Why You Should Never Book Through Expedia

Why You Should Never Book Through Expedia (or a Third-Party Vendor)

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

Warning, guys, this one’s a doozy. But it’s been brewing for some time—more than a year, in fact. And while I try my hardest to keep this a positive space, sometimes you’ve just got to tell the truth in hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself (i.e. none of you make the same mistake I’ve done).

Cliffsnotes version: Never, ever, ever, ever use a third-party vendor like Expedia to book your vacation. Why exactly? Well, I’ll tell you.

As you may recall, my family and I went on an epic European vacation through the Balkans last fall. The trip began in Budapest, wound its way down the Danube and ended in Bulgaria. From there, we’d fly to Istanbul for the final week.

Throughout all of 2016, the ISIS situation in Turkey continued to escalate, one bombing after another made us a bit wary but the majority of them occurred far from Istanbul, where we’d be visiting. Until, of course, the Istanbul airport itself got bombed at the end of June. This paired with my dad’s stroke and his inability to communicate left us all feeling uneasy enough for me to attempt to reroute us—with no help from Expedia.

There was no way to cancel our flights, they told us. They had no control, they said. It was, ultimately, the airline’s decision. And if you’re thinking “good luck trying to contact Turkish Airlines,” you’re exactly right—they’re about as helpful as Expedia.

So I guess we were going to Turkey; there was no way around it.

Then when our trip was less than one month out, Turkey fell into a military coup—which later failed, but here’s the kicker: For three full days of uncertainty, anyone who had booked trips to the airport, for the most part, could get refunded in full for their trip.

That is, unless, you booked with Expedia.

At the time, I reached out to the company by both Twitter and phone to go ahead and cancel all our flights; my thought was that if I could just get those funds back or a credit to rebook even, I’d simply purchase tickets on another airline (certainly not Turkish) that transported us to another European hub like Vienna or Budapest. We didn’t have to go to Istanbul after all; our cruise left from Hungary and ended in Bulgaria. We simply had thought a few days in Turkey on the back-end would be a nice way to tie up our family vacation.

At the time I was going through all of this in mid-July, too, the Turkish president had declared a state of emergency that was in effect through October. Our trip was planned for mid-August. This was the state department and FAA warning issued at the time:

Why You Should Never Fly Expedia

Sounds ominous, right? Because I know someone who works at Expedia and was getting no results with the phone, being left on hold for hours at a time, I immediately got in touch with her hoping she’d help. She put me in touch with Nick Curry, GCO at Expedia, who wrote me this on July 16, the day after the coup attempt, in response to my explanation of the events that had unfolded:

Looks like the coup is over for now. There are no cancellations to report but please let me know closer to your trip if you have any questions. Thanks!

To which I responded:

Hi Nick,

It may be over—for now—but more than 160 people died last night, and this is the third such incident in a month alone. Would you feel comfortable taking your family there? I sure don’t—particularly as my 64-year-old father just had a massive stroke months ago.

We still want to go on our Europe vacation as planned, as it’s been booked for a year now, but want to avoid Turkey entirely. I was hoping to change our flights to another Star Alliance member that has us bypassing Istanbul but every time I call Expedia, I’m told they can’t help. Is this something you could assist us with?

Appreciate your help,

Kristin

His response:

Kristin,

I just caught up on my email and saw a note from the US State Department about travel being restricted. Apologies for the spam but there wasn’t a policy last night. Let me have my team call out and see what we can do. I imagine there are lots in your situation, so this may take a few days to resolve, but let me start the process ASAP.

Things were looking up! I suddenly felt like I had an ally. Until I didn’t. Three more days passed without a response from Nick. Then he had his team call to tell me the coup was over so I was, in a sense, screwed. Oh, but had it not taken them so long to respond, I could have easily canceled over the weekend through our credit card company when the state department warning was still in effect, as so many friends also traveling to Turkey had done successfully. Dozens of phone calls with Expedia followed, and I continued to ask to speak to that person’s supervisor, but it got me nowhere.

For those of you who think travel writers get preferential treatment, let this be a case study. We don’t!

Meanwhile, I was working the Twitter connection as I’ve learned, at least in the case of the airlines, it’s often the only way to talk to a real-live customer service representative, someone who is not at a call center in India.

There are two ways this scenario could have played out: 1) They could have just canceled my flights and refunded me in full or 2) they could have let me amend my flights and use the $8,500 we had spent in airfare toward another booking. But oh no, Expedia wouldn’t allow such a thing; I’d have to go to the airline instead.

Should

So go to the airline I did. Only, I still couldn’t ever actually get through to anyone on the line, and they sent out a stock response to anyone who reached out via Twitter saying that you could cancel within that period but that was it. Not too helpful in my case. And while, yes, the airport bombing happened 47 days prior and the failed coup 31 days before our departure, this happened the morning we would have arrived: 14 dead and more than 220 wounded. I think we made the smart choice here, even if it cost us cold, hard cash.

Needless to say, I lost more than 60 hours of my life on the phone trying to sort this ordeal, and I’ve never wanted to quit a trip so bad as I did this one.

