Oct. 28th, 2016

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Back in September my uncle died. His daughters had been really marvelous in coming to Mom's memorial service in June so my sisters and all felt that we should go and I thought would be a good chance for Alice to spend time with the cousins on that side of the family, one of whom she hasn't even met, and to see some of the further-flung members of our extended family. Since I do more travel planning than either of my sisters, I went ahead and booked tickets through Expedia for the five of us to fly JetBlue to Raleigh and drive to Lumberton, the ancestral home.

You may have heard of Lumberton--it's the place where Hurricane Matthew flooded the river to 24 feet, closing both I-40 and I-95, trapping people in their homes, leaving the whole place without power or running water. So the memorial service was postponed and there was no reason for us to fly to Raleigh on October 15th.

As soon as I realized this, I called Expedia to cancel the tickets. JetBlue had a special policy in place for people who were affected by the hurricane, but it only applied to travel through October 12th. But, the agent assured me, the airline would give me vouchers for the five tickets, minus a $90 change fee per ticket, and the vouchers would be in my name and I could use them to book flights for whomever I liked, one voucher per ticket. Since we were likely to have to go to Raleigh whenever the memorial service was rescheduled and if not, we fly JetBlue fairly often, this seemed fine to me, although I was bummed about the change fee that would end up costing me $450. But since I knew the tickets were initially non-refundable and I hadn't bought travel insurance, I was pleased with this outcome.

In the meantime, Jason had booked one-way tickets for himself and Alice to fly to Utah right after Christmas (one way because their return travel plans weren't set yet, but last year they lost out on the flight they wanted because Utah is a big skiing destination and by the time he made their arrangements the most convenient flight was sold out). We hadn't heard back from his parents about when Alice should fly home, but we knew when he needed to be back, so I figured I'd use one of the JetBlue vouchers to book his return flight.

On Tuesday, I called Expedia to figure out how to do that. The ticketing agent couldn't figure out how to make it work, so she put me on hold for about 20 minutes and eventually transferred me to her supervisor, who put me on hold a while longer while she called JetBlue, and eventually explained that there had been "agent error" when I cancelled the tickets to Raleigh. Those tickets were non-refundable, so I should not have been told I would qualify for flight credit. But since those were the terms under which I had cancelled our flight and since I'm an Expedia Gold member, they would refund me the full price of the ticket I was rebooking. Why not, I asked, refund me the full amount, so that I wouldn't have to go through this again for each of the other four tickets. No, no, she assured me, she was putting a note in the file and the other tickets would be honored as if I had flight credit, as long as I wasn't changing the names of the travellers. I explained that I was actually very likely to want to do that and asked again if she couldn't just refund the full amount then and she said no, that she was only concerned with the one ticket and it would all be ok the next time, when I should use the special Expedia Gold customer service line to call them. So they refunded me the full price of that ticket and I booked a new ticket for Jason.

Today we got the info we needed to book Alice's return from Seattle at New Year's. So at about 3pm today I called Expedia--the Expedia Gold line this time--and after explaining all of this and sitting on hold while Christina, the agent, consulted first the JetBlue policy and her supervisor was told that their system would not allow them to book an unaccompanied minor ticket using a flight credit and I would need to call JetBlue to see if their system would let them do it. I was dubious, but figured that I would be in a stronger position if I did that, so I called JetBlue and talked with the nicest, friendliest ticketing agent I've gotten in a long time, who apologized for leaving me on hold for so long while she talked to her supervisor and explained that while it did show that I had credit for these flights from Expedia, there was no dollar amount in the system, so they wouldn't be able to use it to rebook Alice's flight, but Expedia totally should be able to. She guessed that what was bollixing up the works was that flight credits can't be applied to fees such as the one for unaccompanied minors, so they'd have to book the ticket with the credit and charge me for the fee. She also gave me a direct Customer Service number that she suggested I use to call Expedia back.

I called back on that number and after the required few minutes on hold, reached Christine, a different ticketing agent who listened to my story, pulled up the file, put me on hold so she could talk to her supervisor, and then told me that the Expedia Gold desk were the ones who could help me, so she transferred me to the Elite Desk. I explained my situation for the fourth time and Matt assured me that he would get it straightened out. He took some more details, tutted over my having been told to call JetBlue, when Christina should have done that herself, and then put me on hold while he talked to his supervisor. When he came back on the line he assured me that it was all worked out and he was putting me through to a ticketing agent who would be able to help me.

When this new agent came on the line, his accent was so thick I could not understand him when he introduced himself. It was so thick, in fact, that I could not track what he was telling me beyond the first few words of each sentence which were "I can't," repeatedly. At this point, dear reader, I confess I lost my temper a bit. He was very patient with me and eventually explained that he was going to call JetBlue and his supervisor and figure out what could be done. With reluctance, but determination to see this through, I agreed to stay on hold and noted the time: 5:42pm.

I sat on hold, during which time I cleaned my desk and caught up on some bookkeeping tasks. Eventually Jason went out to get pizza (we'd been planning to attend the dinner at church for which I had spent two hours earlier in the day chopping nine heads of cauliflower, a dozen cucumbers, and a handful of radishes, but Alice had developed a fever that kept us home for the evening) and I made salad and we were most of the way through dinner when, at 6:39pm, the Expedia guy picked the line back up to say that he was almost done, just had to check one more thing and he'd get back to me. We finished dinner and were in the midst of unloading and reloading the dishwasher when he picked up again to explain that my tickets were non-refundable and I never actually had flight credit from JetBlue, but due to acknowledged agent error, Expedia was willing to refund me the entire amount of the original itinerary, minus the one ticket that had previously been refunded. Why, I asked, didn't they do that on Tuesday and he said, with an expressive sigh, that he was equally mystified and had written stern notes to require additional coaching for both the original ticketing agent and the supervisor from Tuesday, so that they could avoid this type of mistake in the future. He verified my email address for the refund notification, asked if there were anything else he could do to help me today and wished me a pleasant evening at 7:11pm.

Five agents, plus various supervisors and uber-bosses and JetBlue agents and supervisors, and four hours of my time (not counting the time when I cancelled the tickets, or the time I put in on Tuesday) and in the end...I have exactly what I wanted, which was not to go to Raleigh on October 15th and to have every penny I had paid refunded to me.

So, y'know, ok.

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