Expedia Closes Ticket Change Fee Loophole Around Customer’s Throat

All our best correspondents have alliterative names. Consumerist Grant G. decided to use Expedia to book a couple of round-trip flights from Denver to San Francisco. But when his plans changed and he needed to fly back a day later, he was told there would be a $200 extra charge to change the booking.

Everyone knows that the charges you accrue when you change a booking are simply another barely justifiable jolly rogering from the airline industry. They’re easily waived; they never are. But Grant thought he had found a loophole when the Expedia CSR told him he could simply cancel the tickets and then buy new ones for the correct dates, avoiding the cancellation charge.

Of course, the second he called back, Expedia tried to charge him the $200 anyway on a pair of new tickets that should have, for all intents and purposes, been unaffiliated with the last pair. More over, when he quoted the last CSR, he was told he’d been “misinformed.”

Gavin’s email is after the jump:

I know times are tough for the airline industry at the moment but the service I received, or lack thereof, from Expedia was appalling.

I have been looking forward to a summer trip with the wife for quite some time now. I thought I would look at the “discount” websites of Expedia, Kayak, Travelzoo etc.

They all seemed to have about the same price, Expedia had an edge over the rest saving me an extra $40, money is money right. So I book the tickets, $660 all included return flight from San Francisco to Denver. I send the flight details to friends in Denver and they call me back to let me know that I’ll need to fly home a day later…long story but it needed to be done.

I call Expedia to change the date the same day I booked the tickets. “No problem sir, I can change that with a fee of $100 per ticket.”

Have you fallen of your fucking rocker was my first thought but I politely responded that it was highway robbery and I would like to cancel the ticket and get a refund. “That will be a $30 charge to cancel per ticket, or you can cancel the flight and get a credit for the airline to get another flight within the year.” She told me there would be no charge to me and I would only have to pay extra if there was a difference in price for the new flight.

All I was thinking was great, I can get the credit, call the airline directly and get the flight through them with hopefully no change in price since I was calling immediately. I cancel, call the airline, “that will be a $100 per ticket charge to change the flight sir.”

I let them know I double checked with Expedia and they informed me the only difference I would have to pay is if there is a change in flight price…there was none!

Right, back to Expedia to complain. “Oh, you were misinformed. You have to pay a $100 per ticket regardless.” Fine, I decide to bend over, let them give it to me, $60 worth and walk away with a slightly bruised ego and my money back, less sixty bucks. It can also take up to thirty days to get my card credited the amount – absurd!

I let them know I will never use them again…they didn’t sound too concerned. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I found a flight directly through another airline for $560…a $40 saving even with the $60 cancellation fee. I called my bank just to make sure 30 days was a reasonable time to wait for a refund. In doing so, I found they charged me a $10 convenience fee, well thank you so much, I had no idea convenience was so painful. I withdrew the charge and will dispute it since they did not inform me it would be included as part of the cancellation process.

The moral of the story, looking for a good deal may get you to the wrong place for what seems to be the right price. Having to bend for the wrong price isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it still hurts……the ego!

Isn’t it great when people who are paid to be representatives of a company can just wave aside previous assertions when they find fulfilling promised obligations inconvenient?


Edit Your Comment

  1. jonfeldman says:

    Uhh, so you all know that the fees are imposed by the airlines, not Expedia, right? Expeida is playing by the rules of the fare you purchased, and if it was cheap, it was restricted. And contrary to Ben’s commentary, those fees aren’t easily waived, and they virtually never are unless the airlines screwed up.

    Here are some guidelines on restricted fares:

    – It’ll cost $75-100 to change a restricted ticket depending on the airline – if the fare you originally purchased is available on the flight you want to swap to.
    – If the same fare isn’t available, in most cases you will be able to use the value of your existing ticket to purchase the lowest available fare, less the $75-100 change fee
    – If you don’t use your ticket, you need to rebook it *before* the date of travel, or you’ll loose the entire value of the ticket.

  2. nweaver says:

    Also, Southwest has NO change fees. And JetBlue is only $25. The Major airlines will force you to take it up the A*@#$ when it comes to change fees however. $100 + $7.50 to get a human (because it couldn’t be done online) on an American Airline ticket once.

  3. Falconfire says:

    cant beat Travelocity’s though. They charge you over 600 dollars upon a refund, even if the tickets themselves where less.

