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Orbitz Worldwide, Inc.


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Some background

My girlfriend and I are flying from different cities to visit my family over the holidays. I'm leaving from Phoenix, she from the San Francisco bay area. We chose our flights in order to meet up in Chicago before continuing to the smaller regional airport servicing Grand Rapids, Michigan. Arriving and leaving on the same flight would make things simple for the folks back home.

Her flight to Michigan was a one-way ticket as she'd be returning to Phoenix with me for New Years to do her family stuff.

A couple weeks ago the second leg of our trip to Michigan was postponed by three hours. This is a 45 minute flight that takes us about 150 miles. If we were to drive it, it would only take two hours.

Thanksgiving Weekend

We're together visiting her mothers (yes plural) and she call Orbits to see if its possible to cancel and be reimbursed for the second leg. If that's not possible we want to know if there's any penalty for skipping the flight and just driving around the lake.

The Orbits agent she was speaking with talked with her for about two minutes before informing us that he would need to consult US Airways. When he returned, he helpfully announced that the entire reservation had been canceled and that she would be receiving a reimbursement in a couple days. This is nowhere near what was requested. She spent the next three hours trying to convince Orbits of their mistake and get an equivalent ticket at the same price (no luck).

Thankfully it was only a one-way! She still had her flights back to Phoenix.

This past weekend

We both received calls that our return flight from Grand Rapids to Chicago is canceled. We can either accept the change with no refund, or be reimbursed for the entire Grand Rapids to Phoenix trip. Since buying tickets now would be much more expensive, she sensibly decides to drive to Chicago.

I then call Orbits to arrange the same thing and get an updated copy of my itinerary. I'm very careful to explain that I want nothing canceled, that I'm happy to board in Chicago, and that I just want a list of flights I'm on. This requires a call to US Airways for which I'm put on hold for about 45-minutes. When the Orbits representative returns she happily informs me that my reimbursement is on its way. :surprise:

These reimbursements are very efficient by the way. They take a matter of seconds and are irreversible.

I think its a great business strategy if you can keep your customers: sell a future service cheaply which enables the reserving of other expensive or hard to coordinate activities, and when the prices rise, "accidentally" cancel the contract and re-sell the same thing!

I've since re-booked some less convenient flights directly through the airlines at a $150 premium. I'm hedging my bets this time by booking two one-way tickets with two different airlines.

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I think it was on our forums that I learned airline and rental car companies view customers with tickets purchased thorough orbitz as second rate customers.

So I now use orbitz to find the lowest fares, then buy directly from the airlines.


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