Meanwhile, I located a contact for a PR girl from Turkish Air’s U.S. agency (at the time) Golin, and she tried her hardest to help and was kind as could be. But ultimately she can’t dictate how a government-owned airline runs. In the end, I was referred to a supervisor, Selkan Ukel, who was supposed to be able to help me, only after five attempts at reaching him, this was the only response I got:

Dear Ms. Luna,
We acknowladge [sic] receipt of your e mail. We understand your situation and looking in to this matter. The period for refund/rebooking without penalty covers for flights between July 15-July 20. We are extremely busy trying to send our passengers to thier [sic] final destinations who had to stay here for 3 days. But I will share your situation with our headquarters and get back to you as soon possible.
Warn regards,
Selkan UNEL
Frustrating, yes, and why I understand the airline was under a lot of heat, I expected more given that collectively my group had handed over $8,500 to Turkish Airlines. Also, that “get back to you as soon as possible?” Good thing I wasn’t waiting by my computer as nine months have now passed.
But then there was the insurance I’d purchased: With Dad still recovering from a major ischemic stroke, I had gone against my gut and bought Expedia’s trip protection, the kind they try to force upon you whenever you purchase a flight, only to find out when it was too late that such a plan does not cover “acts of declared or undeclared war.”

So, what happened in the end?

Rather than pay a $135 rebooking fee x 23 tickets—the number of separate Turkish Air bookings we made through Expedia, or 7 round-trip transatlantic tickets + 16 one-way legs within Europe—to use the credit within the remaining five-month window, we canceled outright and ate the entire cost of each ticket, booking new international flights to/from Vienna and Budapest just two weeks before our departure date. Cheap? No. Worth it to avoid a terrorist attack in Istanbul? Without a doubt.

So what is a traveler to do in times of political strife?

I honestly don’t know, other than to do as we did and absorb the hit, realizing that, in the long run, your life is more important than $8,500. I will say that before you do anything else, try contacting your credit card company first; oftentimes, there’s a certain level of insurance attached to trips that you might not even know about. There were eight of us travelers and the only ticket we didn’t book through Expedia was SVV’s RT ticket from Atlanta to Istanbul; we booked it via Chase Sapphire Reward points instead. So guess who issued us a $965.16 refund check for the canceled flight? Chase’s Broadspire insurance company. (Yay, Chase!)

Guess who did not issue us a penny back? The Citicard and AmEx Gold we used to book the remaining seven round-trip international flights on Expedia (plus another two legs to Budapest and from Bucharest for a total of eight travelers).

According to one of my travel industry friends, it’s important to get the right kind of travel insurance—and also read the fine print.

“The key with the ‘cancel at any time’ insurance is you pretty much have to buy it within like 24 or 48 hours of booking your trip,” she told me. “As I discovered when prepping for a trip to Africa, almost no regular travel insurance policies cover political unrest/coups/etc. I think from Allianz, that said in the fine print you could cancel for absolutely any reason. Burkina had just had a coup so I wanted to make sure I was covered in case there were more riots/protests.”

I’m no expert on travel insurance, but many travel agent friends recommend Travel Guard or Allianz, two companies I’ll also be looking into on future trips.

But hey, at least I got a media hit on Fox News out of the whole ordeal. My grandfather would have been proud!

Nearly a year later, I still feel dirty about this whole scenario, as if I’ve been scammed, like as a travel industry professional I should have known better. Let’s just consider it a lesson learned the hard way. And to rub salt into the wound, not only were we out more than $8,500, but we had made all our bookings through Expedia, including rental cars, and were charged double on both car bookings in Romania, which wound up being a little shack about a mile from the airport and gave us no documentation of the fees we incurred.

Given they just owed us $200 back, you’d think this was something that Expedia could easily remedy, right, particularly in light of the big blow we’d just been delivered? Wrong! This is the company that specializes in adding insult to injury (just call them the United of OTAs). After seven months, I finally got a rep on the phone; after more than 60 minutes on hold while she investigated, at the end of the call, she promised me a $100 voucher for my trouble and a resolution within 48 hours. You may not be surprised to hear that the voucher never materialized and no one got back to me. So, 13 days later, I took to Twitter again, only to get yet another rude response:

Why You Should Never Fly Expedia

Note: It would have never occurred to me to ask for a voucher, and I was a bit surprised (and pleased); this kind gesture came from a “customer service” rep over the phone who proffered it because of the inconvenience. But the patronizing response from Expedia’s Twitter team sure was awesome!

I gave them myriad chances to fix it, and no matter how many times I’ve given the rundown to a rep, I have to start over. Is it really worth pursuing further for a measly $200?

Expedia

So guys, take my family’s painful hit for your own travels, and don’t book through Expedia. In fact, don’t book through an OTA (online travel agent), period. Go straight to the source, the airline in this case, as had always been my policy in the past.

My usual plan of attack? Monitor airfare through Scott’s Cheap Flights, Google Flights, The Flight Deal, whatever service you like, then book directly through the airline (or rental car)(or hotel). Every single time. Or! I can refer you to an actual, live travel agent who will help you 1,000 times better than an OTA would. I know a number of good ones and am always happy to pass along the contact info.

And as for if I’ll ever make it to Turkey? That’s debatable. Sadly, this financial blow was enough to sour the whole country for me—apologies to any Turkish readers I might have; it’s not you, it’s your airline—and with all the ISIS activity continuing to occur in the eastern part of the country, it might be a long while before I feel safe traveling there.

Have you ever gone through such a kerfuffle with a travel company like Expedia who robbed you blind? How did you resolve it?

Why You Should Never Fly Expedia (or Book Through an OTA)

COMMENTS
  • April 26, 2017
    Justin

    For a travel writer you seem to have little to no understanding of how airlines and companies like Expedia work. Of course they are not going to refund $8,500 to you that they never received. they are simply a booking portal and 99 percent of that money went directly to the airline. If you did not want to spend 3 days in IST all you had to do was add connecting flights from the airport to anywhere else in EU which would not have cost much. There was no danger inside the airport as the terrorist attack was actually on the outside of the airport. The safest time to be in any city is after something like that happens as security is at a peak anyway. There have been terrorist attacks in Paris, New York, London and lots of other major cities but no one ever freaks out about visiting those cities. I have been reading posts with you complaining about this situation for more then a year know decided to unfollow you at this point. Next time try read up on the rules of any ticket you book with expedia or the airline directly because 95 percent of them are not refundable for something like this regardless of who you book them through. If you supposed to be a travel expert try learn about about how things actually work. And for the record TK is one of the worlds best airlines.

