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Expedia/British Airways Disaster!

Don’t use EXPEDIA or fly on BRITISH AIRWAYS—unless you want to be left stranded on the other side of the world with no way to get home!!!! We flew to Barcelona to take a Mediterranean cruise, and our return trip was: Barcelona – Geneva; Geneva – London; London –Phoenix. We made our reservations through Expedia. The Barcelona – Geneva leg was on an airline called Vueling (contractor for Iberia, according to our tickets) and the rest of the trip was on BA. Our Vueling flight was late due to mechanical difficulties. Therefore, we had 15 minutes to make our connection in Geneva. This proved to be impossible because we had to change terminals and because Vueling had refused to issue our boarding passes for the BA flights. That’s when the “fun” began. BA refused to honor our reservation and ultimately cancelled it. They blamed Vueling and Vueling blamed BA, and both blamed Expedia. We spent FOUR HOURS on the phone with Expedia and all they did was put us on hold and blame BA! We ultimately had to buy tickets on KLM to get home. We requested that Amex reverse the charge our tickets and also filed a claim with Allianz (travel insurance) for all the associated expenses and the outcome on both is still pending. Here are the details. Please share! http://tinyurl.com/neska3v

Posted by
8889 posts

Marnip, Vuelling is an economy airline. They do not offer connection to any other airline. And, according to EU law you are only given compensation if the flight is more than 4 hours late ("Vuelling - their contract requires .... them to get us there on time" this is not true for any airline). And that would only be compensation for the delay, not for any knock-on effects as you only had a contract (ticket) with them to get you to Geneva.
Your contract (ticket) with BA was from Geneva. If you did not turn up on time for that flight it is (legally) not their fault, as you did not have a through booking from another airport ("British Airways - Wouldn’t recognize our reservation because we were late through no fault of our own", but it was not through any fault of BA). You are in the same situation as somebody whose taxi to the airport broke down.

Your complaint, if it is with anyone, is with Expedia who sold you two separate and independent tickets without warning you of this and warning you that any delay in the first flight risked you missing the second flight.

Posted by
4468 posts

Not sure why you booked such a convoluted return as BA flies directly from Barcelona to LHR, but I guess you had a reason.

Vueling, BA and IB are constituent parts of IAG, but they operate independently. Vueling in particular is a low cost carrier and has fairly limited interlining and codesharing, and is not part of the Oneworld Alliance. For example it does interline with BA in Barcelona (so bags are transferred) but nowhere else. It does codeshare via Italy, so if you had been travelling instead via Rome on a BA-codeshare on a single ticket (but not on a Vueling ticket) you would have been protected against mis-connections.

What you need to check up on is the actual ticket number for each segment - if it isn't the same you were never protected.

Additional: I have read through what is your linked page and it substantiates the above. If the whole journey was on the 125- tickets (which means BA-plate) then you should have been OK - if Expedia has sold you a proper itinerary. If the first leg was actually another ticket issuer (and it may be complicated being an Iberia codeshare on Vueling) then it is different

Posted by
2290 posts

Sorry to hear about this difficulty! Please let us know how your cc and travel insurance handle this - would be good to know in case anyone else has this trouble again.

In general, I advise people to NEVER book through a third party like Expedia. Always book through the airline site - I use Kayak to see different flights, and then once I choose one it almost always takes me to the airline site to book. If it takes me to expedia or the like, I don't use it. I just go to British Air or Delta or whomever the flight was through. If you book through the airline, they have to honor it and rebook you, I am not sure about if it's through a third party.

I was under the impression that Vueling was a code-share, meaning they should be able to do boarding passes and the like for BA (like when I use American Air in the US, which codeshares with British Air for the overseas leg). Guess it's more complicated than that, something to watch out for in the future!!

Posted by
4468 posts

Computer systems don't all talk to each other reliably; even more so when they aren't in the same alliance, codeshares etc.

The connection at 50 minutes would have been tight on the best of days. The MCT at GVA is 40 mins on one ticket but whether that is sensible on a Schengen-non Schengen transfer and a change of pier is another matter.

I have seen claims before that misconnecting at GVA can be a bad experience, as they don't deal with many connecting passengers and aren't used to the problems. To add in another link in the chain the staff at GVA may well not be employed directly by BA but by some handling agent.

Did you check yourself in for any flight?

