tl;dr of this article: Travel company failed to rebook a flight for me, showed up at the airport, had to book my own flight, travel company claims no wrong-doing.

On the 2nd of December, 2015, a ticket was booked for me by a company I do work for. This project was going to take place over a week-long period in Krefeld, Germany. This company booked a ticket for me via the ABC Travel Service. My original itinerary had me leaving on the 15th of December, at 17:43, and arriving in Germany at 16:55 on the 16th of December. My original departure date was on the 21st of December, at 10:15.

Due to a miscommunication between me and the shuttle operator, there was a mix-up on what time I was supposed to depart the venue I was working at to leave for the airport. This error resulted in me missing my originally scheduled flight. It wasn’t a massive deal as I figured I could easily rebook a flight out either later that day or, worst case scenario, the next morning.

At this point, I called ABC Travel Service up, gave them my booking confirmation, and told them I needed to reschedule my flight to leave at a later time, or the next day.  After a brief conversation on the phone, I was told that one of their travel agents (I’ll call her L) would be e-mailing me a new itinerary we’d discussed for the next day. I would be able to pay a €200 change fee to rebook my flight.

L e-mailed me several minutes after our conversation. I reviewed the new itinerary, which departed at 6:10 the following morning, the 22nd of December. The itinerary seemed fine and it matched what we discussed on the phone, so I paid the €200 change fee on their website and sent an e-mail to the booking agent confirming that the payment was complete. After some initial difficulty with a strange website bug saying that “Javascript needed to be enabled,” my card was finally accepted. The website displayed a confirmation page and my Chase card showed the charge as a pending transaction, so I sent an e-mail to L confirming my payment had been made and that the itinerary would be fine. This payment was made at 14:11, almost 2 hours before their deadline for me to pay.

The next morning I left for the airport, arrived two hours earlier than my flight was supposed to depart (just in case) and stood in line to check in for my flight. Much to my dismay, I found that I had no reservation for this flight. After verifying with the ticket agent, I went to the help counter to call Delta and figure out what was going on with my reservation. After a phone call with a Delta employee, I found out that no new reservation had been made. I had no flight out, I was at the airport, and I had no way to contact the travel company as their offices wouldn’t open for a few more hours. I checked my e-mail and I had nothing from them saying they had any trouble rebooking my flight.

It seems obvious at this point that the travel agency has dropped the ball and failed to rebook my flight. After failing to get a hold of anyone from the travel agency via phone and e-mail, it seemed my option were limited. I would either be forced to wait for the booking agency to open (and miss my flight) and hope they could book me another flight tomorrow, or I could simply purchase a one-way ticket myself, eat the cost, and hope that the travel company would reimburse me due to their error. I was thinking this because their liability clause states that they pay for damages that occur due to gross negligence on behalf of their company.

(I had already been stuck in Germany a day longer than I’d wanted to be. This was partially my fault, and I accept full responsibility for that. I did not, however, want to stay in Germany a second day, especially due to the fault of a travel agency that I had paid a €200 change fee to. I also had no idea if they’d be able to book a flight the following day since they’d already screwed up one rebooking and the holiday season was approaching. I had plans made for the 24th and the thought of being stuck in Germany during Christmas due to holiday travel congestion was not appealing to me. On top of all of this, I’d have had to deal with having no transportation or company, figuring out extra costs for hotel/food, missing another day of work, and doing all of this in a city where English isn’t commonly spoken by many of the merchants.)

So with everything laid out before me, I attempted to repurchase the same itinerary the booking company was supposed to reserve for me. The Delta representative on the phone, however, informed me that all coach seats were sold out and I’d have to book first class seats, meaning the one way flight home would cost over €3,400. I asked if there was anything cheaper, and the cheapest ticket she was able to find was a one-way ticket home for about €1,900. I gritted my teeth, ate the cost, and booked my flight home.

I received an e-mail from a new travel agent, N, approximately 6 hours after the departure of my “scheduled” itinerary. This e-mail included another itinerary for the 23rd, claiming that the last flight “was not confirmed from the airline.” At this point, I was already out of Germany on my flight home, probably somewhere between de Gaulle and DTL.