    • April 27, 2017
      Campbell Stacy

      There was “no danger inside the airport”? What kind of specious reasoning is that? It’s a valid concern for travelers and their future travel plans.

      Brussels, March 2016

      • April 30, 2017

        Can you name one incident where a terrorist anywhere in the world blew themselves up inside an airport? No? Its because they dont make it past security. She would have been fine having a layover at the airport and continuing on to a new city They have not has another issue since the attack that caused her to cancel her plans.

    • April 28, 2017
      Chris

      Wow Justin. First of all, there are so many misspellings and grammatical errors in your comment, it’s difficult to understand. Kristin has every right to write about whatever she likes on HER site, and this information just so happens to behoove (look it up) her to share with her readers.

      Your last statement was the best laugh, though. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/obama-pilot-unsafe-airlines-won-fly-article-1.2215362 and this article doesn’t even include the crash which killed 20 (including 6 children) this past January: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-01-15/least-20-killed-6-children-after-turkish-airlines-747-crashes-kyrgyzstan-residences

      Have fun flying Turkish Airlines!

      • April 29, 2017

        Gotta love that classic case of mansplaining, huh, Chris? So valuable to any discussion.

        Woman: has an experience
        Man: your experience is incorrect

        I’ve got to wonder how much Justin was paid by Expedia to go to bat for them. *scratches head*

        • April 30, 2017
          justin

          A more accurate history of your experience could be summed up as follows.

          1) Woman decides to buy $8,500 worth of nonrefundable tickets to a country in the middle east with a history of security problems.

          2) Said country then has more security issues.

          3) Woman asks for her money back for the nonrefundable tickets she bought.

          4) Airline refuses to refund her nonrefundable tickets.

          5) Woman blames everyone but herself and claims to have been “ripped off” by airline and booking agency for not refunding nonrefundable tickets just because she wants them to.

          5) I point that out and get accused of being “an asshole” a “douchebag”.

          Your right! I must be being paid by expedia to look at things from this crazy point of view.

      • April 30, 2017

        They are rated the number 7 airline in the world for 2016 out of 100 airlines they ranked. They have one of the top 10 Business class flat bed seats in the world and they have the number one rated Business class lounge in the world ranked by passengers. I did actually fly them last October and it was a fantastic flight. Full flat bed seats, 7 course meal and a private chef on board.

        http://www.worldairlineawards.com/awards/world_airline_rating.html

      • April 30, 2017

        They are rated the number 7 airline in the world for 2016 out of 100 airlines they ranked. They have one of the top 10 Business class flat bed seats in the world and they have the number one rated Business class lounge in the world ranked by passengers. I did actually fly them last October and it was a fantastic flight. Full flat bed seats, 7 course meal and a private chef on board…
        http://www.worldairlineawards.com/awards/world_airline_rating.html

    • April 30, 2017

      Justin, I came here to make the same comment, however you had expressed all my points clearly and succinctly (despite having a few spelling and grammar errors I still understood exactly what you meant).

  • April 26, 2017
    Ris

    Jesus Mary and Joseph what a nightmare. Sorry you had to go through this but thanks for writing this up so we can all learn from your experience!

    • April 27, 2017

      Thanks, Ris! Hoping it’s helpful to those who were wavering on using a third-party vendor or OTA. The big difference as someone noted on my Facebook page is that the customer simply doesn’t have an advocate in this situation as they would a travel agent, for example. The airline certainly doesn’t want to help out since you didn’t go through them and booked through a booking agent instead, and Expedia tries to pawn off any blame on the airline. It’s infuriating!

  • April 27, 2017
    Angie Keiser

    What a nightmare!!! I swore off Expedia about ten years ago after a bad experience trying to get a flight changed. We were in Las Vegas for a conference and decided to head back a day early due to bad weather coming in. I called the airline and they told me I needed to make the change through Expedia since that’s who I booked with. We checked flights and there were plenty of seats available, yet Expedia refused to make a change (I was happy to pay change fees, btw). They just flat out refused. We actually drove to the airport and one of the airline agents just shook her head about the situation. And then she booked us on the earlier flight 🙂 I use Expedia sometimes for research, but I refuse to give them my money.

    • April 30, 2017

      I used to think it was just the airlines in general, but I’ve never had this much trouble changing a flight when I went directly through the airlines so…

  • April 27, 2017
    Nicole DiBella

    Just had to comment that Chase Sapphire’s customer service and insurance is AMAZING. We were on the second day of our 2 week honeymoon in the Maldives (2 days of pouring rain and sinus infections I might add) when we got a call that my husband’s aunt was dying and we needed to fly home. Of course our hotels refused to give us any money back and we thought we would also just have to eat the costs. Chase was outstanding and we were able to use the insurance to get almost all of our money back (except the flights, which we did use, and the 2 nights in the hotel). Cannot recommend them enough!

    • April 27, 2017

      I so agree, Nicole! We didn’t even spend money with them for that ticket, it was booked with points, and they STILL cut us a cash check for the corresponding dollar value. I’ve always loved my Chase Sapphire card, but doubly so after that experience. Can you believe that AmEx, though, would’t budge? They’re supposed to be known for client care. Two of the other tickets I booked (for my parents’ friends) were done via AmEx and they couldn’t have been less helpful.

