“When I arrived at the Driftwood Inn, they had my name but insisted that I needed to pay them directly,” says Romano, who works for the federal government in Washington, “and at a higher rate.”
He coughed up an additional $157 for his room, paying twice for the same accommodations.
Although stories like Romano’s aren’t as common as they used to be back in the days when online travel agencies used fax machines — yes, the kind that are known to run out of paper from time to time — to confirm hotel reservations, they experience a surge during the summer, when occupancy levels are at annual highs.
After weeks of trying to secure a refund from the Driftwood Inn and HotelPlus, Romano turned to me for help, and I went to work on his case. Jay Desai, a spokesman for the Driftwood Inn, told me that it had reached out to HotelPlus on Romano’s behalf, that the company had agreed to issue a check for $138, and that the Driftwood would refund the money to Romano as soon as the hotel received the payment.
Desai said it “almost never” has problems like that, “but we are working our best to get this refund back to him as fast as possible.”
Desai also suggests that HotelPlus has generated more than its fair share of complaints. I’d never heard of the company, and a closer examination of the site, combined with the fact that the company never responded to any of my calls or e-mails, made me skeptical. Certainly, if you have a problem with a HotelPlus booking, the site makes it difficult to contact a real person.
But what happens if you arrive at a hotel or try to check in for a flight this summer only to find that no one has ever heard of you — or worse, that you have to pay for your reservation again?
Consider Angie Welborn’s recent flight from Kona, Hawaii, to Austin, by way of Honolulu and Los Angeles. She says that a Hawaiian Airlines ticket agent in Kona inadvertently canceled her reservation on her connecting flight. “When we got up to the gate agent in Honolulu and presented our boarding passes, she scanned them and told us that those seats were already taken,” remembers Welborn, an attorney based in Austin.
Hawaiian found room for her on the flight, but in middle seats at the back of the aircraft. “It ended up being one of the most miserable flights of my life,” she remembers.
In situations like hers, when an airline has made the mistake, passengers have certain rights that they may not be aware of.
Hawaiian’s contract of carriage, the legal agreement between Welborn and the airline, would have required it to cover the cost of her meals and accommodations while she waited for the next flight, had it not found a seat for her on her original flight to L.A. Unfortunately, though, the contract doesn’t guarantee that she can avoid a torturous center seat.