accidentally entered the wrong Hotel on Orbitz once. I called them about 3 minutes later, and they canceled it for me with no problem, and without the fee. Try them next time.

  15. TrexSchad says:

    I have been thinking about posting about Travelocity for a while! I had a similar experience with their customer service when my boss missed her flight home during a snow storm. 5 calls to their customer service did absolutely nothing, but I took a chance and called the airline that the flight was actually booked on (Delta) and they were FANTASTIC. Went out of their way to get everything fixed, mentioned that they hear lots of problems with Travelocity post-purchase, and got me a replacement flight for only an extra $25. (I was worried it would be like $400) So, when there’s a problem after you booked, try the actual airline.

  16. Cerb says:

    I had a similar problem with travelocity last year. I misbooked a flight and immediately called to fix it. They wouldn’t budge on a refund and insisted I had to pay to change the ticket. I finally just called the airline itself and they fixed it for me in a matter of minutes (Thanks AA!).

    What I do know is use the search sites to locate a good priced ticket, then go to the airlines website and buy it (and it’s often cheaper this way!!).

  17. iamme99 says:

    Travelocity sucks. I had my share of problems with them a few years back and refused to use them ever again. I went through the same type of clueless “service” and yes, got the line disconnected a couple of times. And oh yeah, the computer was down. I guess they never got it working again [lol]

  18. m4nea says:

    Get a travel agent…
    There’s really nothing else to be said.
    This site is about not trusting corporations, so don’t trust that some web giant is going to keep perfect track of all your transactions, calls, and the promises of low-level support staff.

  19. Cerb says:

    @m4nea: In my experience you are very unlikely to get a good deal through a travel agent. Why pay a middle man when there are so many other options?

  20. BustedWheel says:

    On an added note about being a ninja. If the company you are having trouble with is not publicly traded and their info is not in Google Finance, check out http://www.hoovers.com. This is normally a subscription site, but the free information will have basic contact info for corporate offices.

  21. Dervish says:

    Bereavement fares offered by airlines usually aren’t that much lower, in my experience. My grandmother passed away the last week in November and the fare I was offered from Northwest was comparable to anything last-minute I could dig up on the travel sites, except the connection times and airports were slightly better. Even then, it was a frustrating exercise – I had to price the fare and call back later, since I was coordinating with my siblings and husband, and I must have gotten two or three wildly different stories/prices from ticket agents. Determination(in a time of great stress and grief) is the key, I guess.

  22. Mrs. Stephen Fry says:

    When my mother-in-law passed away last year, I called British Airways directly, and they were very kind. We got a great rate, and on the return, we were upgraded for free.

    It obviously depends on the airline, but I highly recommend calling them directly and at least checking into bereavement fares.

    Jason, my condolences. I hope Travelocity straightens this out.

  23. Sirened says:

    It’s good to use Travelocity, Expedia, etc. to search for the cheapest fare but then book on the actual airlines website. You save $5 plus you only have to deal with the airline if you need to make changes.

  24. Lewis says:

    @consumerist: “You can tell she is just dying to help you.”

    Erm…….

  25. LawyerontheDL says:

    One thing about the bereavement fares is that almost every airline will let you change the date of your return flight without penalty. Even if it might be a little more expensive that’s a great feature

  26. Pancakes?? FRENCH TOAST!! says:

    @Cerb:

    options like having to deal with airlines and trying to get refunds? my travel agent is available 24 hours a day. Flight delayed? One call and I’m soft-booked on 5 flights to get me out of there. I only have to pay for the flight I get on.

    Do THAT with a gate agent or airline website.

    Travel agents are there for the same reason real estate agents are there. Do deal with fiddly details and jump through hoops so you don’t have to.

  27. Cerb says:

    @Sushiwriter:

    Well, I’ve done a lot of flying and missed countless flights and I’ve never really had an trouble talking to the airline themselves. Customer service is often useless, but once you escalate it, it’s usually taken care of. I’ve never even paid a few for missing a flight.

  28. id voice of reason says:

    thanks to all of you for your help.
    here is what Michelle said today:

    Jason,

    This is clearly shocking that someone would say they did not know what a
    funeral is, and of course, you have my profound apologies. We also have
    a zero tolerance policy for employees that hang up on customers, so we
    can clearly go back to the call logs and try to find out what happened
    here. We’ll have someone look into this right away and get back to you.
    We will get this resolved, and you have my very sincere apologies.

    Michelle
    ________________________________________________
    In addition, here are some additional e-mails that she is sending this info to…I thought it may help out others in the future..

    Executive Offices ,
    “Mahl, Ginny” ,
    “Weber, Tracey”

  29. id voice of reason says:
  30. id voice of reason says:

    for others in the future that need help…….
    ______________________________________________

    Dear Mr. Doctor,

    Thank you for contacting us in regards to your refund request. We
    apologize for the frustration you experienced while trying to modify
    your reservation. We have opened Service Incident # 3-388628686, and
    your file has been assigned to Executive Resolutions Coordinator, Manuel
    Rodriguez. Please allow Mr. Rodriguez some time to review your issue and
    return to you with a proposed resolution or request for additional
    information.

    Sincerely,

    Sanford Bradshaw
    Executive Resolutions Team

    Executive Offices
    11603 Crosswinds Way, Suite 125
    San Antonio, TX 78233
    Phone 210-302-1749
    Fax 210-302-1760

  31. lukobe says:

    @privatejoker75: Dude, Washington’s a state in the Pacific Northwest. What is this District of Columbia stuff? :)

    Seriously, though, for clarity, “D.C.” will never get misunderstood.

    BUT….why bother having customer service at all if they can’t speak English properly? I mean, seriously. I’d rather just deal with a machine in that case.

    What’s almost worse is sales calls made by people I can hardly understand. No, I’m not buying your VOIP product….

  32. dohtem says:

    Can you have your credit card company help you handle this?

    Sorry about your brother. No one should have to deal with this after the death of a loved one.

  33. id voice of reason says:

    They refunded my money (for the second flight) but didnt give me a Bereavement fare.
    —thank you Ben and everybody at the Consumerist

    Dear Jason:

    We want to let you know that your refund request has been
    submitted to our Finance department and is scheduled to be
    processed on 12/21/2007. Once the credit has been applied to
    your credit card, you will again receive notification from
    Travelocity.

    Thank you for using Travelocity. Only Travelocity guarantees
    your entire travel experience on top of having a low price
    guarantee. We’ll be in touch soon!

    Very Sincerely,

    Travelocity Service Team

  34. Vegconsumer says:

    Sorry for your loss, Jason.