Orbitz Supervisor Plays Hardball With USAir, Gets Them To Rebook Tickets

Nicholas had a business trip go bad quickly when USAir canceled a flight and wouldn’t make things right again. His tickets were through Orbitz, and although he had a terrible experience with Orbitz’s first line of CSRs, he eventually managed to find a supervisor who made sure USAir helped solve the problem—even going so far as to let Nicholas secretly listen in on a call with a USAir agent.

Nicholas writes:

Orbitz is amazing for getting your flights fixed if you can get a supervisor on the line. I was on a business trip that involved multiple stops. Naturally one of my flights was canceled early in the trip, which threw off all of the remaining flights.

Orbitz called me about 2 1/2 hours before my flight, let me know and recommended (after putting me on hold to verify with USAir) that I travel from the small regional airport that I was in to the nearest international airport to catch a flight sooner. A $240 cab ride later I find myself at the international airport with all USAir flights canceled, and most of Southwest still flying.

USAir then informed me that because my origin airport was changed they could not get me onto an earlier flight to a different destination airport that was about as close to my destination as the original. (Destination = Utica, NY. Airports = Syracuse/Albany)

They then booked me a flight anyway, but told me I had to immediately book my return flight. I told them I’d call them back once I setup a new meeting. They said I had to book it right then and there. I explained that because I had to cancel one meeting already I didn’t know when I could reschedule a new one. Luckily during this argument I got a call from one of the guys I was supposed to meet. I got the meeting scheduled, but lost the [USAir] call.

When I called back they had already taken back the ticket they issued me in the previous phone call and basically said I was SOL.

The Orbitz CSR then put me on a (secret) conference call with USAir where the USAir rep essentially said I should have never been given the ticket in the first place and that it’s not his problem. The Orbitz CSR then asked me if I heard what the USAir rep had said, I replied that I wasn’t too happy about it, and that I wanted my flights booked immediately. Apparently USAir reps don’t like it when customers get to hear them not doing their jobs, judging by all the yelling and threats directed at the Orbitz CSR. I had the rest of my trip booked in 15 mins.

The first level of Orbitz CSRs are morons and absolutely not worth talking to at all. I was a passenger on a trip someone else booked, but every CSR insisted on asking me personal information about the person that booked the trip. No amount of logic could progress the conversation. After losing my temper I achieved a 50/50 ratio of getting a supervisor or getting hung up on.

We’re not sure of the lesson here, except that it helps to be told immediately when a leg of your flight is canceled. It also helps to have a feisty customer service supervisor on your side who won’t take “No” for an answer, but we’re not sure how you ask for that person when you call in.

Comments

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  1. incognit000 says:

    Just ask for a Mr. Hardass McPitbull, he’s pretty committed to playing hardball with CSRs.

    Seriously though, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a business opportunity here. All you have to do is agree to harass CSRs until they do their job, in exchange for a small fee. What with all the horrible CSR experiences I see on The Consumerist, I can’t help but think a small, dedicated call center could really rack up on that.

  2. jhn says:

    Orbitz did a similar thing for us when we had a medical emergency that interrupted our trip. Although the tickets were nun-refundable Orbitz contacted British Airways on our behalf and worked with BA to get us a voucher that allowed us to postpone the trip. Greatly appreciated both Orbitz and BA in this matter.

  3. nicemarmot617 says:

    That is very amusing. Too bad nobody recorded the call so we could all laugh. Is it just me or have we somehow become a culture where people don’t do their jobs no matter what? I mean, I thought I got hired to do a job. But nobody else seems to feel the same way – from my coworkers to the people I run into every day.

    • BoomerFive says:

      @nicemarmot617: I think this is a result of specific corporate policies. Airlines in particular are horrible. They hire people for next to nothing, provide very little training, and reward those employees who can screw the consumer the most.

    • hotmeatinjections says:

      @nicemarmot617: Because after reading stories like this one, people realize that they can not do the specified job, and still receive the same pay for it. Which one would you choose given the choice?

    • shorty63136 says:

      @nicemarmot617 & @BoomerFive: I agree with both of you. I’ve run across my fair share of people who simply didn’t want to bring their ass in to work that day, so they’re going to make sure the customer knows they didn’t want to be at work. Many times those people CAN do something but they won’t, don’t want to, or what have you.

      Then there’s the ones that actually try to do work-arounds to see if they can accommodate me – which I can totally appreciate, even if my issue didn’t get resolved. They’re just at the mercy of corporate policies and computer systems with stops in place.

      But I experience idiots who don’t want to do their job more often. Just this past weekend – COMCAST struck me HARD with ridiculousness and asshattery.

    • theysaidwhat says:

      @nicemarmot617: I think it is an erroneous understanding of what their job entails. Some seem to think it is protecting the immediate bottom-line at all costs, rather than building any sort of customer loyalty.

  4. cubsd says:

    It’s too bad we don’t have an account of what was actually said. That might give others help in the future. I don’t see how the OP hearing the CSR not doing their job magically opened doors to his tickets being re-booked.

