Reader Mail: One Travel and Customer Service Issues

By | July 25, 2010
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10:  Holiday make...
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We don’t get much reader mail, but this came in this weekend and we wanted to open it up to the Internet for feedback.

“I bought three tickets from Onetravel which is the same company as CheapOair on June 16th 2010 for July 22nd from Dublin Ireland to Atlanta, GA. The tickets were for 15, 11, and 8yrs old. Before booking, I called Onetravel agent to make sure it was okay to book on-line or with them which they said it was more expensive than on-line that I should go with on-line for better deals,I asked about the fight connection if the transportation is been provided by the
airline or one will have to look for one (they replied that the airline provides the transportion) and my last question to the lady/agent was about all the bad/negative feedback report made by all other customers “she said, don’t worry about that you will be fine because some customers just make false reports”. And I did booked the tickets, after a week I called them to find out about my children’s seating arrangement explaining that they are kids and I want to seat together “don’t worry about it the airline we assign their seats since you booked the tickets together, said by their agent).

On July 17th, I recevied an email saying from Onetravel that my children seats has been confirm by the airline but blocked (I was smiling and happy that my children were coming for my wedding). Until July 22nd 2010, time to board the plane they got their 2hours and the airline delay them until it was late to board saying that they were children and the agent that booked the tickets should have told us that they don’t that ages below 18yrs old and my sister offered unaccompany fee but the airline refused. I called Onetravel, they asked me to buy another tickets from $9,000 to $5,000 till this morning and I’ve not heard anything from them because I don’t have anymoney to pay for another ticket also they are not sure if they can refund my money back. I’m in tears right now because not only that my children are missing in my wedding, I have booked another tickets with Delta for them to meet us in WA that is
another $500+ lost. Please, help me.”

Now, let’s break this down a bit. We interviewed a representative from CheapOair last year. And our sites were the victim of CheapOair tricks.  And we want to believe there is an inherent value on having someone to help you book your trips, ie a travel agent.

CheapOair and Onetravel, are owned by different companies. We’re not 100% straight on the details, but it appears some of the subcontracting is handled by the same companies. Cheapoair is owned by Fareportal, and Fareportal technology runs the One Travel service. The head of One Travel used to work for Fareportal.

Ask a company about complaints about them is usually fruitless. Do you expect them to say that they had problems? Some customers do make false reports and exaggerate situations. But many make legitimate complaints also. But you’d be hard pressed to find a company someone wasn’t mad at for something. Although, if you’ve heard overwhelmingly bad things, you are probably better off taking your business elsewhere.

But, the person who wrote this email has already contracted with them. There are some missing details. The only airline that flies nonstop from Dublin to Atlanta is Delta, which, was referenced later in the letter. According to their site, would not permit an 11 and 8 year old to fly unaccompanied without someone with them over 18. Payments for fees are set to be paid at the airport.

We are sorry that your otherwise happy occasion has been disrupted by this. We will assume a few things that we may or may not be incorrect about:

  • The parent would have noted one adult and two children on the One Travel website, as there is not a distinguishing option for a 15 year old, thus the airline, unless advised, would not know the adult ticket was actually for a 15 year old, who cannot escort younger children.
  • When you called for seating, the agent requested seating through their system. Still the airline did not know of the problem. Agents at travel agents, ie One Travel(which is an online travel agency) did not advise you or the carrier of the fact there were unaccompanied minors.
  • Delta, for example, assuming it was indeed them from Dublin to Atlanta, does not note that arrangements must be made in advance for unaccompanied minors. We’re unsure why the airline refused after there was an agreement to pay the fee. Perhaps there was a time or paperwork issue, but we don’t not have sufficient information on this aspect of it to tell.
  • We are assuming you did not call the airline directly to ensure they knew of the ages of the group or ask the agency to do so. But if the agent told you it was in order, you had a reasonable expectation in that regard.

Ultimately, assuming the above, if someone is denied boarding, they are still entitled to a refund, or to transport on an alternate day. A travel agent should be an advocate for their customers with the airline. One Travel’s terms and conditions imply quite the opposite. It states they “shall not be liable for failure of travel service suppliers, including but not limited to airlines, hotels, cruise lines, railroads, car rental agencies, tour operators and consolidators to perform the services offered by such suppliers…does not guarantee or insure the services to be provided by any supplier, the financial position of such suppliers or the reimbursement to you from any loss experienced as a result of the financial condition of such supplier.” They describe themselves as a “service bureau that provides value added service to retail travel agents and consumers.”

They spend several pages advising how you waive all rights to make claims against them, which would likely not hold up in court, but…they also say that in the event the issue is due to human error, the maximum compensation you are due are the fees they have charged you for the booking, plus a $10 coupon for future use, and that is only within the first 24 hours. They do advise as well that you reconfirm with the airline 24 hours beforehand, which is never a bad idea with a third-party booker.

So, the likelihood of One Travel giving you your money back in a timely fashion is slim. Even their 60 day note on their website may be overly optimistic. They will only do it if authorized to by the airline, and the administrative issues between the two often delay the process by months. In our experience, that can take a while, as agents have a tendency to not prioritize the processing of refunds over other functions.

We wish we had rosier news for you. But your best move is, if you still wish them to travel, try to change the tickets. If the airline can’t justify why it denied boarding when your family was willing to pay the minor fee, then request they waive any fees for making the change. Buying a new ticket is not the best option, as it is likely to cost, as you have noticed, the highest prices.

If anyone has any ideas, feel free to comment.