One consumer was surprised after reading the fine print of a popular online travel booking site, ABC News reports.
Dear ABC News Fixer: After watching airline flight prices reach what we believed was a low, we purchased round-trip flights from Seoul, South Korea to Dallas using Travelocity. My wife and I are teachers from Texas who live and teach in Seoul with our three daughters. Purchasing five flights can be very expensive.
]Within 24 hours of our purchase we found a lower price on the exact same itinerary through Travelocity (same flight numbers, same dates and same class of service). My wife submitted the online claim form for their low-price guarantee, along with screen shots, and got a reply saying we would be contacted within 72 hours. We heard nothing.
My wife then attempted to call the customer service line, and for more than two hours was given a lot of runaround. First, they could not see that we had submitted the online form. After several more calls -- and hours on the phone from Seoul, which has a 14-hour time difference -- we found out we were denied due to a booking code that we cannot control.
We met every condition of the low-price guarantee. I have screen shots that show the prices and the dates and times. We are talking about more than $500 difference. Travelocity is really giving us the runaround and we need help.
- Michael and Michelle Ganus, Seoul, South Korea
Dear Michael and Michelle: You two are the kinds of consumers the ABC News Fixer adores – you had careful records of what you bought, when and how much the flight prices went down and all the back-and-forth you had with the company.
From what we could tell, you were indeed comparing the same flights, same passengers and same seat class – and you had made your claim within the specified time period. First, you said Travelocity's customer service rep couldn't find your claim form. You resubmitted it and that form was lost, too. Then they seemed confused about whether the flights were the same and whether your children were kids or adults (the two older ones paid an adult fare but you had to list their ages --15 and 13 -- on the site when you bought the tickets).
In between, there were some promised calls back that never materialized, a lot of long hold times, a disconnected call and a phone battery that died. When you finally got an answer 10 days later, it was that they were denying you the refund because some of the seats on the two flights were coded with a different letter, even though they were the same flight, class and price.
We got in touch with Travelocity and asked them to take a look. It took about a week, but they reviewed the whole thing and decided that given all the hassle you had gone though, they would extend the low-price guarantee even with the different code numbers. They agreed to refund you the $841 price difference, plus they gave you a $100 travel coupon as a good will gesture.
But back to the low-price guarantee. We read through all the fine print and there are some expected exclusions, such as you can't claim a lower price from a corporate discount or an obvious website error. But the part about the booking codes having to be the same is also in the policy. These letter codes are used internally by airlines and aren't something the consumer deals with when they search for a flight date, time, airline and seat class. So is the low-price guarantee difficult to obtain?
Travelocity spokesman Joel Frey said he didn't have figures on how many claims go through, but he said that generally, "If you catch it (a lower price) within 24 hours, the likelihood of us being able to help you are good." He added that experiences like your family's are "something we're continually looking at" in seeking to refine their practices.
Our advice for consumers intending to use any price guarantee – and these are offered on everything from carpeting to appliances – is to be sure to read all the fine print before you buy. Submit your claim immediately and be sure to keep detailed notes, receipts and evidence of competing prices in case you need to mount a case later.