“Since our travel agents’ businesses are built on repeat customers, typically in local communities, it’s in their best interests to work in their client’s best interests as true advocates on their behalf,” he told me. “Treat them poorly, and they’ll never come back and let others know. But give them what they want, and they’ll keep coming back and offer referrals.”
He added, “If they right a bad situation, they have customers for life.”
But even if the buck stopped with Travelocity, there’s still plenty of blame to go around. One of the airlines should have owned up to the lost-reservation problem, preferably the carrier that owned the ticket: United. And the code-share partner could have done more than offer a few miles to fix the problem. But passing the buck is becoming far too easy in an age of electronic transactions, in which the airline you’re ticketed on isn’t necessarily the airline you’re flying on.
Airline code-sharing is, without question, beneficial to airlines like United and Lufthansa. Not only are they allowed to legally share passengers and other resources, but they are given the government’s blessing to stop competing on certain routes: a “win-win,” as they say in corporate America.
The Transportation Department has taken recent steps to solve some of the problems related to code-sharing. A rule that took effect in April requires carriers to apply the same baggage allowances and fees to all segments of a trip. It’s a good start. Yet a whole list of problems, from disclosure of joint flights to refunds, can still plague those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves on a code-share flight.
I asked Travelocity and United to take another look at the Blazeks’ tickets. Scott Quigley, Travelocity’s vice president of sales and customer care, pointed out that his company handles “millions” of travel reservations without incident every month. “When issues arise, our strong supplier relationships usually allow us to resolve them quickly, conveniently and to the satisfaction of our mutual customers,” he said.
To that end, Travelocity has several departments dedicated to fixing reservations problems. “However, there are still cases where things go wrong for our customers,” he added.
This happened to be one of those cases. Quigley said that Travelocity took a closer look at the Blazeks’ problem and determined that “we could and should have escalated it more quickly with our airline partner.” Travelocity reimbursed the Blazeks in full for their remaining expenses and apologized.
How about United? I inquired about the Blazeks’ tickets. After conducting a “further” review, an airline representative said, “we believe we erred in not refunding the full amount that the Blazeks paid to get home.” United processed a full refund.
I know what you’re thinking: Wait, the Blazeks have been refunded twice, right? Yes, it appears that they have been.
I wonder whether it will take another year to figure out who should get refunded for that error. Stay tuned.
Elliott is National Geographic Traveler magazine’s reader advocate. E-mail him at