As someone with a she’ll be right attitude, it’s unprecedented for me to leave for an airport early. Normally I get there with just enough time to spare because I only have one carry-on bag and anyway, ‘what the heck could possibly go wrong?’
This time was different though. I was in India.
Little did I know, leaving a full 4 hours early wouldn’t be enough to account for the pure incompetence of the people at Expedia. A flight that would normally take a couple of hours (India to Thailand), ended up taking 22 hours! Sure, I can put it down to just another adventure, but even ’till today, the negligibility and arse-covering of Expedia is truly staggering.
Bad Assumption #1
4 hours is enough to deal with the screw ups of Expedia
You see, without a valid ticket, you’re not allowed to step foot into Bangalore airport. I guess it’s a security thing given the unpleasantness next door. The guard directed me to the IndiaSats windows, whatever that means, and for the next 30 minutes I waited and waited some more.
‘Sorry, Expedia didn’t send us confirmation, so your ticket was cancelled. You’ll have to go home and book for tomorrow.’
‘What?! No, no, no. I booked my ticket, if Expedia messed up, well, can’t I book the same seat? Yeah, let me book a seat. I need to be on this plane. I don’t have a home here. I…’ I stopped myself short, realising I sounded more like a desperate boy looking for a prom date.
‘It will cost 40,000 rupees because the flight is full.’
The ticket I had already booked was only 15,034 rupees ($300). I quickly contemplated the offer and asked where I would book this ticket, hoping I could bargain with the airline. He told me there’s nowhere to book a ticket since it was 10pm. ‘Great… thanks for the suggestion.’
I spoke to another lady who suggested I book over the Internet, but she said I had to board before 11:30pm. ‘Okay, that’s more than an hour to fix this mess up.’ But first I rushed off to the phone to call Expedia; they caused this mess, so I figured they’d want to fix it.
Bad Assumption #2
Expedia would want to help solve a problem they created
I saw a cluster of telephones sitting in a shelter outside the airport. ‘Woo hoo’, I thought. There was no slot to pay for the phone, so I just picked one up and dialed. When someone from Expedia answered, I was truly shocked that the phone worked.
The guy found my reservation and said my card didn’t go through. What bollocks. I told him I received a confirmation email saying ‘YOUR BOOKING IS CONFIRMED’, but he said it wasn’t possible.
Let’s rewind a little. Expedia did email me, but guess what, they gave me the number to a sex line. First I called the number with an Indian country code, which led me to a guy speaking Hindi who wouldn’t speak English after repeated requests. I then called with a US country code, which led me to the sex line. I never once heard the word ‘Expedia’ so I wrote back to Expedia (not once, but 3 times!) explaining the problem. After my last email, I promptly received an email back from Expedia saying my flight was CONFIRMED and BOOKED (see above).
I thought they must have made a mistake with the initial transaction, so they tried my credit card again and it worked. Keep in mind my credit card had plenty of latent dosh and was used to book the subsequent flights that resolved this mess (not through Expedia of course, they couldn’t care less).
Bad Assumption #3
When Expedia says a flight is CONFIRMED it means you have a ticket
So the guy on the phone from Expedia (it was about 10:30pm at this stage) told me they never sent that email. He did say they had my other emails on file and he even read the contents of my last email to me. ‘Did you send that?’, he said. ‘Umm, yes, of course I did. Why didn’t you reply?’
He wouldn’t answer and just kept saying my credit card failed. ‘Wait a sec. Why didn’t you reply to MY emails and why did you send me a email saying flight CONFIRMED?’ I quickly realised he was towing some company line and was never going to admit fault. So I quickly adjusted for the futility of it all and moved to DEFCON 3: resolving the problem. I asked him to help me book a seat for tonight and he put me on hold for what was enough time to re-tile the Taj Mahal.
‘Sorry, we can’t help. The flight is still available for 15,034 rupees, but we can’t book it because there’s less than 2 hours until boarding. It’s company policy. Nothing I can do. But you can book on the website.’
‘What?! It’s only 4 minutes passed. And why on the website but not on the phone? Can you book on the website for me? I’m stranded.’
He insisted he couldn’t help at all, or at least until tomorrow, and the clock was ticking, so it was time to move on and deal with someone who at least wanted to help. Thanks for nothing Expedia.
Bad Assumption #4
When you’re stranded, Expedia will want to help (best joke of all)
I tried to use the free Internet at the airport, but there was a 45 minute limit and of course they wouldn’t take international credit cards to buy more credit. That’s right, no international cards at an international airport.
My pulse was banging like new members of the Mile High Club and my fingers were madly tapping on the iPhone as if I were about to be trapped outside Bangalore airport for all of eternity. But it was no use. The 11:30pm deadline came and passed. And then my 45 minutes of free net were up.
I accepted defeat, headed to the Kingfisher airline counter and asked for a flight to Bangkok. They didn’t fly to Chiang Mai, so I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but I planned to deal with it later.
When the lady handed me the ticket, relief swept through my body like the effects of an IV opiate (something I experienced in hospital, of course). I headed back to the security guards at the door with a big grin of victory.
‘That ticket is for tomorrow, you cannot enter until 6am’, said the same guard. ‘What? Tomorrow is like 20 minutes away, can’t I just wait inside? It’s cold out here.’ No persuading would change his mind; more company men, I thought.
So I waited outside the airport, pacing up and down to retain body heat, slurping on coffee from those tiny cups, watching the time in anticipation… and still with apprehension. You see, although it felt like I had overcome a monumental challenge, I was still in the same place. I was stuck outside the airport without any idea when I’d eventually get to Chiang Mai.
As soon as I got into Bangkok, everything went smoothly. I bought my ticket to Chiang Mai, hopped on the plane, and the rest is history. Of course it took 22 hours in total and I’d been awake for 40 hours, but man was I glad to walk into a hotel and drop onto a bed. Almost as glad as when I had my first sip of Thai beer about 2 hours later.
Bad Assumption #5
This was a one-off incident and Expedia would at least apologise
I was still a little bitter about the whole episode because no one would deal with me truthfully. If someone had just said ‘Sorry’ I would have been over the moon and commended Expedia on accepting responsibility. If for nothing else, at least sending me a BOOKING CONFIRMATION by accident. We all make mistakes, so what would be the problem. Ha! Keep dreaming.
I received another email from Ashish Singh, from Expedia, today saying the same ol’ thing. ‘We tried to contact you about a credit card decline.’ Just like earlier, he didn’t want to see proof of the email saying the flight was BOOKED and CONFIRMED. He suggested I never replied to Expedia even though the previous operator had read my last response word-for-word.
You know, I’ve written the whole thing off as just another travel experience, and it was good blog fodder even without the Expedia reference. But Expedia’s response and total denial just drives me nuts. I will never use them again and I really implore you not to either. With so many other options, it just makes sense to go with a company with a reputation for being truthful and helping it’s customers out in times of distress.
Thanks for nothing Expedia!
From the links below, clearly I’m not the only one. These stories sound all too familiar. Not just of glitches, but of a complete lack of accountability and truthfulness. Expedia: the official company of lies.
- Expedia – I will never book anything through Expedia again!
- Why Smart Travelers Should NEVER Book With Expedia
- Why you should never book with Expedia
- Don’t book flights with expedia!!! – TripAdvisor
- My Painful Expedia Refund Process - Never Use Expedia
- 70% People Agree Expedia is a Atrocious (507 opinions)
- There’s plenty more all over the web