      • April 27, 2017
        Nicole DiBella

        Same, we booked the majority of our hotel stay using points (like 250K because we got that 100K bonus and paid for most of the wedding using the card to get all those points) and they cut us a huge check (which we turned right around and used to book another trip through Chase, so it works out for them as well). After all that, I will be loyal to Chase forever. Amex could stand to learn from them. Thanks for living and learning for all of us!

  • April 27, 2017

    Oh man, Kristin! I’m so sorry for all that ordeal you had to go through. This is my BIGGEST nightmare when I’m organizing overseas group trip. In fact, we are looking to do one in October (to Poland, Czech, and Hungary, for 6 people) and I’ll be SURE to book directly with the airline or with a live agent. I toyed around with the idea of booking through Expedia but NOPE, not after I read this. Thanks for sharing, as always.

    • April 27, 2017

      Yes! I have a couple awesome agents I can recommend if you need one. Carol, who owns Group Trek Travel in Nashville, is awesome.

  • April 27, 2017

    What an ordeal to go through! I never trusted booking third party for any type of travel. I’ve always known if something goes wrong, I’m not guaranteed anything.

    • April 29, 2017

      Yeah, and there’s no one at Expedia (or any of the other vendors, for that matter) who will go to bat for you either, Krystal. They’ve already got their money, so what do they care? Customer service is dead.

  • April 27, 2017

    Commenter #1 is a douche bag. Commenter #3 is an idiot.
    I have never used an OTA (although I did apply for jobs at 2 different ones) and always book direct, but if I ever had the notion to do so, I definitely wouldn’t now!

    • April 27, 2017

      Update, you removed #3, just for the record, it’s not Angie!

      • April 27, 2017

        Ha! I’m not sure who comment #3 was or why he/she removed it, but now I’m intrigued. And I wonder how much #1 was paid by Expedia, hmmm…

        • April 29, 2017
          christine leger

          I don’t think he was paid anything. It seems like he legit disagreed – rather rudely, but still his right. OTA take a fee from the sale, just like regular TA. If the airline doesn’t refund them, they won’t refund you. That’s how it has always worked. I had a similar issue with a hotel, and I was lucky enough to sweet-talk the hotel manager and he gave Expedia the ok to refund me. #1 was rude, but not entirely wrong… and that’s not mansplaning. It’s disagreeing. Mansplaining is “(of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.”

          • April 29, 2017

            Hmm. I think your definition of mansplaining is *exactly* what just happened here. How is it possible to read his comment as anything but condescending or patronizing? He basically called me out for not wanting to take my brain-damaged dad through an area that had seen an exponential increase in terrorist activity—what right does he have to make that judgment on my behalf?

            • April 30, 2017

              For the record I was not paid by expedia. I am a fellow travel author with 80 stamps in my passport and a travel agent for the last 5 years. My comment is a bit sharply worded but so is your entire article so i think you should expect some might disagree with you.

              I think if you going to be a travel expert and give thousands of people travel advice you perhaps should take a moment to understand how things work before you buy nonrefundable tickets.

              My opinion has nothing to do with your not wanting to take your dad through (what you believed) was a dangerous area. It has more to do with you making unfounded claims such expedia stealing 8500 from you when all they did was act as a booking agent for the airline and it was the airline who made the call.

          • April 29, 2017

            And furthermore, he clearly didn’t read the post. What I’m angriest about is that I had a three-day window when the credit card companies were allowing cancellation without penalty for those traveling to the area. If Expedia hadn’t strung me along (see the Nick emails above) during those three days, I could have just called my credit card companies and canceled all the tickets without penalty, as several friends also traveling to Istanbul were able to do during that same period.

            • April 30, 2017
              Christine

              I agree that buddy was being a d-bag…. and I didn’t catch the part about your credit card company. I’m just saying, d-bag has a right to disagree. But yes, places are generally more safe shortly after an attack. We went to both Paris and Brussels shortly after and I felt fine. Expedia didn’t have to be so ignorant about their stance or string you along, I agree, but at the end of the day – it’s still up to the airline to refund your money

              • April 30, 2017

                I have zero problem with people disagreeing with me, and every issue with them being assholes just for the sake of being an asshole. There’s simply no need. He should go direct his unfounded anger at Trump, not me 😉

                And yes, I understand how OTAs work, but at the end of the day, if I couldn’t reach the airline, I would have hoped they would have stepped in to advocate on my behalf (I also reached out to my buddy Chris Elliott who couldn’t reach TK or Expedia either). And I think we can all agree that the condescension on Expedia’s part was also unnecessary. Regardless, moving on, but I don’t like d-bag calling me ignorant when I have never, ever claimed to be an airline expert and was doing nothing more than sharing my experience (and screen shots and correspondence) for the sake of other travelers’ awareness, particularly the part about purchasing the Trip Protection that clearly serves no purpose.

                • April 30, 2017

                  Your calling me nasty names for disagreeing with you but I am the asshole? Gotcha 🙂

                • April 30, 2017

                  I am made my comment because I have heard you complaining on FB for the last year about this and I got tired of it. Why not take responsibility for the fact you bought thousand of dollars of non refundable tickets and you choose not to use them?

                  I agree its often better to book flights directly through the airlines but not all flights that can be booked through a site like Expedia are bookable directly through the airlines at the same price, and routing ect.

                  You cant handle someone disagreeing with you but its ok for you and your friends to call me swear words. Thats a interesting way to live your life.

                  Perhaps you should do your homework next time, instead booking nonrefundable tickets and blaming the airline and booking website when you change your plans.

            • April 30, 2017

              Yes I did read the entire article.

