(Tribune Media Services) -- When Martha Schmidt tries to cancel her airline tickets, her online agent promises to help her reuse the credit quickly. But after eight hours on the phone and an email promising a response "within four to eight hours" she feels as if she's being stonewalled. Are her tickets missing in action?
Q: I've been having some problems with an airline reservation, and was wondering if you could help me. I recently had to cancel a reservation I had made through Travelocity. I spent eight hours on the phone with their incompetent customer service agents trying to use the credit I received to reschedule another flight on the same airline.
Travelocity finally gave me a flight and a confirmation number, but when I checked the airline Web site, it hadn't been ticketed yet. I don't want to get to the airport and find we have no tickets and can't fly. I spoke to Travelocity about this again last night, and was promised an email "within four to eight hours" with a resolution. I haven't received a response.
Travelocity has charged my credit card $2,700 for tickets I don't have. I can't deal with its customer service department again. I'm at my wits end. Help!
-- Martha Schmidt, Sykesville, Maryland
A: Travelocity should have changed your reservation quickly instead of keeping you on the phone for eight hours. When it promised you a response within four hours, it should have given you one.
At this point in my answer, I normally outline Travelocity's missteps and then suggest a few things you might have done differently. But let me start with you this time.
Based on your letter -- the fact that you preferred talking to someone on the phone instead of dealing with a Web site -- I think you may have booked your airline tickets through the wrong company. Travelocity is an online travel agency. That means for best results, reserve your trip through Travelocity.com.
You could have canceled your reservation online by clicking on the "Your Account" link at the top of the home page, logging in, selecting "Check Current Reservation" and then clicking "Cancel Reservation."
If you don't want to do that, why not use a travel agent next time? Sure, a human agent might charge a booking fee, and may not always have the lowest price, but that person will be there when you need to make a change. You will almost certainly not have to talk to a company representative for eight hours.
That's not to say anything Travelocity did was excusable. Its well-publicized "guarantee" would leave any reasonable traveler with the impression that problems are dealt with quickly.
"If something isn't right, don't let it ruin your trip," it says. "Call us immediately instead! We're here 24/7 to work with our partners to make it right, right away. Our customer care professionals are ready to help."
I guess it all depends what your definition of "right away" is.
I asked Travelocity to take another look at your case. When you first contacted Travelocity by phone to apply the unused tickets to a new itinerary, the company didn't receive a confirmation from the airline. Travelocity rebooked a similar itinerary with nonstop flights on a separate reservation, which accounted for the delay. "In the spirit of the Travelocity Guarantee, we waived our exchange fees on both bookings," a company representative told me.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2009 CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT, DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.