Travel

GRACE ON THE CASE: Expedia said the cheapest prices were for new customers only

My fiancé and I booked a trip to Antigua in November to get married, just the two of us, for this January.

We had to cancel, due to Covid, with our flights totalling £1,149.96. Expedia gave us flight credit to that amount and said we could use the credit with British Airways, who our original flights were with.

I tried to re-book some flights, via Expedia, for April that were priced at £720.36, some £400 below our credit. 

Not so premium service: A couple due to get married in Antigua were charged more than new customers would be when re-booking their flights

Not so premium service: A couple due to get married in Antigua were charged more than new customers would be when re-booking their flights 

Therefore, we looked to upgrade to Premium Economy at a cost of £1,716.36 – or £560 more expensive than the credit we had.

However, after much time spent trying to get through to Expedia, I was told the change of booking, inclusive of upgrade, would cost us £1,004 more as the prices advertised were for new bookings only and not those re-booking. How is this fair?

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: It is fair to say the service you received from Expedia was less than premium.

You are unfortunately just one in a long line of customers who has had their holidays ruined due to the coronavirus.

Many have had their flights cancelled with thousands waiting months on end for refunds.

Like thousands of prospective holidaymakers, you had to cancel your flights due to the ongoing pandemic but decided to hedge your bets on re-booking for April as the vaccine rollout continues.

It is worth pointing out there that you only booked in November 2020, so it was a gamble given the pandemic state of play – but, Expedia, and other travel firms, are accepting bookings so it the industry must have believed there was a chance for trips to take place. 

You also said you booked before the winter lockdowns were announced and knew you would both be able to self-isolate between Christmas and your original departure date to be as safe as possible. 

When you called the number advertised on the website, you were bounced through Expedia’s automated options before finally dealing with a human based in Arizona.

The agent took the details of the new flights, and put you on hold to find out the price. However, you claim they left you hanging for an hour.

As you lost patience, you hung-up and received a call later with a brief apology and informed the change of booking for the new flights, inclusive of the upgrade, would cost you and your fiancé £500 each.

Confused as to why this quoted price was almost £500 more expensive than the website, you apologised, presuming you had got the dates wrong and said you would call back later after checking dates on the website.

After checking and realising there was no mistake, you contacted Expedia again through the online chat function, providing the agent with the new flight details and asking for an upgrade.

Expedia told customers re-booking flights they would have to pay more than new consumers

Expedia told customers re-booking flights they would have to pay more than new consumers

Expedia told customers re-booking flights they would have to pay more than new consumers

However, this time you were instead quoted with a price increase of over £502 each, making the total bill £2,153.96.

Querying why the price was so much higher than that advertised on their website you were told the online prices are for new bookings whereas those re-booking a customer-cancelled flight warranted an increased price.

You asked to speak to an Expedia manager to discuss this but despite promising to call within 24 hours, they never got in touch.

A second online chat with them days later resulted in the firm increasing the Premium Economy flight quote to £2,560.36 for the two of you.

This included your flight credit of £1,149.96 and a £1,410.40 ‘fare difference’ despite these still being advertised on the Expedia website at a total of £1,716.38.

GRACE ON THE CASE 

Our new weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

[email protected]

Understandably, you were incredibly frustrated by Expedia and its customer service as well as the fact the holiday booking site expected you to pay out over a thousand pounds simply because you were forced to cancel your existing booking.

I contacted Expedia and asked it to explain itself and why its policy favoured new customers, leaving existing ones with few options.

An Expedia spokesperson said: ‘In this instance, the customer should have received the rate seen on Expedia.co.uk and we apologise for any miscommunication regarding this. We will contact the customer directly about this immediately.’

It booked in your flights at the rate shown on the site, meaning an extra cost of £560 for the two of you. 

To apologise for any inconvenience, it has also agreed to give you a £100 hotel coupon to use on their next Expedia booking. 

It is likely you were charged more as airlines and other travel booking sites often use dynamic pricing meaning that prices for new customers and existing customers can fluctuate.

This has resulted in quite a few instances of people having to pay more for their rebooked flights or holidays due to demand increasing or dates changing to peak travel times.

You are now happy with the outcome. However, if you have now rebooked, you might facing more woe with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this week suggesting all holidays could be off the cards this year… 

Without insurance to protect you, it is currently difficult to see at trip to Caribbean happening in the next eight weeks or so. 

STILL ON THE CASE: Yet another VWFS story 

A couple of weeks ago, GOTC covered a story about a widow who was asked to pay out thousands to Volkswagen Financial Services to pay off her late husbands car finance plan, despite the firm initially saying all necessary payments had been made.