  • April 27, 2017

    Funny you would write this: I booked a hotel in New York City for next weekend, for a writer’s conference, and there is a chance I can’t go. I used Expedia. Expedia says it has a no-fee cancellation policy. OK, cool. Only problem is, the hotel where I booked my stay through Expedia DOES NOT. Once you book through Expedia, your funds are GONE. So there is no way I am getting my money back if I can’t make my trip to New York. Granted, it’s only $260 for one-night–not $8,500–but it still stings. Lesson learned.

    • April 29, 2017

      Ugh ugh ugh. I’m sorry you had to find this out the hard way, Leah! =(

  • April 28, 2017

    Such a great writing we learn from your experience Thank You so much for sharing this Information with us.

  • April 28, 2017

    Thanks for sharing about turkish airlines, nice blog with informative knowledge.

  • April 28, 2017

    Ugh, what a nightmare. I used to book through Expedia a lot but after realizing that if I needed to change anything on my booking I would have to go straight to the source anyways (airline, hotel, etc), I stopped using them. In my experience, you also don’t save any significant amount of money by going through them. I hope you had a good vacation nonetheless and hopefully Turkey will be safe enough in the future for a trip there!

    • April 30, 2017

      Yeah, it really does make your life harder if you have to make any changes as you then have to go through double the trouble to do that. Me too! I’d still love to go to Turkey, even though I’ll have to find another airline to get me there 😉

  • April 28, 2017

    My mother was going to book her last international flight on a third party site, could have actually been Expedia, but I told her not to do it. The third party and airline like to play “pass the buck” and the consumer is caught in the middle.

    So sorry to hear this happened to you, and hopefully your experience will dissuade others from using Expedia and flying on Turkish Airlines.

    P.S. The first commenter is the one who has little to no understanding about travel in general. “No danger at the airport.”? I was actually supposed to be flying on Turkish Airlines through Istanbul for a press trip last August. Given the fact that the travel time exceeded 45 hours (with no hotel stay during this time) and they gave me a 5 hour layover in Istanbul just after the coup attempt, and put me on TA, I passed. Sometimes, common sense evades people.

    • April 30, 2017

      “Pass the buck” is the perfect way to describe it. I know the airline technically has to make the changes, but if you can’t get through them (or access your booking through their website), how on Earth are you supposed to do that??

    • April 30, 2017

      I am not what constitutes travel experience in your mind but I have been to 6 continents and have more then 80 stamps in my passports. I have also been to countries in very similar situations. I was in Egypt 2 months after the uprising where they overthrew their government and I was in Athens when they had huge protests happening. Both places looked scary on the news and were completely fine in person. Many times the news makes thing look much worse then they are.

  • April 28, 2017
    Meg

    My sister visited a dear friend in Turkey some years ago. That friend has since left and is doing her best to get her family out. It is Such a sad situation.
    Thank you for this post. I honestly had no idea something like this would happen with Expedia and would have assumed they’d do their best to help you. Their messages are super condescending and downright maddening in that some of them seem to suggest you’re being overly cautious not wanting to fly your family into a scene of civil unrest! Good grief! Thanks for the information.

    • April 30, 2017

      Thanks, Meg! It does surprise me how many people (even in this thread) are all, “but it’s safer to go somewhere immediately after an attack.” Clearly, they have not been watching the news and seen all the attacks that have happened there in the past year. It’s heartbreaking, and I feel for the people like your sister’s friend who must go through torture worrying about the safety of their loved ones.

  • April 29, 2017

    Great post as wall as courage for the reality of travel market. I appreciate you for the honesty and the truth.

    • April 30, 2017

      Thanks, Shannon. I appreciate you taking the time to read!

  • April 29, 2017

    I am so sorry you went through this! So frustrating and terrible to lose that much money. Ugh. I went through a similar thing with Expedia just a few months ago where they refused to fix a ticket they messed up and ended up losing days of my trip and money… it was horrible! Ironically the flight was through Istanbul too! So glad you wrote your story so others won’t buy through them.

    • April 30, 2017

      It’s crazy how many people like you, Meghan, and others who have emailed me since posting this have had similar situations. And yet, it keeps happening, and Expedia never owns up to their mistakes. I had a former Expedia social media manager email me and say that when she manned their accounts, she was constantly getting complaints like mine. Maddening!

  • April 29, 2017

    Ugh, that sounds like a total nightmare; you poor thing. Like you said though sometimes you have to weigh up the risks and take the hit rather than put yourself in any danger! xx

  • April 29, 2017

    Urgh – this was frustrating just to read never mind live through. I’m so sorry you had to go through this nightmare – it speaks badly for both Expedia and Turkish Airlines. Terrible customer service!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • April 30, 2017

      Thanks, Emily! I don’t understand why it’s so common for major companies like this to have such bad customer service. It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

  • April 29, 2017

    Wow. You would think with all the effort they put into advertising they would put the same into decent customer services when there is a crisis in places people are travelling too. I have had similar troubles with Expedia but nowhere on this scale.

    • April 30, 2017

      Right?? I think they need to reallocate some of that marketing money to employee training!

  • April 29, 2017

    Reading all this made me happy I stopped myself before booking our flight on Turkish Airlines with an OTA and booking them directly on the airlines website. I am so sorry you have had to deal with them. I have heard horror stories from expedia and have avoided using them, and will continue to do so.

    • May 4, 2017

      They’re so awful! I’m glad you decided against it, too, Sara. Though how was your Turkish Airline experience? They’re just as much at fault here as Expedia as they also refused to get back to me regarding my options for cancellation, ugh.

  • April 29, 2017

    Yep Expedia sucks. We went through a similar situation last year with a ticket to Colombia. Spent hours on the phone with them. Never got refunded for a mistake they made.

