By Travel columnist
updated 6/3/2005 2:49:29 PM ET 2005-06-03T18:49:29

Her flight itinerary from Richmond, Va., to Paris that she booked through Travelocity looked fine at first. But when Joyce Wells considered her connection in New York, it became clear to her that she would miss her flight back home. Travelocity agreed, but it refused to fix her flight without a hefty fee – even though it put together the itinerary in the first place. So just who is responsible for making sure you can make the connection? You – or your agent?

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Q: I bought tickets through Travelocity to fly to from Richmond, Va., to Paris, in September.

But when I saw the itinerary, I noticed a problem. When I change planes in New York, I have to transfer from JFK to La Guardia. I only have two hours to do that, and Travelocity agrees that’s not enough time to deplane and collect my luggage, get a travel voucher, drive to the airport during rush hour and then check in and go through security.

The first two people I spoke with, a gentleman named Jonathan in the customer service department and someone named Eric in the reissue department, were polite when I explained my reason for requesting a change. But they told me I would have to pay $389.90 for a new ticket.

I asked to speak to a supervisor and was transferred to Pearl. She spoke to me as if I were an errant child, scolding me for not noticing the problem when I purchased the ticket. I was stunned and asked to speak to her supervisor. Pearl first told me that she was the only supervisor there. I asked again, and she said the supervisor was busy and would just tell me the same thing anyway. I persisted, and was put on hold.

Finally, I got through to someone named Susan. She explained that the itinerary I had selected was designed for people who travel overseas without luggage, and that this was a cheaper flight. She offered to waive $100 of the fee. After hanging up, I checked Travelocity and found that the earlier flight that I would like to be on was actually $75 cheaper than the $803 I had paid.

I appealed to Travelocity’s executive office, to no avail. I asked my local TV station’s consumer segment, 12 On Your Side, to intervene, but it couldn’t do anything, either. Can you help?

— Joyce WellsRichmond, Va.

A: Travelocity is right – and wrong. You should have checked your itinerary at the time of booking. But at the same time, Travelocity shouldn’t have offered you that kind of itinerary in the first place.

I don’t buy the supervisor’s story that this impractical itinerary is for people who travel without luggage. The only kind of travelers who would go to Europe with only carry-ons are business travelers, and they would do anything to avoid a cross-town drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

So what’s going on here? I think Travelocity is trying to rationalize an itinerary its computer shouldn’t have generated. And its representatives weren’t very convincing.

You were correct to escalate your complaint to the next level, even though a representative insisted that there were no more supervisors to talk to. You took your case all the way to the top and in the end, you managed to reduce the cost of your ticket change by $100.

There are two things I think you should have done differently. One would have been to check your schedule before you clicked on the “book” button. Also, you should have considered using a human travel agent. No travel counselor on earth would have stuck you with that ticket.

Fortunately, Travelocity is in the middle of revamping its customer-service procedures. I’ve been assured by the company that it has taken steps to prevent the kind of service nightmare you experienced — particularly the unpleasant interaction you had with Pearl.

Travelocity agreed to change your ticket to a more reasonable itinerary at no charge.

Christopher Elliott is National Geographic Traveler's ombudsman and a nationally syndicated columnist who specializes in solving your travel problems. Got a trip that needs fixing? Send him a note or visit his Web site. Your question may be published in a future story. Want to sound off about a story? Try visiting Elliott's forum.

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