Since then, I was contacted by another reader who had a different problem with the company. 

Jack bought a Seat car on finance from VWFS in June 2020. Unfortunately in July, he was involved in an accident in which his car was then written off. 

His insurance company requested a settlement figure from VWFS and the insurer paid the settlement figure they were given. 

Jack then tried to buy a new car, however, he was advised that there was still finance outstanding on his old car and he could therefore not get finance on a new one. 

However, when he contacted VWFS about this, it said this was an admin error and the file was clear.  

Jack is serving in the Armed Forces and therefore is away for long periods of time and in October 2020, when he was on leave, he received a letter stating that he owed VWFS £3,624.47.

After contacting it again, he was told once again the balance was nil. However, Jack then received two further letters in November and December requesting payment. 

A debt recovery letter was also received in January 2021 stating that VWFS was going through a debt recovery process. 

His father called the company on his behalf as Jack was waiting to be deployed and was offered a £700 reduction to the ‘outstanding’ amount but he believed this was unfair and did not accept the offer. 

The ongoing issue has caused Jack and his family plenty of stress and grief – especially as Jack is unable to always respond to the letters sent immediately.  

Clearly, this sounds like an error on VWFS’ behalf and so I contacted the firm to understand why it was consistently giving conflicting information to its customers. 

Fortunately, it agreed to write off the balance and clear Jack’s credit file. It did not provide any information about why the confusion had taken place. 

A VWFS spokesperson said: ‘We are unable to comment on individual customer cases, however in this situation we are currently working with the customer to agree the best solution moving forward. 

‘We ask all of our customers to inform us immediately if their vehicle has been written off in order for us to provide the most appropriate solution. 

‘We apologise for any confusion caused during our conversations with Mr P and on this occasion we are able to offer the customer a solution which hopefully resolves this matter.’

I’m glad that Jack can now focus on his upcoming deployment and not have to worry about a debt hanging over his head. 

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: This week, Jessica, got in touch to say her elderly grandmother, who I shall refer to as Ms B, bought £150 worth of beauty products from Look Fantastic in November but the delivery failed to arrive.

At the time, Ms B sought a refund through the online portal but found this difficult to operate despite being very technically savvy. 

Jessica found this out and offered to help. Her grandmother was vaccinated very early on and in early January, she received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

She waited two weeks before going inside her grandmother’s home to help her send in a form stating she had received no delivery.

However, Look Fantastic reviewed the form and said the parcel was delivered to the property by the courier and because there are pictures of it in the hands of ‘the household’, no refund is due. 

One consumer found her delivery hadn't arrived despite the seller saying it had been delivered

One consumer found her delivery hadn't arrived despite the seller saying it had been delivered

One consumer found her delivery hadn’t arrived despite the seller saying it had been delivered

After I contacted Look Fantastic, saying no photo had been shown to Ms B to prove the delivery, it turned out the full address wasn’t provided on the order, with the flat number omitted. 

The delivery was made successfully to the address provided but not to the flat as that number was not available.

A Look Fantastic spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry Ms B had this experience. Once this was raised as a disputed delivery, we initiated an immediate investigation through both our customer service and fraud protection scheme to ascertain what happened. 

‘In this case the full address wasn’t provided, with the flat number omitted, when the order was made. The item was delivered in good faith to the address provided and an individual took delivery of the parcel, with a photograph taken of the item at the address provided.

‘We recognise and acknowledge that Ms B did not receive her goods and we have offered the customer a full refund and an additional credit on her account as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience caused in resolving this issue.’

Fortunately, your grandmother has now received a refund. Here’s hoping it doesn’t put her off using the internet to shop again – and it always pays to doublecheck your address.

Hit: Perhaps surprisingly, given recent events, reader David is this week heaping praise on budget airline Ryanair.

He said: ‘Last year my holiday flight with Ryanair did not go ahead. It had been booked in 2019 but when Covid came along in 2020 it was a flight cancelled by the company themselves and I was offered a credit note, free transfer or full refund.

‘I opted for the refund and although it didn’t initially arrive, a web chat conversation and prompt follow up email confirmation from Ryanair resulted in my original payment method receiving the funds a few weeks later in full.

‘A second flight for this March has also now been cancelled by Ryanair, although to be fair, I had given up any hope of travel some months ago. Again, I opted for a refund and have now received confirmation that it too has been processed.

‘The company does get a lot of stick and abuse. All I wish to say is that in my experience, although they may not have covered themselves with glory on all occasions, they aren’t the scoundrels and rascals some would have us believe.’

It is nice to hear some positive news about airlines and their customer service after an incredibly difficult 12 months for the aviation industry and its customers.  

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