Consumers Speak: OrbitzMisunderstanding Sends Pop on Wedding Day Adventure

Update: A couple of you have written in to criticize our framing of this complaint, pointing out that this was not an error on the part of Orbitz or America West so much as a failure of planning on the part of those involved. You’re right. We do read every complaint before posting them, but we didn’t think this one through. Apologies. (We still enjoyed the story, however.)

Paul D. writes:

This is half customer complaint, and half wedding horror story.
I got engaged last January, and got married last July. Around March of last year my parents generously decided to pay for a great honeymoon vacation to Puerto Vallarta: airfare, lodging in their time-share condo, and some cash to spend. Awesome. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

My dad ordered the airline tickets online through Orbitz in April. A couple of weeks or so later, the paper tickets arrived. Flights were being handled by Delta and America West.

Then things went bad. In June, my then-fiancee and I moved to a new house. Despite our best efforts to keep our sh*t straight, we managed to totally lose the tickets in the move. Gone. Couldn’t find them even after tossing the entire house and the boxes in the garage. Okay, that much is our fault.

With the wedding date rapidly approaching, I called my dad and explained/apologized. He said “no problem” and offered to get on the phone and see what could be done. He called back a few days later complaining of being on hold for interminably long periods of time, and then getting the runaround and having to speak to several different people; typical phone customer service stuff.

But the resolution, as he was told, was to purchase a new set of tickets (with identical itinerary) and “apply” for a refund of the old ones. It was going to be $1600. Fine. No big deal; they assured him that the refund application was a formality and that the circumstances surely merited a full refund of the original tickets.

We bet it all goes as planned after the jump. (Right?)

Okay, where can I do this? “Oh, any America West ticket counter. With blah-blah-thousand locations throughout the US.” Great. So mom and dad hop in the ol’ minivan (mom insists on driving a minivan even though there haven’t been kids in the house since the mid-90s) and drive 540 miles from Northern Virginia to Lexington, KY for the wedding.

Upon their arrival, my dad gets on the phone again to inquire about the location of the nearest America West ticket counter. Surely with 3 relatively major airports within an hour’s drive…

Lexington-Bluegrass Airport? No.

Louisville Airport (1 hour drive)? No.

Cincinnati (1 hour away)? No.

Columbus, Ohio. 3 hours away.

It’s Friday afternoon. The wedding is Saturday evening.

My dad the hero gets up at the butt-crack of dawn, the day of his eldest son’s wedding, and he and my 84-year-old grandfather drive the 6-hour round trip to Columbus to get the replacement tickets. While they were at the ticket counter, making small talk with the ticket agent, dad mentions that he drove all the way from the DC area (9 hours) only to have to drive an additional 3 hours to get these tickets.

The ticket agent’s response? “Why didn’t you get the replacement tickets from our counter at Dulles International?”

Dulles is a 10 minute drive from my parents’ house in Centreville, VA.

It is by sheer virtue of the celebration of his son’s wedding that my father did not beat the hapless ticket agent heavily about her head and neck. Dad and grandpa arrived at the wedding literally 5 minutes before the ceremony was to begin (although we would have waited.)

We had a pretty good time in Puerto Vallarta (there were some further setbacks, but that’s another story). I am eternally grateful to my dad and grandpa for all the trouble. I’ve apologized many times for losing those tickets. Despite a certain amount of culpability on our parts, Dad still blames America West’s convoluted lost-tickets policy, and the phone customer service folks for not mentioning that simple fact which could have saved a lot of trouble and stress. By the way, the refund DID in fact come. It took 3 months.

Needless to say, we are strictly e-ticket these days, and we avoid America West when we can.
Thanks for your time and continued efforts on behalf of us poor consumers everywhere; I subscribe to your RSS and read the site every day. Keep up the good work.