Search this site:


July 8, 2005 12:42 PM

Broken: Orbitz flight search results

Phil writes:

Orbitz is broken.

I searched for flights, selected the one I wanted, and Orbitz said, "this flight is no longer available."

So I searched the flights again, and every time I clicked on the $964 ones, they were no longer available at that price, even though I reran the search. I don't think they really existed at that price. All the flights for $964 were actually $1,600!


Sorry dude, you're the broken one. You rely on Orbitz to provide you with competent service. I used it a couple times, and was screwed over every time. My favorite:

I was travelling from Virginia to Nova Scotia, and there was a layover in Maine or something, I don't recall. Basically Orbitz booked our tickets to Maine, and booked the return trip from Maine back to Virginia. They set up the flights in and out of Canada, but then cancelled them two hours after we ordered. They never told us they cancelled, and there was nothing in the log about why they were cancelled. We wasted hours at the airport trying to convince them we already paid, and then a few more hours trying to get on a flight out of Canada at the end of the week because our seats had been sold to others. Orbitz said it was the airline's fault, the airline said it was Orbitz's fault.

Screw Orbitz.

Posted by: Manni at July 8, 2005 12:57 PM

Oh, I almost forgot. Since our original flight out of Canada was booked, we had to take a later flight, thereby missing our scheduled flight from Maine back to Virginia. The airline charged us $100 apiece to re-book our tickets for a later time.

Posted by: Manni at July 8, 2005 01:00 PM

Orbitz screwed me and a friend in a similar way. I flew to Denver and skied for a week and went back to the airport only to find out that orbitz had cancelled the reservation on the return flight. They claim that they sent me an email about the cancellation. I never saw it. In any case we took them to court and got them to pay for the tickets we had to buy at Denver the day of the departure. Orbitz is a horrible company.

Posted by: Kevin at July 8, 2005 01:13 PM

I love Orbitz. I use them every time I travel and I get wake up calls, connection information calls, I even got a call from a live person telling me my connection flight had been cancelled before the airline changed the departure board from "on-time" to "cancelled". They advised me the airlines should pay for my room (which they did but only after I asked). I think Orbitz is great.

Posted by: Liz at July 8, 2005 01:31 PM

I looked up a flight on Orbitz, found a cheap price, wrote down the info and logged off. I came back later, looked up the same flight and the cheap price was no loger available. I erased my Orbitz cookie, restarted my browser and--guess what? That's right, the cheap flight was back.

Posted by: mgrover at July 8, 2005 01:51 PM

That's happened to me a couple times. In the real world it's called "bait and switch" and it's illegal.

Posted by: clarissa at July 8, 2005 02:50 PM

That's happened to me a couple times. I'm not sure whether it was Orbitz or another travel site. In the real world it's called "bait and switch" and it's illegal.

Posted by: clarissa at July 8, 2005 02:52 PM

That's why I generally use the online travel sites just to survey the landscape of fares. I find whichever airline seems to be running lowest for that route on those dates, and then book the flight directly on the airline's site. They don't play games like the travel sites do. No upsells, no bait and switch, just a place to book a flight.

Orbitz is a site I check, but I'm always so frustrated by the search results that it never actually factors into my decision.

Posted by: Brenda at July 8, 2005 02:56 PM

check out

for more orbitz hate mail

Posted by: dont start the "this isnt broken" at July 8, 2005 04:09 PM

yeah I also refer people to "don't starts" link at the best page in the universe:

Posted by: Vic at July 8, 2005 05:03 PM

Let's give Orbitz the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Suppose a travel agent has a line on flights to Paris for $500. You call up and the agent offers one to you. "Great!", you say, "I'll take it!"

The agent goes to book the flight, but can't, because it's sold out. Whose fault is this? Airline or agent? (Or is it your fault for trusting an agent?)