  5. SuffolkHouse says:

    I don’t know why people think they can have it both ways – cheap flights and great service.

    What leads anyone to believe that? Are you entitled to it?

    We have computers now programmed to churn out the fuck-lowest price in the world to cart our asses around the country. Now, if my ticket costs ten dollars more than the competitors’ because I train my CSRs, I’m not going to sell tickets. It is just that simple.

    This is the Bush mentality, that the free market will solve everything. The problem with that is that Adam Smith never agreed.

    • nicemarmot617 says:

      @SuffolkHouse: Nobody is really *entitled* to anything in this life, are they? Nonetheless that’s no excuse for the way people act in their jobs. I’ve worked in retail AND in customer service. It paid crap and I despised the jobs, the people I worked with, and most of the customers as well. I still did my jobs and tried to help people whenever I could (unless they were total ass-hats). It was my JOB, and if I didn’t want to do it, I would have quit. I also don’t doubt for a second that I would have been fired if I had been caught acting like CSRs on Consumerist are caught acting all the time. I hate my current job too – but I will continue to act like a responsible adult human being and do my work.

      And there’s nothing truly free-market about what the Bush administration is doing. In a free market, companies would actually be responsible for the consequences of their actions. But in this administration, they feel free to do whatever they want, because they know if they fail, the government will spend our tax dollars to bail them out.

    • evslin says:

      @SuffolkHouse: Yep, cheap flights are definitely Bush’s fault.

      /facepalm

      I don’t know why people think they can have it both ways – cheap flights and great service.

      Two words:

      Southwest Airlines.

      • ideagirl says:

        @evslin: Where I live, southwest provides neither cheap flights or great service. Just once I would like to experience either/or on SW.

      • gliscameria says:

        @evslin: I couldn’t agree more. Southwest rocks.

        Every other airline pulled employees from their ticket counter and baggage during a storm, but Southwest was still there. Imagine being dropped off at an empty airport and having absolutely NO ONE there to answer a question. I was flying with another airline and the Southwest people were still amazingly accomodating.

    • uberbitter says:

      @SuffolkHouse:

      Actually, if I pay for a specific service or product, I am legally entitled to what I paid for. That means I expect when a problem occurs (because I realize that not every problem is preventable) that the company who is responsible for said product or service is equipped with the knowledge and tools to fix it, regardless of the amount of money I paid.

  6. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    When I call Orbitz, I ask for Wink Martindale

  7. krom says:

    Orbitz front line support are moronic monkeys who basically just go onto orbitz.com for you. They don’t seem to have any real power.

    Their supervisors are good, however, but not because they’ve been endowed with any real power. They just know more — and they go the extra mile. Seems like Orbitz supervisors are the only part of the Orbitz system that works well. Unfortunately they are contractors, so this is no thanks to Orbitz management.

    After repeated booking failures on the Orbitz website, causing numerous holds on my card causing it to max out — twice — the Orbitz supervisor I was dealing with (who managed to find a way to get the damn thing booked) offered to 3-way my credit provider and get the holds cleared. I’ve never had a CSR offer to go that sort of mile, and I’m sure the calls to the US from the Philippines weren’t cheap. It was probably his tenacity and desire to get the problem to resolution that kept me from just saying “screw Orbitz” and booking with someone else.

    • shockwaver says:

      @krom: It’s things like that that make your mind switch from “THIS PIECE OF SHIT COMPANY IS NEVER GOING TO GET MY MONEY!” to “You know, everyone makes mistakes.”

      I’ve gone from pissed off, to placated very quickly because someone just admitted to making a mistake, and tried to fix it. They may not always be able to fix it 100% the way I want, but the effort speaks volumes.

      I do try and reward companies that go out of their way to help me (or even to not screw me) by pretty much only shopping there – even if they are a bit more, I’m not going to pay a 200% premium, but I will pay more.

      • theysaidwhat says:

        @shockwaver: I am so glad to hear you say that! My career has largely revolved around service, and I agree with you that most customers will forgive a mistake if you own up to it and do your best to make things right.

        I use what I call the ‘credits in the goodwill bank’ philosophy. I go over and above requirements as often as I can because I know that being human, sooner or later my company will make a mistake. I’ve always thought that people will forgive a mistake, especially if you admit it and work hard to remedy it, but nobody likes a liar. And people are more willing to forgive if your service has been exemplary before the inevitable mistake occurred. So far, I’ve been proven right, but it’s always nice to hear someone else agree!

      • floraposte says:

        @shockwaver: I completely agree with this. It’s sort of fascinating to see how differently places can handle a situation where something goes wrong. A rep that gets defensive and accusatory makes me thing the business simply sucks, whereas one who is apologetic and helpful makes me think it’s a decent business that made a mistake.

