Q: I recently purchased round-trip tickets from Istanbul to Minneapolis using Priceline. The company confirmed my booking, sent me the itinerary, charged my American Express card and sent me the confirmation. A few hours later, Priceline called and said there was a problem with the ticket and that it could not honor the price. It refunded the charges.
I emailed the executive offices many times, and they sent me fluff letters saying, ”Thank you for contacting us about your ‘unconfirmed' trip.” They also told me to start a new search and advised me not to use the ”back” button on my browser. Duh!
After several more emails to them, they told me to try to book it again. I realized they were not listening to me, and I contacted a Delta Air Lines agent, who was so helpful. She researched the problem and discovered that the flight ”deal” I tried to book was not valid from Istanbul to Minneapolis – only from Minneapolis to Istanbul. So even if I had tried to book the flight again, Priceline wouldn’t have honored that price either.
I booked tickets directly with Delta. If Priceline would have tried to fix the problem, or find out why I was having problems, I wouldn’t have gotten irritated. I just checked Priceline’s site today, and it still is offering the incorrect price, almost two months later! I would like Priceline to remove this faulty offer from its webpage and reimburse me the $556 extra that I had to spend to book my flights with Delta. – Sherry Brenneman, St. Paul, Minn.
A: Priceline’s deal should have been honored. Period. If it wasn’t available, the online travel agency should have removed it from its site promptly. There’s no telling how many other travelers were given the same false hope of a special fare, only to have it withdrawn after receiving a confirmation.
I’m also unhappy with the many tone-deaf form emails Priceline sent to you, even after you contacted its executives. It’s possible that you reached out to the wrong managers. I publish a list of the right Priceline executive contacts on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/priceline/.
As for the offer itself, airlines often impose restrictions on their specials. It’s not that unusual to find sales that go only one way – Minneapolis to Istanbul, but not Istanbul to Minneapolis. But it is unusual to find an uncorrected error on a major agency site. My Priceline contact told me that this is the first time he’d ever seen anything like it. That makes two of us.
Priceline investigated the unavailable fare, and that’s where things got even weirder. Turns out the fare was available both ways, but the sale ended in March. You were trying to book a ticket in June. Priceline suggested that the airline had loaded the wrong dates.
”We will be contacting her to explain what happened and offer our apologies, and give her an additional $50 as a thank you for bringing this to our attention,” a representative told me.
Email Christopher Elliott at email@example.com.