By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 12/21/2006 10:51:25 AM ET 2006-12-21T15:51:25
THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: As a special gift for my 36th birthday, my wife booked a four-day, three-night package tour to Las Vegas through Expedia. She made the reservation by phone and was careful to use my credit card and my name.

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But when I got the itinerary, I saw that it was in her name instead of mine. I called the Expedia customer service line and was told that they not only couldn’t help me, but that the airline I was flying, American Airlines, would charge a $100 fee for any changes.

My wife is certain that she made the reservations in my name. Can you help?
— Yuri Kostun, Dallas

A: If your wife made the reservations in your name, and spoke with an Expedia representative by phone, then there is only one explanation for what happened: the agent made a mistake.

But how do you prove something like that?

Only a few years ago, you couldn’t. It was the agent’s word against yours, and guess which one the company believed?

Today, there are ways of checking to see who’s telling the truth. Remember that message you hear when you call a company’s customer-service line: “This call may be recorded for quality-assurance purposes …”

Well, it turns out it usually is being recorded. Expedia tapes most of its calls, and can listen to a conversation if necessary to find out what was really said. And after both of us asked Expedia to review the tape, that’s exactly what the online travel agency did.


Could you have prevented this from happening? Probably. Although Expedia operates several call centers, it is, to use a Web term, optimized for the Internet. In other words, it is at its best when you use its Web interface.

If your wife had booked this trip online, there wouldn’t have been a problem with the name on your airline tickets. She would have had to confirm the name on the ticket and then she would have received confirmation e-mail with the same name. It’s easy to fix the problem earlier (before clicking on the “buy” button) rather than later (when the itinerary is in the mail).

When Expedia checked its phone records, it found that the agent had made a mistake. It apologized for the error and allowed you to rebook your Las Vegas vacation with no penalty.

Christopher Elliot is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at chris@elliott.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site, http://www.csr.elliott.org

© 2006 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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