By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 10/6/2010 9:31:50 AM ET 2010-10-06T13:31:50
travel troubleshooter

Q: I have a problem that you may be able to help me with. Last year, my husband, Juan, traveled to Valencia, Spain. I made his hotel reservations through a travel agency.

When he tried to check in at Melia Rey Don Jaime, it did not have a room for him. He was moved to the Confortel. The rate at the Confortel was nearly three times more than his original reservation. He was charged an extra $1,034.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Wild Mustangs - Cody, Wyoming
      It's A Snap!

      TODAY.com readers share their photos from around the world. Upload your photos for a chance to be featured in the weekly gallery. Full story

    2. Male flight attendants do the 'Safety Dance'
    3. Want a low holiday airfare? Book now
    4. Fall getaways for grown-ups — minus the kids
    5. Hotel guest: Valet-parked car taken on joyride

Juan was told to call the reservation company, Utell, which promised to straighten this out when he returned home. After he came back to the states, he submitted his receipts to Utell.

But Utell recently told me that the hotel property is no longer with their company and that I would have to deal with the hotel in Spain on my own to get a refund. Can you please help me?
— Olivia Suarez, Albuquerque, N.M.

A: Your husband shouldn't have had to pay the difference between the hotel he was supposed to stay in, and the one he was sent to.

If the Melia Rey Don Jaime was overbooked, then the commonly accepted hotel industry practice is to "walk" you to a comparable hotel. Most hotels will cover any rate difference, which means you would only have to pay the rate you were quoted by the first hotel. It is also supposed to reimburse you for any transportation expenses to the new hotel, plus a phone call.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

It's unclear to me why that didn't happen, or how Utell eventually got involved. If the Melia Rey Don Jaime didn't "walk" your husband, he should have phoned your travel agent, who could have applied some pressure to the hotel to honor the reservation at another hotel.

No one should have told Juan to contact Utell. Roping in Utell, which offers reservations services to travel agents, is like telling someone with a complaint about a restaurant meal to contact the food wholesaler. This should have been handled between your husband's hotel, your travel agent, and you.

Once you asked Utell for help, it should have punted this back to your agent or your hotel to sort the problem out. Again, it's unclear why that didn't happen, and why you were left to negotiate directly with the hotel. I think the time to have done that was when your husband was standing at the check-in desk, without a room. That's when issues like payment need to get sorted out — not weeks after you've returned home.

Since Utell promised to help you, I contacted the company on your behalf. It sent you a check for $1,034.

© 2010 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments