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elaine Nov 3rd, 2004 09:10 AM

Orbitz, change in itinerary, and resolution
I just thought I'd share an experience as food for thought.

Several months ago I booked tickets via Orbitz (using Orbitz for the first time) for a RT to Paris in mid-December. The time in Paris was to be only 4.5 days (I've been before.) The ticketing was on BA from JFK, then a change at Heathrow to British Midlands airline for the short hop to Paris. The time between the flights was about 80 minutes. I received paper tickets from Orbitz and all was well.

Just yesterday for no particular reason I looked at "My Stuff" on the Orbitz website and noticed that the itinerary listed there no longer matched the flight times on my tickets, and that suddenly my layover at LHR was more than three hours, getting me into Paris in mid afternoon and so losing most of that day. On a short trip, it's significant.

I went to the Customer Service section of the Orbtiz website and sent an urgent inquiry, and as a confirmation I was promised a response in either three hours or as soon as possible after that. Since a telephone number was also provided, I put in a call. I was on hold for literally 65 minutes (my phone shows this on a display) until I gave up. I hung up and tried again a few hours later and I stayed on hold for another 49 minutes, until finally an agent picked up. My frustration had been building due to the amount of time on hold, but the agent was helpful.

When I explained that I had not previously received notice of the change in flight times and that I'd discovered it by accident, he told me that an advisory email had been sent to me about a month ago. He also said that these advisories are sent as bulk emails, and therefore some email systems may block them as spam, or the recipient may not see them if their bulk emails are routinely deleted without being read.

When I explained to the agent that the revised flight schedule was unacceptable to me, he put me on hold for a few more minutes while he contacted BA and BMI, and he reported back that they agreed to allow me to cancel the tickets without penalty. I mailed back the tickets today and I see that my Orbitz 'My Stuff' indicates that the trip has been cancelled. I am optimistic about receiving a credit on my credit card account.

Advice #1: explore filters within your email inbox or bulk emails, to route
incoming emails to your regular Inbox (not Bulk) if a particular sender, such as or, or whomever, is sending you a message.

Advice #2: I still believe that it is best whenever possible to be the airline's (or hotel's) direct customer by booking with them whenever possible. Orbitz and Expedia and others make good fare search engines, but as long as the airline itself will honor the lowest available fare, I'd just as soon book directly with the airline and see no reason to do otherwise. In this particular case it was two different airlines, so I consider myself lucky that both of them agreed to cancel my tickets. The Orbitz agent made it clear that it was their decision, not Orbitz's, he was just expediting.

Advice #3: If you do deal with Orbitz, be prepared for VERY long on-hold times if you want to speak to a person. The agent told me that the wait times I experienced are typical, not unusual.

Advice #4: Even if you receive paper tickets or etickets directly from an airline, continue to regularly confirm the original arrangements right up until the day you leave. If I'd not discovered this change until I arrived at my departure airport, I would have had no opportunity to work on this or to explore other options.

I do plan to rebook the trip for Dec or Jan.

TopMan Nov 3rd, 2004 09:21 AM

I wholeheartedly agree with dealing directly with the airline whenever possible and you'll save the booking "fee" as well.

However, I would caution that I have had the same "never got the e-mail" experience that you did and I WAS dealing directly with an airline.

Checking periodically for possible changes in itinerary is an excellent idea I think and prevents nasty surprises later.

111op Nov 3rd, 2004 09:23 AM

It's good that you got to cancel.

I would look at the experience a little differently. Perhaps Orbitz is rather flexible with cancelations?

I've my own story to offer. When I booked a ticket on Orbitz a couple of weeks ago (story probably still here, if you click on my name), I had to cancel right away. They actually had a courtesy cancel. So I canceled my flights with a handling charge. I was actually able to dial in right away.

Two years ago, I had a question on a flight I booked with them, and again I dialed in fairly easily.

Probably I was just lucky. But your story, apart from the wait time, actually seems to suggest that Orbitz is not that bad.

Good advice all in all, of course.

