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April 29, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Expedia customer service

James Callan writes:

My wife and I wanted to travel to Chicago from Seattle with our new daughter. I visited Expedia, picked the dates I wanted, chose Alaska as the carrier I wanted to use, and then selected my departure flight, Alaska flight 28.


After I selected my departure flight, I selected my return flight, Alaska flight 23.


After I picked my return flight, Alaska 23, this screen showed up: "Flights Cannot Be Ticketed Together."


I didn't understand why the flights I selected couldn't be ticketed together. The two flights I selected were operated by the same airline. Both were Alaska Airlines flights, which I even confirmed on

So, I called Expedia's customer service line.

Second thing broken: I ended spending half an hour on the phone.

Third thing broken: when the agent offered to sell me these tickets, I was told "the price just changed," the tickets were now $50 more than they were on Expedia's website. When I asked to talk to a supervisor, he said the same thing. He also mentioned, (in passing), that the reason for the "Flights Cannot be Ticketed Together" error message was because we were trying to buy a seat for my infant daughter, along with our tickets.

Does "Flights Cannot be Ticketed Together" give any clue that the infant ticket is preventing us from buying our tickets together?


Does the error message urge you to call customer service?


Expedia's customer service agent basically said I could buy tickets from them or from someone else. They also said they couldn't sell me tickets for the price on the website because "the price is not confirmed until you purchase the tickets."

I asked the supervisor, "What about the fact that Expedia's own website wouldn't sell me the tickets?" The supervisor's response to my question was, "Not my problem."

My opinion of Expedia during this experience went from highly favorable to probably never doing business with them again.


that sucks

Posted by: gmangw at April 29, 2006 12:42 AM

Holy %&@#, dude. This is one situation where I'd LOVE to hear a response from the company.

Posted by: Kalthare at April 29, 2006 12:48 AM

... the heck? "Not my problem" should NEVER be used in the customer service realm! I wonder if they have a comment form buried somewhere on their website... hehehe...

Posted by: Mnok at April 29, 2006 12:54 AM

This entry just DARES the "not broken" trolls out of their caves. Let's watch 'em tapdance around this one.

If I might, here's the Expedia 7-part promise, direct from their website:

1. We will be direct and straightforward in all dealings with you. (I guess that's where the "Not my problem" comes from)

2. We will respect and strive to honor your personal preferences and needs. (except for infant travelers, they're SOL)

3. We will be available and eager to help you, 24/7. (that is, if you understand "help" to mean "insult")

4. We will do everything we can to ensure that all information is comprehensive and up-to-date. (offer not valid online)

5. We will provide you with a wide array of travel options. (and charge you extra when you want to use one of them)

6. We will work to help you find the best trip for your needs. (if you pay us extra)

7. We will accomplish all of the above, and bring you competitive prices. (price subject to change, does not include tax, title, delivery, undercoating, floor mats...)

Posted by: abcdario at April 29, 2006 01:04 AM

'I asked the supervisor, "What about the fact that Expedia's own website wouldn't sell me the tickets?" The supervisor's response to my question was, "Not my problem."'

Wow, that's just horrible. This makes the Roman Empire seem stable and thriving.

Broken? More like vaporized in nuclear war. I hereby proclaim that any "Not broken" trolls posting here are drunk.

Posted by: game kid at April 29, 2006 01:06 AM

Just today I had some friends leave the US to return to their native Ireland after a visit of three weeks. During their stay here, they wanted to fly to Vegas. Tried to book the trip through Expedia; got to the screen to pay; had to indicate in what country the credit card being used for payment was from. So far, so good. BUT, you had to choose the country from a drop down list, not type it in. Guess what? Although Expedia recognizes over 200 countries, including places we've never heard of, Ireland is not recognized! Had to book the trip on Orbitz 'cause Expedia wouldn't accept the credit card! Now, *that's* Broken with a capital B!

Posted by: bobbyboi at April 29, 2006 05:12 AM

Where's the continue reading link at??

Posted by: Paul at April 29, 2006 10:08 AM

You should always book directly through the airline it's self.

Posted by: someone at April 29, 2006 10:15 AM

"Founded as a division of Microsoft in 1996..."

And you were expecting something beneficial from tech support?

Posted by: =David at April 29, 2006 10:34 AM

Not Broken! :::Tappity, tappity, tap:::

I'm kidding, just playin' with abcdario. This is totally broken and it will make me think twice about using Expedia if that's how they act.

Posted by: Serenity at April 29, 2006 11:42 AM

Well, the message "The price of the tickets has just changed." is used pretty much at any website I know. STA Travel and Orbitz being two to mention. It's just widespread cheating on customers. The trick is that you see the price, see a good one, start the booking process, and when they tell you the price is actually higher, you wouldn't start shopping for something else again (after all the time you've spent). When you actually restart the booking process, you again see the low prices, and when you want to confirm, you get again the same message.

This is BROKEN, but intentionally.

Posted by: pinus at April 29, 2006 12:43 PM

Wow! This showed up.

I'm the guy who submitted this broken thing. After submitting this, a friend of mine who works at Expedia was able to get someone higher up the customer service chain to call me.

We didn't end up buying tickets from them, because they can't sell tickets for infant travelers. (We wanted a seat, not a lap.) But the won't tell you that in the ticket-buying process.

The woman I talked to did apologize, especially once she took the time to replicate the error and figure out that I wasn't just bitching about price changes. (This was several days later, and the error still repeated itself -- same very low price, same inability to purchase.)

