Lake Pehoe, Patagonia

I recently posted about my trip to Chile where I visited Santiago and Patagonia. I made these travel plans when I was just getting big into the points and miles game. Mistake number one was paying for my airfare. I needed to fly from Boston to Santiago and then from Punta Arenas back to Boston. I thought Expedia would make my complicated itinerary simpler (mistake number two). Instead, I ended up with a problem that took 12 phone calls (one lasting over 4 hours!) to resolve. I can’t dwell on the 20 or so hours I lost and the tears of frustration I shed thanks to Expedia’s subpar customer service. Hopefully this little incident will serve as fair warning to anyone considering using Expedia for flights.

Booking My Flights on Expedia

Expedia’s search engine is actually pretty great for finding flights. Last year I used Expedia to fly to Buenos Aires and back from São Paulo with no issue, so I figured why not use them again. After searching with Expedia, I knew that Lan would be the best option for this itinerary. For some reason, I was scared to book on Lan. I know that doesn’t really make any sense, and I wish I’d had pushed through this “fear” and just booked with them in the first place!

I booked my flights on Expedia last summer (2016). My itinerary was as follows:

Flights to Chile

  • Boston to JFK on American Airlines
  • JFK to Santiago on Lan

Return Flights

  • Punta Arenas to Santiago on Lan
  • Santiago to JFK on Lan
  • JFK to Boston on American Airlines

The flight was ticketed by Lan with service by American on two legs of the flight. Since my trip wasn’t until January 2017, I kind of forgot about it. However, I’d periodically get emails from Expedia about small changes in flight times.

Lesson #1: Use Expedia as a flight search engine and then purchase tickets for your desired itinerary directly from the airline.

My First Problem with Expedia

In December 2016, I logged into Expedia and noticed that my return flight from JFK to Boston was no longer there. The itinerary was now called Punta Arenas to New York instead of Punta Arenas to Boston.

The flight was canceled and I wasn’t rebooked for whatever reason. I was annoyed because Expedia didn’t even email about this. I’d get an email when the flight time changed by 5 minutes but no warning about an entire leg of my flight being canceled.

Getting this flight rebooked took 5 separate phone calls. I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say I was pretty frustrated at this point.

Lesson #2: Always monitor your flight itineraries for possible changes. It is the airlines job to get you from point A to point B but changes and cancellations do happen. Companies like Expedia may not communicate these changes effectively so it is on you to make sure everything is correct prior to your trip.

My Second Problem with Expedia

After the JFK to Boston flight was rebooked, I was told my itinerary would update the next day. When I logged onto American Airlines to check, I noticed that I had two separate record locators. They showed identical itineraries but with different seat assignments for the Boston to JFK flight.

American Airline Record Locators
Different record locators for the same reservation makes for a lot of confusion

In the process of trying to figure out what happened, I called Expedia who told me to call American who told me to call Expedia who told me to call Lan and so on and so forth. A representative at American Airlines told me that I was in fact double booked for this leg of the flight but they couldn’t do anything about it. She said it was like buying two items from Lord and Taylor (Expedia) and then trying to return one of them at Saks (American Airlines). While I appreciated the analogy, this was less than helpful.

On my almost 5 hour long phone call with Expedia, I finally got the issue resolved. I was mainly on hold this whole time while the Expedia representative called the airlines. American told him there was a problem and that he needed to call Lan. After calling Lan (who said there was no problem), he told me everything was fine. I insisted he call American one last time. He was able to reach a manager that resolved the problem and fixed our seat assignments. He also gave me a $100 voucher since my call was ridiculously long. I was lucky my boss was on vacation because I was able to make this call at work instead of wasting hours of my real life.

Lesson #3: Don’t always accept what the customer service representative says, especially if you’ve heard conflicting information elsewhere.

Weird Stuff That Still Doesn’t Make Sense

After everything was “resolved”, I still had a lot of doubt about it actually being fixed. I knew we weren’t double ticketed anymore, but I still had two record locators for American that were showing different legs of my itinerary. I called American and Lan again to see what was up. One American representative said it was all set. Expedia turned me into a paranoid crazy person so I called again. The next representative told me the reservation was still messed up and that I should call Lan. Lan also saw a problem but needed some information from Expedia that I didn’t have. So I called Expedia again who called Lan who said there was no issue. At this point I didn’t know what to believe and decided to just stop calling. With so much conflicting information from Lan and American, there wasn’t much I could do. Luckily everything was fine when I got to the airport.

A few other weird Expedia things…I had 10 seats assigned to my boyfriend and me for one leg of the flight on Expedia’s website. I tweeted at them to see what was up (I couldn’t bear to call again) and they had no explanation.

Expedia IT Problem
Pretty sure something’s wrong here…

After everything was “fixed” by Expedia, they sent me my updated itinerary…180 times. Not really related to my customer service experience but it made me hate Expedia just a little more.

Expedia IT Problems

Lesson #4: Don’t let Expedia turn you into a crazy person that keeps calling airlines to check on a reservation. It’s hard to trust Expedia, but I should’ve accepted that it was resolved after the manager at American took care of the double booking.

Final Thoughts

Expedia is great at booking flights, but horrible at servicing them. Once something goes wrong, they are basically a middleman between you and the airline. You can’t do anything directly with the airline because Expedia is the one that actually purchased the ticket. It’s now your job to try to get the Expedia representative to say what you need them to say when they call the airline. Luckily, this can all be avoided by BUYING DIRECTLY FROM THE AIRLINE! That is the main lesson I learned here. While Lan and American provided their fair share of confusion, I think this would have been resolved more quickly if I could have handled it directly. And I guess the title of this post is slightly incorrect because I will be using Expedia one last time to redeem my $100 credit. I’ll make sure to heed my own advice and use it for a hotel rather than a flight!

Anyone else have an Expedia horror story?

 

 

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