Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) spend billions of dollars each year enticing consumers to book online, showcasing the ease of using their platform and the money they’ll be able to save.
But digging through Consumer Affairs complaints made during hurricane season for the country’s most popular OTA’s reveals something different. It shows the different side to OTA bookings, one where travelers are left stranded without someone to stick up for them.
There’s no one to turn to
For one Omaha, Neb., customer, a flight to Costa Rica cancelled because of Hurricane Harvey meant hours waiting for Expedia to get in touch with an airline agent who could approve a refund.
“The agent wasted 3 hours of my time waiting on the line for United to answer just to finally hang up assuring me he would call back when he gets an answer from them. He called back maybe two hours later,” a user named Allegra wrote on Consumer Affairs.
Eventually, the user got the agent to give her a refund, but only for one leg of her trip.
“When I asked him the total, he gave me the total to the flight leaving out but not the flight coming back. When I asked about this he said, ‘Oh you want to cancel the return flight as well?’”
After verbal confirmation that a refund would be coming, the user then spent another week checking email for confirmation, but never got it.
“I lost it with them ended up hanging up and three days later I am still waiting on an email and my refund.”
There’s no face behind the phone
“I will never use them again,” a user named Ryan from Greenville, S.C. said of Hotels.com after the website refused to refund money as a state of emergency was declared for South Carolina.
“Hurricane Irma is going to hit Charleston the day we are supposed to check in,” he wrote. “The governor of SC declared SC to be in a state-of-emergency, and Hotels.com held on to our money. They would not refund it.”
With only faceless call-center help, Ryan was left on the hook for the bill, even when it was impossible for him to get to the hotel.
There’s no one to advocate for you
One Travelocity booker had to cancel a fully booked and paid-for trip because of the chaos caused by Irma and Harvey, but is now left on the hook to foot the bill.
“I had to cancel my trip because of the hurricane. Trouble is, the hotel won't talk to me because I booked through Travelocity,” a user called Terry from Ooltewah, Tenn. wrote.
The OTAs work as a middle man between the consumer and the hotel, much like a travel agent. The difference is that when something goes awry, a dedicated agent will be on the phone, making sure his or her client is taken care of.
According to Terry’s complaint, it took Travelocity a full 25 hours to call back.
“Why even bother? Now I am out $200 for a hotel room I cannot use. Lesson learned; I will never again book anything through Travelocity.”
There’s no one with your best interest in mind
When one user, Maria of Melbourne, Fla., was forced to leave east Florida because of Hurricane Irma, Priceline provided an easy way to book a hotel room in north Florida, a safe distance away from the storm’s destruction.
“Booked for 3 days but wanted to add one more day,” Maria wrote. When she called the hotel, she was told that they were full and they couldn’t do six nights, so Maria wanted to cancel and find another place to say.
“Of course Priceline had already charged my credit card,” she wrote.
Maria finally got a representative on the phone to help her with her refund. The good news? Priceline would be able to get her money back. The bad news? It’s going to take up to three weeks.
“How can they sell you a motel room that does not exist?” Maria wrote. “We now cannot find a hotel to evacuate to and are forced to stay here.”