    • May 4, 2017

      How do they get away with that??? I can’t believe they robbed you of your money, Melissa. ugh.

  • April 29, 2017

    I have always booked directly with the airlines/hotels/car rental after a minor issue many years ago using a 3rd party booking agency. I learned quickly I had zero customer service options. I am sorry this happened to you! On a side note, we have used Allianz for trip insurance and travel medical. We had a medical claim last November; claim submittal and reimbursement was easy and stress-free. I haven’t had to use for trip cancellation or interruption (as of yet), but have been very happy with the service.

    • May 4, 2017

      That’s great to hear, Allison! I read your post and am definitely weighing options for our next international trip.

  • April 29, 2017

    That sounds like an overall awful experience! I work at the front desk of a hotel and just had someone calling about a reservation from hotels.com that didn’t go through when we were booked up. After a few bad experiences last year, I always book directly now!

    • May 4, 2017

      I hear that OTAs are awful to the hotels, too, so they just sound like a bad alternative all around!

  • April 29, 2017
    Karin

    What a pain! Never heard of the Chase Sapphire, is it a credit card company? I also avoid OTAs when booking flights.

    • April 30, 2017

      Yes, Karin, Chase Sapphire Rewards is one of the best credit cards for travelers—we switched all our accounts over from airline-specific ones years ago and fund most of our for-fun travels on Chase points since they work for almost all airlines and many hotels (so you’re not limited). If you travel a lot, I’d recommend looking into it!

  • April 29, 2017

    That does sound really bad and really expensive! As someone who uses OTAs quite a lot for various sort of mispriced, error etc flights, I would not go as far as to say not to use any of them, as this way I could have never gone on a $300 return trip from Europe to Palau or $150 Europe to India. But the insurance is the key here for me, I always make sure to get one, and I have read all the small print. In my case it is one from a bank, but not included in the credit card, but purchased separately.

    • April 30, 2017

      Understood, Alina! I guess I should have clarified that should someone use an OTA, it’s doubly hard to get flights changed when needed. I’m so used to flying Southwest where flight changes are easy-peasy that I forgot how unwavering airlines like Turkish can be. Do you have an OTA you swear by? Not that I’m going to use them again, but I am curious =)

  • April 29, 2017
    Ali

    OMG I’m so sorry you had to deal with this! I remember either tweeting or FBing with you a little about this last year when you were first trying to get it all straightened out, and I can’t believe what a nightmare it turned into. In general, I’m not a fan of booking directly with anyone other than the airline, and this really confirms it. Ugh.

    • April 30, 2017

      I mean, it wouldn’t have necessarily been better in this instance had I booked directly through the airline given I couldn’t ever actually reach anyone at Turkish, but it was more the treatment on both ends (TK and Expedia) that left me so annoyed. I think we can all agree the airlines need to have a system of checks and balances because they get away with murder!

  • April 29, 2017
    Bri

    What a nightmare!! The whole time I was reading, I kept muttering “what the f*ck” over and over lol. I have never and will never book through a third party. So sorry you had to experience this 🙁

    • April 30, 2017

      Thanks, Bri! Happy to have it behind me, and hoping others can learn from my (and Expedia’s) mistakes.

  • April 29, 2017

    Yikes!! This post is really helpful. I never thought Expedia would be like that! I’ve never had issues before but I’m going to be so much more careful now.
    -Felisa from http://www.bucketlistbelles.com

    • April 30, 2017

      Just make sure you read the fine print, Felisa, and you’ll be fine. I know better now in the future (though I’ll never be booking via an OTA again after this!).

  • April 29, 2017

    OTAs are notorious and price gauging everyone. They charge airlines and hotels a large sums of money for a listing and then for every sale on their site, they also take a commission. They make a lot of money. I only use OTAs for research and book directly every single time

    • April 30, 2017

      You’re smart, Alaine! And I’ll be smart in the future =)

  • April 29, 2017

    what a nightmare to deal with on what was to be a lovely family holiday. it’s so simple for them do do actual “customer service” and they choose not to. drives me crazy

    I’m a travel agent and folks scoff at the airline ticket fees charged but they get 24/7 monitoring of the trip which is worth the cost IMO. for my vacations (that aren’t point to point easy) I use a travel agent (one in US and one in London) to deal with travel issues (of which I’ve had a few crazy ones). I managed business travel for years and banned employees from using OTA – they had to use our corporate agents. of course when they called with problems it was because they violated policy and wanted me to fix their OTA nightmares.

    sorry your family experienced this ordeal, I hope the trip otherwise was chaos free

    • April 30, 2017

      The trip itself was great! Glad we left all the stress on the front end (and back end when I continued to fight for those flight credits, to no avail). My biggest annoyance, Suzanne, is that no company seems to have a concept of customer service anymore, as you mentioned. Really, how hard is it for them to do their job?!

  • April 29, 2017

    That is awful! It’s unfortunate y’all had to skip Turkey. I went there back in 2011 for a few weeks and loved it. Such a beautiful country with rich history and incredible food. But much better to be safe… I swore off Expedia a few years ago because they really refused to change the name on a ticket when I was booking travel for several colleagues to a conference. Big fan of monitoring pricing on google flights!

    • April 30, 2017

      LOVE Google Flights. And am obsessed with all the places I could potentially go thanks to Scott’s Cheap Flights! I will still go to Turkey eventually I’m sure (I’ve been to the coastal part while in Greece, but that’s it).

  • April 29, 2017

    I think you were in a situation when (for completely understandable reasons), you decided to cancel the trip. Unfortunately, I was in the airport on my way to NYC the day they bombed it. I contacted directly United airlines, though I had booked via an OTA, and themselves changed the flight for the next day. When we learned that the airport were to remain closed for longer and we cancelled our trip, they told us that we would receive the full paid price, and that was it. It is true that the OTA was the one who had to tramit the refund request with United, but in our case it all worked out pretty fine…

    • April 30, 2017

      I’m glad for you, Jenn! That’s great that they were able to help you out. I was more frustrated that I couldn’t reach the airline and Expedia wouldn’t help facilitate that than anything. I get that ultimately the airline is culpable, but it’s also frustrating when you can’t get through to anyone at either company.

  • April 29, 2017
    Jean

    Well you know you’ve made it big time when a man comes in to do some explaining to ya!!

    So sorry that you and your family went through this. Going to share it all around the social medias in the hope that no one else has this issue. Ever.

    • April 30, 2017

      Thanks so much, Jean! I appreciate all the support of the Interwebs here =)

  • April 29, 2017

    This is pretty ridiculous but a good reminder about third party. Something sorta similar happened to me in 03 w orbitz. I always book through the airline!

    • April 30, 2017

      I always did before and I always will in the future now after this =)

  • April 29, 2017

    Sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds like a nightmare.

    I use Expedia for every or almost every flight I take. Sometimes even booking accommodations and car rentals. I never had a problem with them. Customer service was great.

    Because I book so often they told me I have a special customer service number with them which I can use in a moment like yours/this. I never used it….hehe. Didn’t have to.

    There was a time in Costa Rica when a car rental company tried to overcharget us ×5 times the amount of the car rental fee besides of what we already paid through Expedia.
    Of course I cancelled.

    When I called them to complain and cancel that was the only time they told me it had to be done 72 hours before the start date.

    I reasoned with the CSA that I booked the rental 12 hours ago and that his logic is good but doesn’t apply in my case. And so he cancelled without a penalty for me. Happy end.

    So, if I understand correctly, buying the *protection* for flights and trips from Expedia when you book a flight doesn’t cover the political instability?

    Why didn’t it work for you?

    • April 29, 2017

      You’re correct, Julia. Apparently trip protection is more for medical emergencies and doesn’t cover “acts of declared or undeclared war.” That was news to me, and it sounds like you have to have a pretty specific insurance that would include that. Regardless, I’m sure there’s a way we could have used my dad’s stroke to recoup some of the expenses, but at the end of the day, I was tired of fighting Expedia, you know?

  • April 29, 2017

    I’m so sorry this happened to you! What a frustrating and upsetting situation 🙁
    I’ve booked hotels with Expedia many times and never had any issues. But after reading this, I will never consider booking flights with them!
    Thanks for your honest review, I’m sure you’ve saved tons of people the same inconvenient experience 🙂

    • April 30, 2017

      Yeah, to be honest, I’ve never had trouble with hotel bookings. It’s mainly just flights and rental cars. Though so many friends who work for hotels tell me how awful the OTAs are to the hotel chains (particularly the little guys) so it makes me just want to go direct regardless as the majority of hotels will price match what you find via an Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, etc.

  • April 30, 2017

    Had you bought travel insurance?

    • April 30, 2017
      Kristin

      Yes.

      • April 30, 2017

        And what did they have to say? I’m not talking about the Expedia trip protection, as you’ve already discussed it.

        • April 30, 2017

          That’s all we had this trip. I was more concerned about my dad having another stroke as he was just six months out from his first the day we left, so I made sure we had the proper medical coverage in place. On past trips, I’ve had TravelGuard and MedJetAssist plans, though from what agents have told me in the wake of this incident, the majority of plans wouldn’t have covered civil unrest either (which is crazy to me). Our Chase card does often cover such insurance claims, as it did in this case on the one ticket we purchased through them (AmEx, however, did not). Do you have any catch-all plans you recommend? I’ll definitely be looking into investing in a good one in the future after all this and am soliciting suggestions. I’ve read so many articles on sites about travel insurance and have not reached a consensus as to which one would make the most sense for international travel.

  • April 30, 2017
    Katherine

    I usually book directly with the airline or hotel but recently Amex began offering 5X membership miles for reservations made through their travel agency. When I checked into my first Amex-made reservation hotel stay last week, the front desk clerk said “oh, your reservation is through Orbitz”. What? I guess that’s it for me with the Amex travel agency! My plans change too frequently to deal with 3rd (4th) parties.

    • April 30, 2017

      You know, I saw that with one of my credit cards, too, Katherine. They’re using either Orbitz or Travelocity to make bookings. Still, I think the credit card companies usually have a lot better customer service than the airlines or OTAs do so you’re a little safer there. (At least in my case, Chase has always stepped in to help.)

  • April 30, 2017

    The biggest surprise for me in all of this is that Expedia’s trip protection didn’t cover acts of war or terrorism. I fully admit to NEVER reading the fine print so that would have been a big surprise for me!

    One question — did you know about the three day credit card cancellation window when it happened or did you not know about it until later? I’m wondering how the credit cards would even let their customers know about something like that.

    • April 30, 2017

      Yeah, I clearly didn’t read the fine print either, but at the same time, I wasn’t necessarily anticipating multiple bombings in the month we were traveling so much as I was my dad having a repeat stroke as is common with stroke victims.

      During the three-day period when FAA had halted flights, the state department had warnings against Turkey and the country was in a military coup, the credit card companies were refunding any clients who had travel currently booked there. I called to make sure I’d get a refund from all our bookings (they confirmed I would) but held off canceling as it seemed from my correspondence with Nick that they were going to help me make alterations to my itinerary. Big mistake. HUGE. I should have just canceled outright when AmEx and Citi would have refunded us and then made a new booking (my big thing at the time was that I would have had to pay double on all the existing flights we’d had for six months given an increase in prices so close to departure), but instead I held out hope that Expedia would be able to contact the airline on my behalf (since I never got through to a live human on the Turkish Airlines’ line) and let me alter my flight path to go through different cities. Lesson learned! In the future, I’ll just outright cancel when I have the opportunity to do so without penalty and figure out new arrangements from there.

  • May 1, 2017

    Thank you for helping us out Kristin! It’s really bad with you with expedia. Will never go booking turkish airlines by third party.

  • May 1, 2017

    I think it’s especially important to not use a third party travel agency when flying international. If it’s domestic I think booking with these type of agencies is okay, but there are definitely pros and cons. For example, the last flight I booked with Expedia did offer the absolute lowest domestic rate I could find, but the actual booking process wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. I was also unaware of the fact I couldn’t choose my seat on the provided airline before the day of the flight. As far as budget traveling goes, Expedia worked just fine, but I see why international travel could cause some difficulty. Being able to change flight details after having booked would also be nice. Thanks for sharing your experience and sorry to hear about not making it to Turkey!

    • May 1, 2017

      You’re right, Josh. It seems the bulk of my issues with OTAs in the past have stemmed from international travel. Still, I’m going to play it safe and use a real travel agent or book direct from now on 😉

  • May 2, 2017

    Goodness me. It must have been awful and so, so stressful Kristin. I’m so sorry.

    I’ve had a quick read through some of the comments and I’m amazed at the lack of understanding but sadly, hardly surprised.

    I’m flown with Turkish Airlines before, and have been to Istanbul, but right now, Turkey isn’t safe for vacation travel at all. I live in Germany, and Berlin has a large Turkish expat community. The politics is very complicated and not going away any time soon. As such, you were right to cancel.

    Have I been through such a kerfuffle with a travel company? If you travel as much as we do, it’s bound to happen.

    My flight was 1.5 hours late going from Berlin to Barcelona 2 years ago. I was actually going to Costa Brava for the TBEX conference and ended up arriving at midnight so I missed my pre-booked and pre-paid taxi-service! The result? I had to sleep at a bar in the airport! On the way back, the airline was 10.5 hours late! I had client appointments which all had to be cancelled. The result? 15 hours at the airport, 2 food vouchers and nothing more ‘cos they were a budget airline. Lesson learnt. No flying with budget airlines except for EasyJet, who are brilliant!

    As a result, when we went to Spain & Portugal in 2016, we booked directly with Brussels Airlines. During our time in Portugal, the airport was destroyed via a bomb. It was a difficult time and all the phones were down. I contacted them via Twitter, as we couldn’t get back to Berlin unless we went to Switzerland, France, the UK, or doubled back to Spain, and paid over €1,000 each! Brussels Airlines were great and re-booked us with Lufthansa via Frankfurt instead.

    Last year, I went to the Philippines and booked with Turkish Airlines. The day after, an airport bomb went off! I tried to cancel the flight but they wouldn’t refund my money. Like yourself, I cancelled it anyway, and booked with SWISS. I lost €800.00.

    Will I be going to Turkey or flying with Turkish Airlines anytime soon? No.

    It wasn’t a good year for us in Europe, but it is what it is, and meanwhile all we can do is get good insurance, book directly with the airline, and hope for the best.

    • May 5, 2017

      Personally, I find it ludicrous that people can be so flippant about traveling to a country in the midst of extreme civil unrest, but to each his/her own. The day we would have arrived in Turkey, there was a huge attack, so I don’t regret that decision at all.

      And ugh, I feel ya with the tough year in Europe. I know you guys in Germany are really feeling it with the country accepting so many refugees. (Good on Merkel for that, by the way.)

  • May 3, 2017

    Oh man, I feel for you! We had to cancel El Al flights due to a *war* and couldn’t get them to just send documentation of the cancellation fees so that I could submit a travel insurance claim. My husband called and emailed at least a dozen times.

    (My original reply got so long that I decided it should just become a blog post, so thank you for the writing prompt!)

    • May 4, 2017

      Ugh! What is wrong with these international airlines? How do they get away with it??

      And please link me to your post when it’s live!

  • May 5, 2017
    Sandy

    Sorry you and your family had to go through this but thank-you so much for sharing your experience!

  • May 7, 2017

    No. I’ve never booked through Expedia and now certainly never will. What a mess! Maybe there’s some logic to booking tickets separately rather than all in one transaction for a big group. We always travel as 4, but sometimes we book 2 lots of 2 as it helps us with baggage charges. Maybe that way a big group wouldn’t all be reliant on one successful refund. But nothing like this has ever happened to us. Well, we were flying the day after the Nepal earthquake, but the airport was closed so the refund was no problem. Also we’ve never laid down such a big wodge of cash in one go, a large amount like that is worth looking at good insurance for. Anyway, sorry this happened to you and they suck.

  • August 21, 2017

    This post helps me in lot ways. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • September 19, 2017

    What a pain in the you know what!! I myself have recently had a terrible experience with Priceline that I was going to write about. Long story short, they refused to refund my money even though the hotel we were staying at had a ROACH crawl from under my daughter’s pillow and smelled strongly of weed. I ended up checking out a few hours after check in and RECORDED my complaint to the hotel. The woman in the recording acknowledged they knew about this problem, and yet Priceline did not want to give me my money back. They said I never reported my problem to the hotel… :/ After back and forth, I finally got my money back. Whatever happened to customer service?!

    • September 19, 2017

      Kay, that’s awful! I’m so sorry you experienced that but SO GLAD you got your money back. We never received a penny from Expedia =/

  • October 16, 2017
    Rob

    The internet is my favourite.

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook