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Travelocity's gnome makes amends for human error

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Travelocity's gnome makes amends for human error


Question: I booked four Lufthansa tickets on Travelocity for a flight from Venice to Rome back in January of 2006. However, when I arrived at the Venice airport in June, I was informed that the flight did not exist.

While at the airport, I called Travelocity for assistance, but the call center agent would not book a new flight for me. I called twice because I tried to fish for an agent who could help me, but in my little hell I got the same agent. He kept saying "Sorry, but I can't help." It turns out that Lufthansa cancelled the flight on March 7; however, Travelocity sent me a flight confirmation on March 12.


As a result I had to purchase new tickets at the airport on Alitalia. I expect Travelocity to refund the service fee of $40 for my original booking since no service was provided when I needed it most, refund the $287 difference between the Lufthansa flight and the Alitalia flight, and reimburse the $53 cost of my international calls to Travelocity, for a total of $380.


The Travelocity guarantee is just a marketing tool. When I called for help, I was left to roam alone. If I ever meet the Travelocity Gnome, I am going to take a nine iron to him. But you are the hammer: Can you get Travelocity to reimburse me?


• Scott McMarrow, Batavia, Ill.


Answer: I may be the hammer, but I had a remarkably similar problem with Travelocity this summer. I also booked a flight out of Venice and it too was cancelled, but fortunately I received the email Travelocity sent me. You didn't.


Travelocity's records show that Lufthansa notified it on March 7 that the flight was cancelled, and so on March 8, the site sent you an email alerting you to a schedule change and asking you to contact Travelocity.


Travelocity doesn't just rely on customers to call in response to these notifications. Its system also automatically notifies reservations agents to follow up directly with customers when flight changes occur within 90 minutes of a connecting flight, cause a missed connection, or if a flight is cancelled, according to Travelocity representative Joel Frey.


But on March 12, Travelocity sent you a confirmation email. This one verified your flight date and time, and even gave you the tracking number for your paper ticket delivery—even though the airline had cancelled your flight five days before.


So how could Travelocity confirm a flight that didn't exist? Human error: A reservations agent mistakenly entered the wrong code into your record, which generated the confirmation email. The agent was actually trying to send you a message asking you to contact Travelocity immediately.


My own flight snafu involved one cancelled leg out of a four-flight, round-trip itinerary. Travelocity sent me an email notification that the airline made a change to the "flight schedule/flight numbers," but didn't highlight the fact that my Venice-New York flight had disappeared entirely. And the email didn't ask me to call, in fact, it assured me that all was well with my itinerary.


It took several calls to customer service and a lot of time on hold, but Travelocity rebooked my missing flight. However, it wasn't able to send me written confirmation, nor could it update my itinerary on the "My Stuff" folder on the site. I was dubious, but flew without a problem.


Travelocity agreed to reimburse you $340 in expenses, which it posted to your credit card. It paid for the difference in the airline ticket charges and for the international cellphone calls you made from Venice. But Travelocity declined to refund the $40 in fees, half of which was the charge for sending paper tickets to you by overnight delivery.


But listen, Scott, I hope you reconsider that nine iron. In an attempt to instill some warm and fuzzy feelings about its roaming gnome, Travelocity is also sending one for your home, so you'll have your very own red-hatted kitschy mascot.


How can you avoid trouble?


Add the booking site's domain name to your email safe list. Spam filters may divert legitimate notification emails to your spam folder, or just delete them outright. All Travelocity emails will come from @Travelocity.com, so adding the domain to your spam filter will ensure they make it to your inbox. "In cases like this, the feedback we most often receive from customers is that an email from us was never received," says Frey.


Check your itinerary before you go. Travelocity keeps your travel plans in "My Stuff", Orbitz calls it "My Trips", and Expedia's moniker is "My Itineraries." Log on and look over the details of your trip to make sure you're up-to-date on any changes. Travelocity recommends rechecking 24 hours before domestic flights, 48 hours before international ones.


source: USAtoday Travelocity's gnome makes amends for human error - USATODAY.com

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