After playing e-mail and phone tag with several different agents over the following week, I kept hearing that I needed to speak with “the boss.” After finally getting in contact with “The Boss,” we were finally able to have a phone conversation that lasted about an hour long. I didn’t really think to record this until a few minutes after it started, and there were problems I had recording it that caused the audio to cut out 3 different times during the conversation. That being said, the entirety of the conversation is included in this YouTube video.

I’ll detail some of the points he brings up, with time stamps, and point out many of the contradictions/problems/peculiarities in his story.

All timestamps, again, come from this YouTube video –

  • 1:20: for some reason he’s in disbelief that a one-way international ticket booked 45 minutes before the flight is €1,900 and claims that I booked “the most expensive flight”…which is blatantly untrue, and anyone who travels knows first class flights would be way more expensive. The flight Delta originally offered (the one ABC Travel said they were going to book) was over €3,400
  • 2:26: now he changes stories and says the “he can’t issue the ticket for the next day”…??? Why would he say that now, after they offered me the itinerary…?
  • 2:55: he now begins to claim my payment was incomplete/didn’t go through, and says that they could not issue the ticket as a result. Then he claims that I should have called “a day before” even though I was booking a ticket that was supposed to leave in about 14 hours…
  • 3:58: he continues on about how it’s not possible for me to change my ticket and makes excuses about how it’s not possible to change a ticket on such short notice. Then at 4:25 he says it’s “your fault” that I missed my first flight.
  • 4:59: I complain that if I pay 200 euros to pay a change fee, they should have contacted me if there was a failure for the payment going through. Everything looked like it went through on my end. At 5:49 he claims that “the connection between your credit card company and our inquirer here…was completely wrong.”
  • 6:49: He blames me for “trying several times” to make my card work, then claims my IP address was sending a “70% fake signal on that transaction”…?? Then claims they have “no contact, no address” for the card..??
  • 7:50: first cut out
  • 8:00: saying that I tried too many times to pay on the same IP address..??
  • 9:44: I ask why the agent wouldn’t respond to me asking for confirmation of the flight…He says that maybe she went on vacation or left the office, and then they would have to wait until Monday to figure things out. Something also about “strange signals”…
  • 11:13: Now he claims that since I paid the 200 euros to his company the ticket should be changed automatically, even though there’s no way the airline could automatically change the flight if I make a payment to the travel agency, and even though he previously said I hadn’t made the payment.
  • 12:18: Now he claims they can’t rebook the ticket since they didn’t have the money…
  • 12:54: “If we don’t get the money, why should we respond? Maybe you found somebody else!” ..????
  • 14:46: Here he claims that they had made reservations for me that day, “100,000%.” I ask him to show me a receipt or anything proving that they had actually rebooked it, but he claims that it was “lost out of their system” and he wasn’t able to show it to me. Unfortunately the second part of this is cut out a little.
  • 16:00: He claims my transaction is “high risk” and no one would touch it…even though they send me a possible itinerary the next day..?
  • 17:15: the audio is a bit jarbly here but it should be mostly understandable.
  • 18:49: He claims on his legal side that they’re only responsible for the tickets they confirm, so I quote the part of his website about the gross negligence. He claims again that I simply failed to pay the change fee.
  • 19:50: “We can speed up the conversation…what do you want we should do?” “Reimburse me for the ticket.” “*laugh* never ever sir, never ever.”
  • 25:19: another cut in the audio.
  • 26:09: He says they don’t respond to customers after not making payments. When I tell him she sent me an e-mail the next day, he says “I don’t know”…

I could go on, but the next 35 minutes are more or less the same back and forth. Just running around in circles with him making up random things that contradict everything else he’s said. It’s annoying that the agent who e-mailed me also claimed that the airline was the one who failed to respond to the booking, while the boss claims it was due to a payment failure on my part. By the end of the call, I honestly couldn’t tell if I was just dealing with an incompetent business or a weasel who was trying to get out of paying out any kind of damages.

I was never even offered so much as compensation for what a hotel stay would have cost me had I stayed an extra day.

I figure the chance of any legal recourse of seeking compensation through other means is almost impossible, so I guess this story is more just venting more than anything else. And maybe others can see the way these guys conduct business and avoid them in the future.