        @theysaidwhat: The weird thing, to me, anyway, is that it’s the employees who defensively insist on protecting the company at all costs are the ones who, when the customer gets upset, take it personally and say it’s not their fault, it’s the company’s fault. So it’s this mixture of blind identification and failure to grasp their representative position.

        • theysaidwhat says:

          @floraposte: It’s perplexing. I think that sometimes it’s a function of bad management–people don’t feel empowered to solve the problem, and can’t think beyond the policy handbook and interpret the spirit of the handbook. They may just be stupid or lazy, or they may be afraid to make a decision on their own because their management discourages independent thought in the spirit of problem-solving.

        • ohenry says:

          @floraposte: I agree to a large extent, though one thing to remember is that a lot of what the rep will do, by and large, depends on the attitude of the customer at the start of the call.

          I work as a CSR for a large company as well, and while I’d say I never truly half-ass it, I will always go way above and beyond for someone with a calm demeanor and good phone etiquette. On the other hand, if a person calls in being accusatory of the company, I tend to get more defensive and accusatory back.

          I dunno. Just another from-the-CSR-perspective post that reiterates the fact that a reasonable (as opposed to irate or overly passive) customer will get farther than most.

      • krom says:

        @shockwaver: Well, I’m not decided if I’ll use Orbitz for my next flight, because I don’t want to have to go through that again to use what is supposed to be a speedy online service. But it did manage to keep me with them for that one sale.

  8. theysaidwhat says:

    Like most airlines, USAir has good an bad employees. I flew them exclusively when I lived in Philly for 7 years and flew roughly 100K miles per year. Despite this history with them, I was rather rudely treated in Boston once when my flight was changed. I politely explained that I flew them very regularly and was sure we could find a solution to my problem. The ticket counter agent said” So you are flying for business then? Your company won’t break its contract with us no matter what I do to you. ” Lovely, eh?

    So I left the line and got on the phone with USAir and immediately was rebooked on the flight. If you are getting nowhere with a jerky agent in person, call their service number. If the jerky agent is on the phone with you, hang up and call back. You will almost definitely get a different agent. Life is too short to deal with assholes. Ticket counter and gate agents are more often assholes, probably because they deal with so many people in person and in large numbers when things go radically wrong.

    Whenever you have a problem at an airport, sure, get in line to talk to an in-person agent, but call their 800 number immediately. You are competing for the few available seats, and time is of the essence. Amazing how often you can fix it on the phone while 20 people back in line. ;)

    • misslisa says:

      @theysaidwhat: That’s some very good advice about calling while in line – thanks for posting.

      • theysaidwhat says:

        @misslisa: You are most welcome! I learned this the hard way, and am more than happy to pass on what I have learned.

        Don’t give up until you have tried all three-the ticket desk agent, the phone service, and the gate agent. ;)

  9. rorschachex says:

    @SuffolkHouse If we had a truly free market, none of these companies would exist because they would’ve tanked years ago (or in the case of the airlines, never bailed out in the 70s).
    A truly free market is very dangerous for companies with archaic business plans and the inability to care or adapt to change.

  10. verified101 says:

    I made a mistake once while exchanging someone’s tickets. I accidentally reissued new tickets at current price. Current price was $3,000 I had to call the guy back, apologize and then we voided the ticket. All this was due to a typo, to characters will do all this in the system we use. Only 2 characters do this.

  11. crazyasianman says:

    ha ha, the stern asian man. looks like my dad, makes me laugh

  12. netcaretaker says:

    Ok, you got the lowest ticket you could for a biz trip on Orbitz, ah, that pretty much says it all for me. Like going to walmart and expecting service right?

  13. m1ek says:

    Southwest provides reliable (not always the cheapest) prices with reliable service – and most importantly, they don’t screw around with hubs. They’re at the mercy of the airports at which they operate just like anybody else, but I have yet to have a delay out of a normal airport with them.

    I had to go from Austin, TX to Huntsville, AL for three business trips the last 2 months, and each time I flew non-stop to Nashville and drove – and each time I made it on-time. My coworkers flying American through Dallas experienced a 75% cancellation rate on their original Huntsville-Dallas return leg.

  14. billco says:

    I would not have flown with USAir at all, after that ordeal. If a company has to be brow-beaten into doing their job, they don’t deserve your money.

  15. SuffolkHouse says:

    Everyone thinks they are entitled to service. Listen, if we know that CSR pay and quality of service are linked, demanding that price drop while customer service quality remain the same is a sign of insanity. Especially if repeated efforts to make it so result in failure.

    Stop deluding yourselves.

  16. RedmondDesomma says:

    I love getting a really good CSR; they’re almost invariably friendly, bubbly, and have the heart of a pitbull.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Why anyone would use a third party booking agency like Orbitz is beyond me. 99% of the time the same rates (or better) are available directly from the hotel or airline with reasonable refund policies and points/miles or other discounts to boot. I work in a hotel and yes you ARE paying the same rate or higher through Orbitz- except you are nor entitled to refunds, discounts, points, miles or upgrades.