  4. Scott says:

    Several years ago, I bought some tickets through Expedia. Wanting to double-check the layover time, I used the “back” button just prior to clicking the final purchase button (at the time, I had no idea how evil the ‘back’ button can be). I then went to the final page & clicked “purchase.”

    Instantly, the confirmation email arrived, and I saw that the departure time was listed as [tomorrow’s date], which wasn’t right. I immediately got on the phone & called Expedia, explaining what happened (using the ‘back’ button must have changed the departure date to their default date: tomorrow). I knew it was pretty much entirely my fault, although the argument could be (and was) made that the site should have a built-in warning function, I still figured that since I’d made the purchase just 5 minutes ago, they could do *something* to fix it…

    Expedia didn’t care one bit. The CSRs were supremely apathetic, and gave me the runaround. I called back the next day, and a supervisor finally took the call. She said it was the airline who charged the fee, not Expedia, and Expedia couldn’t do anything about it. So I called American Airlines.

    The first rep. said she couldn’t do anything about it, but said she’d talk to her supervisor. Her supervisor said “no,” but the rep. quietly said I should call back the next morning, when the “nice” supervisor was working… I called the next morning & the rep. asked the supervisor, who then got on the phone with me & asked some questions. She eventually told me that Expedia does, in fact, collect some of the fee (in this case, Expedia was charging a $100 change/cancel fee per ticket, and I had 4 tickets), and they could waive their portion of the fee if they wanted to. She also said that she would waive American Airlines’ fee for me (at the time, $50/ticket), but she couldn’t do anything about Expedia’s fee. She canceled my Expedia tickets, and re-booked the flights for me. Expedia refunded to my credit card all but $50 x 4, proving they lied…

    The moral of the story: if you find a low price on Expedia, Travelocity, or otherwise, call the airline to see if they’ll match it. Most of the time, they can, and it’s better to buy from the source than from the middleman. The other moral is fuck Expedia.

  5. billhelm says:

    If you book anywhere except for the airline’s own website, expect to be charged “convienience fees”. Several years ago airlines got rid of the kickbacks that used to go to ticketing agents. They gotta make money somehow.

    Whenever possible I search fares using one of the big sites, but then book directly with the airlines – there’s usually better fares there than on expedia, travelocity, etc and you don’t get charged extra fees.

    The other thing about this is that these fees are standard practice for all arilines…. not really surprising. You can still buy fully refundable fares on a lot of airlines, but usually at a significant premium.

  6. KevinQ says:

    I had a similar experience with Continental once. I purchased on of their last-minute flight deals, and then had to change the time. I couldn’t figure out how to do it online, so I called. They told me that to change the time would cost me $50/ticket, but that I could cancel the tickets within (I think) 36 hours at no penalty, and then buy the tickets for the right time. But I’d have to do that online.

    I went back online, but because I hadn’t been part of their frequent-flier club, I couldn’t cancel my tickets online, I had to do it by phone. So, back to the phone, and then the person I spoke to (someone in technical support) just changed the time, with no penalty.

    I feel like I got a bit of a run around, but I never had to wait on hold long, and the people I spoke to seemed to know what they were talking about. And in the end, I didn’t have to pay a penalty.


  7. Das Ubergeek says:

    Southwest doesn’t have change fees, but if you’re changing your flight right then, you end up paying the full fare (which, like jetBlue, never exceeds $299 each way on Southwest-native flights).

    If you’re a frequent flyer (I was one of those who had the companions-fly-free pass for a few years), though, they almost always just gloss over the extra fare, figuring that you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on them.

  8. prodigal says:

    Last year I booked a trip to Vegas for myself and my then-girlfriend. I’d booked early with Expedia before and the price was right. A month before the tip, I get an email from them notifying me that the AmWest flight to Vegas was being rerouted via Phoenix.

    I live in Vancouver, British Columbia. A two-and-a-half-hour flight suddenly was turning into a seven-hour ordeal (with layovers).

    I checked Expedia’s site, which was still listing the original flight number and route, and phoned them up. After a couple of minutes on hold I got a CSR who told me they aren’t responsible for an airline’s route changes. After some persuasion (ie mild threats) she said she would try to get in contact with AmWest to see what they could do for me.

    After twenty minutes on hold (note to readers: get a speakerphone) she got back on the line and told me that AmWest would refund the ticket because it was a route change, and therefore my hotel reservation could be refunded because the flight had effectively been cancelled.

    It just took a bit of perseverance and cooperation. CSRs go by the book, but it doesn’t hurt to push them a little.