✈️ Did my travel agent make a mistake — or did Vueling?

The travel agent made a mistake

Howard Tharp and his companions missed their flight to London. But did Vueling change their itinerary — or did his travel agent make a mistake? And who should pay for the new tickets?

Question

I flew from Florence to London on Vueling Airlines with three companions before the pandemic. We had booked the tickets through an online agency called Fareobuddy.com.

A Vueling agent denied us boarding, claiming that we were supposed to have been on a previous flight. But that was impossible. I was holding a valid itinerary from Fareobuddy.com that showed we were on the next flight.

Instead of correcting this mixup by simply placing us on the flight — there were plenty of available seats — Vueling charged us again for this flight. We had to pay $1,184 for the four of us, which also included transaction fees.

After we returned, our travel agency confirmed we had a valid travel itinerary and all contact information was correct. In many contacts with Vueling this past month, they claim we were notified of a change to our itinerary back in April.

I requested to know why and who the notification was sent to as we never requested a change to our initial itinerary. Vueling provided me with the name of another customer. Vueling seems to be adamant that this is our fault. I’ve appealed to Vueling’s executives but have heard nothing back. Can you help me? — Howard Tharp, Seattle

Answer

If Vueling changed its schedule, then it should have notified you — not someone else — about your schedule change. And when it became clear that it hadn’t, the airline should have offered you a quick refund.

Airlines routinely reschedule their flights. When they do, they must notify passengers. Normally, customers have a chance to accept the new flight or decline it and receive a full refund. Something definitely went wrong with your schedule change.

But whose fault was this? Did Vueling screw up or did your travel agent make a mistake?

This one is a little complicated and took months to resolve. But before I get to it, let me tell you how you could have avoided this. Always book with someone you know and trust. (I had never heard of Fareobuddy.com until you contacted me.) Also, check with your airline before your flight to see if you still have a valid ticket. Had you done those two things, you would have had a pleasant and uneventful flight to London.

Did his travel agent make a mistake? Not exactly

It turns out Vueling accidentally charged you twice for your return tickets, so you were actually out $2,181. You tried to file a complaint to Vueling invoking EC 261, the European consumer protection regulation for airlines. But EC 261 didn’t apply to your situation. Vueling insisted it had acted properly.

By the way,  I list Vueling’s executive contacts on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

The paper trail you kept suggests that Fareobuddy.com may have made a booking error. Vueling says it didn’t make a schedule change. Rather, you were never booked on the flights Fareobuddy.com had confirmed.

After some back and forth, Fareobuddy.com and Vueling agreed to reimburse you a total of $400 for your tickets. But that left you about $1,781 short. I asked Fareobuddy.com to review your case again, but it did not respond.

Finally, at my suggestion, you asked the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) to look into the matter. Airlines Ticket Deals LLC, Fareobuddy.com’s parent company, is a member of the trade organization. ASTA has a code of ethics that members must follow.

A short while later, Fareobuddy.com agreed to reimburse you $1,650, which you accepted.


Who wants to fly to Italy?

OK, I realize this case is a blast from the past. But it does put things into perspective. Hey, I’d love to be in Florence right about now, enjoying a pandemic-free vacation. If you need a reminder of what it’s like to fly, here’s my story about crossing the pond a few weeks ago.

Which brings up an interesting question: How much are we willing to put up with in order to get out there and travel again?

Would you be willing to put up with an incompetent airline or travel agent to travel again?

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Posted in The Travel Troubleshooter Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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