I believe that this is the fault of the process, which doesn't support the kind of interlocks necessary to prevent this from happening. What if the agent had *promised* the airline in advance that they would sell 10 tickets, and the airline held them for *that agent*? This is more complicated (and possibly more expensive for everybody) but ensures you cannot experience this problem.

Without knowing more about how Orbitz really works behind the scenes, I bet this is at least the flavor of what happened in this case.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at July 8, 2005 05:40 PM

Me sis had the same problem...

Posted by: Infinity at July 8, 2005 06:18 PM

Manni: Just out of curiosity, where in Maine were you routed through?

I know PWM has not had international service for a while now (Even though it's name is the Portland international jetport...)

And I didn't know that any airlines are making connections in BGR...

It seems like orbitz put you on a bad itinerary to start with on that flight...

On annother note, I am currently talking to a friend who just flew into Portland from Minnesota. Somehow, she ended up flying to a connection in Chicago from MSP, and ending up in Manchester, NH about an hour and a half drive from her final destination in Portland, Maine. I am guessing she booked online also, because Northwest flies a direct flight from MSP to PWM that would have saved her many hours of flight time...

Posted by: Kevin (Not the one that posted a comment above) at July 8, 2005 08:34 PM

Yep, Orbitz pulled the same bait and switch on me... showing a low price then jacking it. What a waste of time. I ended up finding a MUCH better deal anyway directly throught the America West website. Oh, and AW's site didn't try to LIE to me about prices AND had a MUCH, MUCH quicker and better user interface than the Orbitz "lie-fest".

I've written off Orbitz... bye-bye...

Posted by: Cowicide at July 9, 2005 12:32 PM

Orbitz gets purchases a bulk set of tickets that only they can sell. At a determined time before the flight takes place the tickets refer back to the airline or if the airlines sells have exceeded their projected sells they may call to buy back some tickets from Orbitz. That is why it is important to book early, when using a service like them. So the tickets being reserved 3 weeks in advance will be cheaper than 3 days in advance because then you are paying the normal rate.

You said in your post that you went back later to choose the flight but not how long later. Example round trip July 30 to Aug 6 flight New Orleans to Chicago $168. If I reserve these tickets on July 27 the price will be $318 because I'll be paying the standard fare and not the discount that can be achieved by Orbitz bulk purchase.

Posted by: kent at July 9, 2005 03:47 PM

The same thing happened to me... at one point I was about to buy a ticket, and (e-tickets wern't available with the airline) the cheapest option to send me the tickets was FedEx two-day: for $20 extra!

Posted by: Alesh at July 9, 2005 04:57 PM

To echo earlier comments -- the bait and switch result is most likely if you spend a lot of time on the Orbitz site looking at different flight options -- i.e., surfing around and trying different airports, shifting your departure or arrival days slightly, etc. Orbitz (and priceline, and travelocity, and most online airfair sites) are allowed to "log in" and change as many airfares as they like on their site something like 16 times a day -- so if they get a lot of activity for a particular city for a particular flight time, they up the prices. If you're trying to get a flight, waiting a little bit and getting back on the site later also works.


Posted by: cmc at July 9, 2005 07:16 PM

I found that out too at Travelocity. We clicked the flights for $422, and found that Travelocity said some kinda error where they came up as $450. Wtf? I don't think it's an *error*, but cheap marketing.

Posted by: Tricky at July 9, 2005 10:21 PM

Caveat Emptor!

Posted by: Bob at July 9, 2005 11:22 PM

I have booked tickets on Orbitz at least three times without any of the problems mentioned here. In all three cases I booked at least a month in advance.

Posted by: Jay at July 11, 2005 09:30 AM

The best site it Hotwire - got a 300$ a night hotel for 100$ and no problems. They also have killer deals on flights...

Posted by: I love hotwire at July 11, 2005 04:11 PM

We need to get Elliot Spitzer on Orbitz ass.

Posted by: DIGS at July 29, 2005 04:10 PM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: