Thursday, January 26, 2012

An Expedia Experience

I have been having successful luck with making international flight arrangements with Expedia. I am going to Romania in May on a Global Volunteers service trip. I need to be in Bucharest on a certain day by 3:00 PM and leave two weeks later on a certain day not earlier than 2:00 PM. My original reservation was a flight from Minnesota to Amsterdam, leaving on Thursday evening and arriving in Amsterdam on Friday morning and then departing for Bucharest on the next day. My reverse trip follows the same pattern, up to Amsterdam on a Saturday and then home to Minnesota on Sunday. I have a perfect hotel reservation at an on-site airport hotel in Amsterdam on both ends of the Romania trip.

Today I got a phone call  from Expedia about 10  AM my time explaining that Czech Airlines, the company that had my intra-European  flights is making significant changes to its schedule and that I needed new arrangements for the flights between Amsterdam and Bucharest. We talked a long time on the phone making a new plan, one I wasn't happy about, but could live with. Then I went to work and in a meeting for several hours. When that was done I looked at the e-mail with the new arrangements, taking me to Paris and then Bucharest and each time on the wrong dates with some wrong times for the schedule I must maintain to be part of a Global Volunteers team.

So first I went back to Expedia and found there is a perfectly good flight from Amsterdam to Bucharest, even though the first agent was telling me I had to go on 7 PM flight and spend a night in Prague before flying back.

So I called Expedia and told them all the problem. I spent 45 minutes on hold after telling an "expert agent" what I wanted. Then the phone went dead. I called back but in the meantime looked at e-mail and found, to Expedia's benefit, that someone had tried to call back on cell phone except it was right beside me and never rang, nor does the phone show a missed phone call. Maybe my present office is in a "dead" spot, but I was later able to make calls out on my cell phone, so I'm assuming they should come in. (And in fact when I was on my land line phone --story below -- trying to call Expedia again, my cell phone rang, so I don't know what happened to this call back.)

So back on the phone with yet another person explaining this over and over. They just couldn't seem to get the idea to leave my Minnesota to Amsterdam flight alone and find me another flight from Amsterdam to Bucharest. Then after 17 minutes of this the phone call was disconnected again.

In a few minutes Expedia called me back and said the disconnect was their fault. After 11 minutes of begging, the agent finally agreed to cancel my whole itinerary with them, rather than "trying to find  you more options." I'd been trying for "new options" with various people for over an hour, and that's why I wanted to cancel and just do the new reservation myself. Finally the agent relented and agreed to cancel my flights and did send a confirming e-mail saying the money would be refunded without any penalty.

I went online and booked one ticket to and from Amsterdam for my desired dates, and then booked another ticket for Amsterdam and Bucharest and back. This took me about 10 minutes! Unfortunately, this new reservation cost me at least $200 more than the original reservation.

The Expedia agents just spent too much time "trying to find new options." I have no idea what method they use. I find their web site user friendly and informative. Perhaps the Expedia agents should use a better information system than "trying to call the airline."


Shaz said...

And just how much money did you 'lose' while on hold with Expedia? Sometimes it is just better to skip the middleman.

Lori said...

I tried to mult-task when using the land line and keep getting some work done. However, I had to come home after finishing this all off around 6: 30 PM in my office and do some of the work I could have done had I not been occupied with being on hold.The first call came on my cell phone so that chewed up some minutes. I'm really trying to figure out why the customer service people don't gather information, let the customer go until they have some answers and then call the customer back rather than expecting people to remain on hold for up to 45 minutes. In the e-mail that arrived after the first disconnect, it says they can only do customer help via voice. Why not any type of Internet chat? I can do financial questions/arrangements with my credit union that way and they can maintain necessary security -- if that's the question.