Since then, I've bought tix from Southwest. Expedia is still last on my list for agents to check.

Posted by: James at April 29, 2006 01:14 PM

Where's that Travelocity Gnome when you need him?

Posted by: The Gnome at April 30, 2006 02:20 AM

_@_v - makes you wish they had some agency you could go to and have them take care of all your travel plans for you...

_@_v - like they could get airline reservations and reserve a hotel for you and book tours n stuff and find all the good rates and you wouldn't hafta bother about dealing with all the hassles...

_@_v - wish that sorta service existed...

Posted by: shesnaile_@_v at April 30, 2006 02:24 AM

"Travelocity presents: the Roaming Gnome, denouncer of Travel Myths. Our first myth: If you try booking with a travel site, you'll get the shaft."

"Pish-posh! Oh, one's pretty much true."

Posted by: =David at April 30, 2006 08:51 AM

Ouch... nice one, David...

Posted by: Mnok at April 30, 2006 09:42 AM

I've found the trick is to book directly through the airline's website. Use sites like Expedia and Travelocity for window shopping, then go to the airline's website and book your flight there. It may get more complicated when dealing with rental cars and hotels (once again, use the company's website directly -- DO NOT follow links from the airline website to the car rental or hotel website). In my experience this avoids many hassles when things go wrong (notice use of the word "when" and not "if"). I am a frequent traveller and an ex-Travelocity customer myself.

If this is too daunting, use a travel professional. You may pay a service charge, but it is money well spent in certain circumstances. Once you find a good travel agent, stick with that agent for your future travel needs.

Unless you are a true adventurer, avoid the so-called "opaque" travel websites (Priceline, etc.). Travelling with infants or children would make the use of an opaque travel site a definite no-no. You may end up travelling at extremely inconvenient times (your weekend trip may start on Saturday evening and end Sunday morning).

Posted by: eBob at April 30, 2006 10:47 PM

I love Southwest and the name is misnomer because they fly almost everywhere. They have great internet rates if you buy 21 days in advanced and they don't advertise on those stupid sites.

Posted by: JAC at May 1, 2006 12:06 PM

They are evil!!!

Posted by: michael at May 1, 2006 03:37 PM

Overall lesson learned: you can't buy infant tickets online. Different sites are just more or less forthcoming about it. Expedia hides the info, Travelocity encourages you to call, as do Southwest and Alaska.

Posted by: James at May 1, 2006 06:04 PM

Why is an infant ticket impossible to purchase online? Is this yet another "broken" item??

Posted by: christy at May 2, 2006 01:47 PM

> "_@_v - wish that sorta service existed..."

If a travel agent actually managed to find anything halfway affordable that might be an option. Let's face it--they're for business travelers and rich retirees for whom the service level is worth the extra cost. When a customer can save multiple hundreds, even thousands of dollars by using a website, travel agent services lose their luster very quickly. If that weren't the case there would be a LOT fewer websites and a LOT more busy travel agents.

If someone really wanted to revolutionize the segment they would figure out a way to provide the service of an agent and the low cost of a website. I don't think it would even make a lot of difference if they were internet based or bricks-and-mortar: "If you build it, they will come."

Posted by: Hoki at May 2, 2006 08:57 PM

I work at Expedia and also look at this site fairly regularly. I cringed when I read it. I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify a few things.

1. First and foremost, James, yes this is a broken experience. I apologize on behalf of Expedia.

2. James: the response you got when you called 1-800-EXPEDIA is completely unacceptable. We are looking into it. abcdario: Yes this is not living up to our promise and you are right to call us on it.

3. Some of our error messages are indeed extraordinarily unhelpful. It's actually something we have a project to fix. In this particular case, what happened is this. Many airlines request us to issue paper tickets (as opposed to e-tickets) when "infant in seat" tickets are booked. Different airlines have different policies with respect to issuing paper tickets with us (Alaska is one), and today we don't do a good job distinguishing between these policies, which is why it failed. But the error message should have at least said so.

3. bobbiboi: Ireland is not in the list on purpose, unfortunately. We are not licensed as a travel agent in Ireland and believe it or not, we would need to be if we accepted payment from a bank based in Ireland. Many countries have policies such as this, but Ireland enforces it. See for more information.

4. michael: with respect to the page, that's not a realistic portrayal of what anyone should expect. Not denying any of what happened there, but it is two years old.

I realize you all have a choice of where to plan and purchase travel, and we endeavor to do better and earn your trust and your business.

Bill Bliss

SVP, Product

Expedia North America

Posted by: Bill Bliss at May 4, 2006 02:19 AM

I always use the travel websites - but only for research. Why pay (at least) $5/ticket more when you could go directly to the airline's site and buy direct. Also, none of the major travel sites (Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia) provide info on JetBlue, Spirit, and other discount airlines.

If you travel to Europe and want to move around cheaply, check out their discount airlines - RyanAir, ExpressJet, EuroJet, Jet2, EasyJet, these guys are the pioneers of discount travel. Don't know if the travel sites provide pricing on these for these airlines.

Posted by: RomanGod at May 10, 2006 12:24 PM

NB- the purpose of online ticket sites are so you can print out your best price quote and bring it to your travel agent, who will give you a further discount and throw in free visas and consular courier services.

If you are purchasing air fare online you are both anti-social and pro-wasting money.

Posted by: Wu Jie-yin at May 11, 2006 05:48 AM

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