The global COVID-19 pandemic has upended the travel industry, sending customers into panic as they race to get refunds and reschedule upcoming trips. For travelers who booked their vacations with online travel agency (OTA) Expedia, the experience is compounded with frustration and anger as they struggle to get a hold of someone on the phone, and worry about potential money lost.
On social media, customers complained of excessively long call times and being unable to get through to a representative, leading to travelers being unable to make any changes to their travel plans or start refunds. Some people said they could not get a hold of someone for as much as 24 hours and one person said they called over 30 times. At one point, Expedia said “we are currently experiencing technical difficulties and can’t take your call right now.”
While airlines and hotels are issuing refunds for bookings made through advisors, those who booked online have to have their cancellation first go through Expedia.
Tessa Zimmerman said this happened to her. “The hotel is willing to give a complete refund, but cannot until you cancel it. Tried calling to cancel trip and your system is down. Please do right by your customers & refund us.”
Expedia’s Twitter page was filled with comments similar to this, with one post from March 13 raking up nearly 700 comments of people trying to get in touch with the company.
I have asked to cancel my flight for tomorrow since March 12. Phone got disconnected & I can't get anyone on the phone for the past 24hrs. So you're not gonna give a callback & just take my money?! I ?? I've been on hold for 2 hrs at a time then disconnected!— little bopeep (@bopeepbaby) March 14, 2020
“Been trying to call #TDforexpedia for 3 days. On hold for 3+ hours and then disconnects,” Anita Fervaha said. Yee Lan Magill, another user, said she was on hold for 10 hours.
On Expedia’s website, the company said its call centers are experiencing extremely high call volumes and long hold times with the influx of COVID-19 travel disruptions piling up.
Jennifer Greene Tweeted “In a state of emergency, across multiple countries, you @Expedia, should NOT need to have a person answer a phone to cancel a flight or hotel or trip. It should be automatic. Shame on you for adding to people’s stress about money and travelling during this time.”
The phones are not working. The virtual assistant is not working and I purchased a waiver for my trip. It's telling me that I can't cancel unless I speak with a CSR. I need HELP!!!! My trip is scheduled for this Friday!!— JunkieXperience (@JunkieXperience) March 16, 2020
While Expedia said it has update its systems to allow customers to manage their itineraries online, some customers said they were still having a difficult time reaching a virtual agent. Eric Lancaster commented it was “still no better than it was.”
Damian Chenot said he was having a similar issue getting through, and was “afraid that we're going to get told to suck it up since we bought non-refundable tickets.”
In response to Damian, Evelyn Alarcon commented: “See what happens when you rather do all the travel plans yourself, to save paying a fee to a travel consultants. The fee would have allow you, to leave everything in the hand of your agent and enjoy the weekend.”
One of the advantages of booking with a travel advisor has always been the human connection a traveler has access to, whether it’s during the booking process or during the trip itself. While the coronavirus is unprecedented, it’s highlighting what has always been true about using a travel advisor – they provide travelers with immeasurable value.
In this case, travel advisors would be the ones rebooking trips and securing refunds, leaving the client at ease knowing someone is working on their behalf dealing with the technicalities of different company policies. It saves the traveler from confusion, panic and worry as they try and go through this process themselves.