September 06, 2004
Last minute tickets? is not the answer...

Saturday morning I found myself shopping for a last minute flight (for the next day, Sunday morning), and with various marketing-jingles fresh in my mind, I browsed Opodo, eBookers and Travelocity.

Travelocity conveniently had a cheap last minute one-way ticket to the desired destination (that, curiously, didn't show up at the competitors' website) and blinded by the moment, I didn't switch to the airline's own website, but went ahead with purchasing it at Travelocity.

BIG mistake.

After selecting the electronic ticket option, adding passenger details, credit card# etc, I got a "booking confirmation" that stated something like "your confirmation code is: [...] - we are currently processing your ticket and you will receive an email when the ticket has been issued."

When an email had not arrived within a couple of hours, I called the call centre, just to be told it had now closed. Since the flight was scheduled for Sunday morning, I went online and was presented with the email address of "Internet Admin" - to be contacted in case it was less than 48 hours before a flight and "you do not yet have a ticket" well that was me, and an email with Subject: URGENT was mailed, with no response.

Showing up at the airport Sunday 6.30 am, of course there was no ticket waiting and I had to (re-)pay for the ticket with my credit card, at a slightly higher price than advertised online: Travelocity had on Saturday noonish conveniently advertised tickets online for sale on Sunday morning, but seem to have some manual steps required for ticket issuing, and this step is not available 24/7.

I will now, of course, scrutinize my next credit card statement looking for mr Travelocity, but most of all when I stood there I felt an immediate urge to share with other potential shoppers:

Lessons learned:

  • do not shop online with travel websites that are not fully automated (Travelocity falls in this category, and the friendly old man advertising for them leaves this out in his sales-talk).
  • Always check the airlines' own websites after finding a fare at an online travel agent. If the airline f*cks it up, it's easier to complain at their ticket desks at the airport
  • Note to travel website developers: do not present flights that you know (due to call center schedules / other non-24/7 services) can't be ticketed
See also Jeremy's experiences with the US site and Joel's advice on travel website choice. Dave Winer simply states: "Don't use Travelocity, their computer system is seriously broken.". and Josh says: "You see, I trusted the machine. I had no reason to believe it was programmed to screw me, and no reason to believe a major player like Travelocity would deploy buggy software. I now have reasons to believe."

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I had the same problem trying to get tickets to Oman last year; they would display a fare and then after I selected the departure and return dates told me it was no longer available. Travelocity's ticketing policy also sucks about who to contact if you need to change or cancel a ticket. I bought a cheap ticket on Iberia two years ago that I couldn't use, and both Iberia and Travelocity kept sending me to the other to deal with the refund. Travelocity never even bothered to respond to my fax complaining about the service. Iberia at least had the courtesy to say "yea sorry but you're SOL". I still use Travelocity tho because they let me into their preferred program.

Posted by: valerief on September 20, 2004 07:40 PM

I'd like to add one more bad experience with Travelocity.
I tried to get my trip to Brazil booked one month in advance, just to be sure.
Travelocity offered one of the cheapest flights at that moment so I bought a round trip ticket from LA to Rio de Janeiro.
A couple of days after I got the paper tickets (which cost me $20.00 for the FEDEX charges - their only alternative for shipping the tickets), Travelocity emailed me saying that the airline had changed a flight and I need to call them. I did. After navigating through millions of prompts and not being able to clearly communicate with the automated answering system, the first thing I was asked by a live person was if I was satisfied with the changes. I said I didn't know what the changes were, which I didn't, really. I don't mean to sound chauvinistic because English is my second language as well, but the operator could hardly speak an intelligible English. I tried to jot down the flight changes but gave up because the dates and times weren't making sense to me, I then asked him to email me the new itinerary; it took me two more calls and talking to two other operators, and one more day to get an itinerary.
Well, they had changed my return flight from Rio for the next day, but did not change the domestic flight from JFK to LA.
The way the itinerary stated, I'd have had to travel in time some 12 hours to be able to catch the domestic flight. I called and went through the same ordeal with the automated system.
Again, first thing asked: "...and are you happy with the changes?" (I got asked this question everytime I called, mind you) I said I'd be happy if indeed they could bring me back in time 12 hours; my mistake: I confused operator totally.
One operator actually made return the tickets and pay for the Fedex charges myself, and stupidly, I did it.
In the midst of the matter, I called all the airlines involved in my trip. The international airline actually told me that Travelocity has been posting and selling tickets to non-existing flights on their site!

For four days, I kept getting emails signed by different "operators", who I don't believe exist, confirming the same incorrect itinerary.

To make an already long-winded story short, it took me fours days, countless aggravating calls, an extra $20.00 wasted in FEDEX charges (later on I find out that it was not necessary return the tickets) to be told that all I had to do was to present the tickets at the airline counter and that they would rebook me on a later flight.

I am still one week away from my departure and, honestly, I am still not sure what's going to happen.
I swear I will never, ever, ever, again use Travelocity...even if they offer me a free ticket...and urge everyone to avid them like the plague.

Posted by: Joe Chiavoloni on July 29, 2005 11:39 PM

I have accumulated $700 worth of certificates by using Travelocity's Master Card over the last 3 years, and now they tell me I need to use them in two months or loose them. Two months to plan a trip!!
Citi Bank, who issued the card, says they are ending their relationship with Travelocity. A representative from Citi Bank said if I have a beef about losing my Travelocity rewards, talk to Travelocity. Travelocity said talk to Citi Bank. Apparently, a lot of irate passengers are jamming up the phone lines, and neither company wants to take responsibility.
I am very angry that after three years of earning these rewards, they are giving me such a short notice about their expiration.

Posted by: on December 9, 2005 04:05 AM
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