[Resolved] Cheapoair — ticket non - change ruse
My recent experience with CheapOair compels me to lodge this complaint with CheapOair, online travel services, the Better Business Bureau, and any other social and general media sources in an effort to gain compensation and to warn would-be travelers of the fraudulent and deceptive practices of CheapOair. I am a regular flyer and have logged over 200, 000 miles in the past 10 years of air travel. I book directly through the airlines and through online services. Hotwire is my preferred service, and for overseas flights, their practice is to link with other agencies such as Expedia, Priceline, CheapOair, etc. Until this experience, I have never had a single complaint or issue with an airline or agency in 30 years of flying.
On March 11, I booked a round-trip flight from Cork, Ireland to Seoul, Korea online through CheapOair. The booking reference number is [protected]. The e-ticket that was issued to me clearly indicated, and I understood, that the ticket was NON-REFUNDABLE. There were no other specific restrictions beyond what is standard indicated anywhere else on the ticket.
On March 30, I contacted CheapOair to make a change of date to the ticket. As I was calling from overseas, I used the online live chat to attempt to make the change. I was told by the person on the chat that a change could not be made to this ticket at all, and that this was airline policy (KLM), so only the airline could change it.
I promptly phoned KLM, who denied that there was any such policy and because the ticket was booked through CheapO, it could only be changed through CheapO, but there was no KLM policy that prevented the change.
At that point, I completed both a Customer Request Form with CheapO and wrote to their feedback email address explaining my concern and the response of the airline. As per their website policy/pledge, written concerns are to be responded to within 24 hours.
I waited until the following day, 27 hours later, and when no response was forthcoming, I contacted CheapO by phone, and spoke to a representative named Phil. Phil repeated that the ticket could not be changed and that it was the airline that had to change it. When I inquired as to where on the ticket there was any indication that the ticket was non-changeable, he directed me, not to any statement about the changeability of the ticket, but the section that says that the airline is the final authority on policy.
In fact, as I was on hold waiting for a representative, I listened as CheapO’s recorded message encouraged travelers to buy their tickets early, because changing tickets is cheaper than waiting and having the ticket prices rise closer to the date of travel. The same message also informs callers that ticket changes come with a fee. Having traveled only two weeks prior and having changed that ticket four times as my plans changed repeatedly, I was familiar with and accustomed to change fees.
However, rather than acknowledging that the error for misinformation or lack of information was on the part of CheapO, Phil insisted on arguing that CheapO was not responsible and that I needed to return to the airline. When I asked to speak with a supervisor, he claimed that it was a 15-20 minute wait. To me, this indicated to me that there were either too few supervisors or too many complaints, but I suspected that this was CheapO’s strategy to wait out customers. Because I was calling from overseas, I could not wait 20 minutes to speak to a supervisor.
Instead, I called a supervisor at KLM, who again insisted that the problem was not with airline policy, but was with CheapOair. Thus, I was passed back and forth twice from the ticketing agency to the airline, each blamed the policy of the other, and neither could explain why the restriction on changing the ticket was not clearly stated anywhere.
In the end, I was forced to purchase an entirely new ticket (although not through CheapO or KLM), and have now spent nearly $2300 to get to my destination for a ticket that initially cost me $950. Even with change fees and ticket price differential, I would have paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 additional to change the ticket, but that still would have been nearly $1000 less than what I paid.
For any potential traveler, I must say that I have never previously been denied a change of ticket on any airline or through and travel agency. But more than that, the complete and total lack of appropriate response by CheapOair is the worst aspect of this experience. Not only did they fail to represent the restrictions on the ticket (my plans frequently change, so I never would have purchased that ticket), they denied any and all responsibility, did not return attempted contacts (disregarding their own stated policy), preferred to argue about irrelevant information, and used stall tactics to discourage pursuing the issue further.
It is my intention to continue to pursue this issue until it is resolved reasonably, and I will use every means of informing potential customers of the dangers of using CheapOair and the risks involved.
CheapO has responded to my concerns, which I posted here, their Facebook page, their customer service department, and two other online complaints resources. In fact, I received no fewer than three responses to my postings, but I dealt almost exclusively with Mr. Ruben Bello. I believe that CheapO's handling of the matter in the person of Mr. Bello was swift, professional, and respectful. I consider the matter fully resolved.
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