Q: I recently booked a trip to Italy through OneTravel.com. My flight was one hour late arriving in Rome. I wasn’t concerned because I knew that I’d planned plenty of time before my next flight to Palermo. I retrieved my luggage and went through customs, then grabbed a bite to eat before heading to the check-in at Vueling Airlines.
When I got there, an airline representative told me I’d missed my flight. I gave her my confirmed booking, and she said that my flight was canceled and I’d been placed on an earlier flight that departed at 9:10 a.m.
I had not been notified and couldn’t have accepted the change, since my flight didn’t land until 9:15 a.m. Vueling would not honor my ticket because I booked through OneTravel and not the airline directly. The representative could not offer me another flight for that day and told me to go to Ryanair.
I booked a flight with Ryanair. The only flight I could get was for the next morning, and the cost of the ticket was more than double the original price. I immediately called my hotel in Palermo to cancel my one-night stay, but was told that I was not within the 24-hour cancellation period and I would have to pay for the hotel.
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I then needed to find a hotel. I was exhausted from the all-night travel and decided that the Hilton at the Rome airport was my best option. The only room available was one on the concierge level.
When I returned from my trip, I called OneTravel.com. It denied ever receiving a call from Vueling and would not claim responsibility for the error.
I’ve tried to get in touch with Vueling directly, but have not heard back yet. I would like someone to take responsibility for this mistake and to be reimbursed.
I’ve exhausted every avenue and am hoping that you can help me.
Judy Weidel, Towson, Maryland
A: Vueling should have told your travel agency about the rescheduled flight, and it should have fixed your itinerary so that your flight to Palermo didn’t leave 15 minutes before you arrived in Rome. That’s an impossible connection, of course.
Your online travel agent, OneTravel.com, is responsible for monitoring the flight schedules and ensuring that you can reasonably make all of your connections. So, while it’s regrettable that Vueling didn’t inform the agent of the schedule change, that doesn’t absolve OneTravel of its responsibility. I mean, that’s the reason you work with a travel agent (online or offline). You want to have someone to help you when something goes wrong, as it did for you.
You might have avoided this by contacting all of your airlines directly to confirm your flights before leaving. That’s always a good idea, even when you’re using a travel agent. Sometimes, airlines fail to inform their travel agents about a schedule change, and you really don’t want to miss your flight.
You might have appealed OneTravel.com’s decision to one of its executives. I list the names and numbers of its executives on my consumer-advocacy site: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/fareportal/.
I contacted OneTravel.com on your behalf. It apologized for the mix-up and refunded $692.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of ”How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.