TexasAggie Nov 3rd, 2004 09:24 AM

Hi elaine,

Thanks for sharing your experience. We used Orbitz for our honeymoon and experienced a very similar problem. Our flight times changed and we never received the email that Orbitz sent. We were connecting through Chicago and our layover went from 2.5 hours to only 50 minutes. We had to sprint through the airport and just barely made our flight to Rome. It was pretty stressful, not the way for a honeymoon to start out.
I definitely agree with the points you made above about things to consider when using a flight consolidator like Orbitz.

111op Nov 3rd, 2004 09:27 AM

By the way, my personal experience, which is not extensive, suggests that Orbitz is usually quite good for multiple stops. To book a round-trip from NYC to London or Paris, say, usually the airlines are cheaper (Orbitz tags on a handling fee) (or else the consolidators are good).

For some reason I prefer Orbitz to Expedia. Expedia is never competitive whenever I've looked. But other people probbaly have different experiences.

letour Nov 3rd, 2004 10:29 AM

Thank you very much for alerting us to the Orbitz phenomenon. I just made my first reservation through them last week, and I will try to review my arrangements with them over the next couple of months. Has anyone ever tried confirming the seats that one has arranged with Orbitz with the carrier itself? I suppose it's not possible to do that, but I don't have much experience the Orbitz model.

111op Nov 3rd, 2004 10:31 AM

I don't think that you can "confirm" the seats -- but you can certainly call the airline directly -- it should have you listed as a passenger. The airline can advise you of schedule changes.

Ann41 Nov 3rd, 2004 12:11 PM

elaine--stay on top of getting your refund. I would call back on Monday if it hasn't hit your credit card yet. And don't let them tell you it takes x number of days to process a CC refund. That simply isn't true. Refunds take a matter of about 1 minute, and even if they have a lot to process, they'll do yours first just to get you to stop calling.

elaine Nov 3rd, 2004 12:30 PM

I wasn't intending to slam Orbitz per se, and as someone pointed out above, their agent was able to help me with my problem. Don't know if I was just lucky or if I should just be thankful to the airlines themselves. My criticism of O. is really just with the amount of time I was on hold, and how hard it is to reach a person to talk to.

My advice about trying to book directly with service providers (airlines, hotels, etc) as well as to frequently reconfirm one's arrangements is not based on my having used Orbitz, it generally applies I think to all consolidators and service providers.
And that email notifications are clearly not fool-proof.

ecat Nov 3rd, 2004 01:21 PM


Good catch on your part Elaine. I'm currently on hold with Orbitz only 8 min. into what may be a much longer hold time.

I'm in the process of trying to get my past ticket issue resloved - it's been 3 weeks to the day since I started the recovery process.

We were in Rome and missed our return flight home due to a printing error on the actual tickets, I had even confirmed with the airlines direct. We ended up having to fly out 3 days later and paying the change fee along with hotel, transportations, meals ect.

Wish me luck.

elaine Nov 3rd, 2004 01:31 PM

consider luck wished

isabel Nov 3rd, 2004 03:29 PM

I realize no one here is slamming Orbitz, but I just wanted to point out that I just last week bought tickets from New York to London on Orbitz (Virgin Atlantic, late March) for $448 and the same flight on Virgin Atlantic's own website was just about $100 more. So you really can save. Of course you should always check the airline's own sites. I also recently purchased tickets for my husband for a US trip and they were $6 LESS on Delta than Orbitz (same flight). And the same week I bought a ticket for my daughter (Boston to London) and found it cheaper on than on Orbitz (but both were significantly less than the airline's own site). So you never know. One of the reason's I do like Orbitz is that they always (at least in the past) seem so good about sending emails whenever there is any change in schedule.

Margie Nov 3rd, 2004 04:04 PM

Just wanted to say that we had a problem last year with a ticket we booked on Orbitz and they were more than helpful getting everything resolved. I called customer service and must have hit it at the right time because I didn't wait long for someone to come on the line. The agent was extremely helpful and courteous and it sounds like Elaine's experience (except the length of being on-hold) was similar. The advice given here to check as many possible reputable site for fares is very good as I have found that no one site is consistently the best. Sometimes the airlines websites have the best fares and other times they are beat out by sites such as Orbitz. I think that the service at Orbitz is slightly ahead of some of the others as they actually attempt to help you!

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