Expedia Refunds Your Canceled Trip Whichever Way It Finds Cheapest, Lies About It

“August 21, 2007

Mr. Dara Khosrowshahi

Expedia, Inc.
3150 139th Avenue SE
Bellevue, WA 98005

Re: Itinerary # [redacted]

Dear Mr. Khosrowshahi:

I have been an occasional, satisfied Expedia user over the years but I had an experience with your company yesterday that has left me angry and frustrated.

Last month I booked tickets for me and my wife on Expedia for air travel later this week as follows: Continental First Class (refundable) EWR-DEN/ Frontier Coach (non-refundable) DEN-LAS / Continental First Class (refundable) LAS-EWR for later this week. My wife injured her back so I called your toll-free number to cancel the reservation. The representative with whom I spoke told me that I would have a credit of $3,063.78 on Frontier Airlines, since they were the “validating carrier” (carrier who issued the tickets) and that my refundable first class tickets had become non-refundable….”

I would have assumed that Continental would have issued my tickets since they were the originating carrier and made up the majority of the cost and the travel – and since I live on the East Coast, a Frontier credit doesn’t really do me any good. Whenever I have booked travel in the past, the carrier on the first leg has been the carrier who issues the tickets. Furthermore, I was shocked to learn that the refundable portion of my trip had become non-refundable.

I then asked to speak with a supervisor who told me that the determination of which carrier will serve as the validating carrier is “up to the airlines” and that Expedia has nothing to do with it and does not know before the ticket is issued who that carrier will be. She added that in Expedia’s rules and regulations it states that when you book through Expedia, the entire itinerary is subject to the most restrictive ticket’s restrictions, so since my coach Frontier tickets were non-refundable, so was the whole itinerary – including the expensive first class normally refundable tickets. I have never heard of this policy before from any travel booking service.

When I asked to speak to that supervisor’s supervisor, I was hung up on.

I then called your Corporate Headquarters and the receptionist gave me the number of your Corporate Customer Service Department. The first woman I spoke with was defensive and repeatedly said that there was language in the fine print on the web site entitling Expedia to do what it’s doing. I asked to speak with her supervisor and was transferred to Martin, who was very friendly and sympathetic. He explained that Expedia chooses the validating carrier based on the carrier’s commission structure and that Frontier’s commissions to travel agents are higher than Continental’s, so that’s why Frontier issued the tickets.

So, contrary to what I had been told by three other representatives of your company, not only does your company know who the validating carrier will be but chooses the validating carrier based on its commission structure.

I have the following problems with your policies and actions:

1. It is not clearly stated that the carrier who issues the tickets is up to Expedia and may not be the originating carrier. And that this is entirely in your interest and not the consumer’s. And this goes against what most consumers would reasonably expect when booking their tickets.

2. That you turn refundable tickets into non-refundable tickets if those refundable tickets are part of an itinerary with non-refundable tickets. You don’t make this policy clear to consumers and it makes no sense. I can only assume it is because you can make more money with this arrangement.

3. That your customer service agents were defensive, unhelpful and repeatedly misinformed me by stating that Expedia has no control over which airline issues the tickets booked through the site.

I would like you to do the following:

1. Either refund my money or give me a credit for the full amount that I can use on Continental Airlines.

2. Make your policies clearer so that other consumers don’t go through what I went through. If I knew then what I know now (and still wanted to use your service) I would have booked the Frontier segment separately.

I am very disappointed with the way you treated me and these customer-unfriendly practices. I hope that you will rectify this immediately.


Jonathan R. Teller

cc: Ben Popken, Editor – Consumerist.com

(Photo: Ted Szukalski)