Posted by
574 posts

I see a few lessons here

  • don't buy your ticket from a 3rd-party travel site, buy it direct from an airline that has an obligation to get you from A to B and can put you on another one of their planes if something happens to disrupt your itinerary
  • don't rush connections between flight. As someone once said, you have a choice of being stressed or bored. 50 minute connections don't waste your time, until they don't work...

The OP chose a 3rd-party site and a 50-minute connection. As the tale illustrates, when it doesn't all work out then the various parties point fingers at each other. Paying a few more dollars to book thru an airline, cooling their heels for an extra 2 hours at the connecting airport, none of these problems would have happened.

Posted by
23550 posts

I see some good lessons here, but I fail to see where BA gets any blame.

You didn't have your boarding passes prior to arriving (can't you print them at home?) and you arrived late. What did they do wrong?

Posted by
2954 posts

This certainly is an example of "the blame game." What seems to be missing is any sense of personal responsibility.

I understand that you assumed that if you made your reservations through Expedia, then everything should be okay. After all, travel is their business. They did give you a poor routing on two different tickets, which set the stage for disaster. Here was the first mistake. A quick scan of any air travel forum would have shown why this was not a good idea.

What I can't understand is why you are blaming British Airways. I am assuming you had a non-refundable ticket. You did not show up for your flight. Getting to the airport to start a ticketed flight is your responsibility. It felt like a connecting flight to you, but it was not since it was two different tickets. This seems to be an important distinction that you are missing.

This must have been quite distressing for you and a very expensive lesson about how air travel works. I am sorry for the stress and expense. However, you can't keep blaming others. You accepted the routing.

A better title would be "Don't accept routings that involve two separate tickets"

Posted by
4468 posts

Having read through the link provided, the only ticket number given was the 125- one from BA. So thinking the whole itinerary was on that ticket may not have been that bad an assumption even if actually wrong. I'm not sure that we will get to hear any more from the OP though.

Posted by
12099 posts

I have flown a few times with BA, liked it, consistent and very satisfactory going from SFO to Heathrow. In doing this I don't bother using a third party, say Expedia or Price Line. I book directly on-line with the airline, and with BA there have been no problems, such as tardy departures and arrivals as with United going SFO to Frankfurt.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you for all the replies and the inslght you provided. Before I address your questions and comments, I want you to know that we are relatively experienced travelers. We travel out of the country at least once per year, and have always bought our tickets through Expedia. We thought we could depend on them if something went wrong, much as we would have a travel agent back in the “dark ages.” Of course, we won’t use them anymore based on this past experience!

ChrisF – I think you’re correct. Expedia is the main culprit because they shouldn't have sold us the ticket without alerting us to the fact that the reservation was actually two different flights. Furthermore, according to the Expedia listing our flight from Barcelona to Geneva was on Iberia, not Vueling, and if I’m not mistaken, Iberia is part of the same group as BA. So, there was no reason for us to think that they’d refuse to honor their “own” reservation.

Marco – We booked this flight because it was the one that best fit our schedule. If they offered a direct flight to Heathrow that fit our timetable, we would have chosen it. It does appear that the problem might be that Expedia didn’t sell us a “proper itinerary.” If the connection was too close, Expedia either shouldn’t have sold the ticket, or should have warned us. We checked in at the Vueling (Iberia?) counter in Barcelona. The agent checked us in and issued boarding passes for our London-Phoenix flight, but said we had to check in separately for the Geneva-London flight. Not sure why.

Mira – See previous comments regarding Expedia.

John- We chose this flight because it was the best match for our needs. See previous comments regarding Expedia.

Nigel – We couldn’t print our boarding passes beforehand because we were on a cruise ship and had very limited access to the Internet. We missed our flight in Geneva because our Vueling/Iberia fight was late due to mechanical difficulties. How is this our fault? We blame BA (along with the other companies) because they should have honored our tickets because Iberia is part of their group.

Carol – I resent your implication that we’re playing the “blame game” and not accepting personal responsibility! We made our reservations through a reputable company (Expedia), not some obscure, back-alley outfit that no one’s ever heard of. We checked in at the Barcelona airport 3 hours before our flight. Our flights were NOT separate. All were part of a continuing series of three flights. Furthermore, the Barcelona-Geneva flight was on Iberia, which is part of the same group as BA. We missed our connection because of mechanical difficulties on the Iberia flight. So, what did we do that was so wrong? To answer your other question, we blame BA for two reasons. First of all, THEIR PARTNER (Iberia) got us to Geneva late, and then BA refused to honor our tickets for the remaining two flights. Secondly, while BA may have done what is LEGALLY correct, they didn’t do the RIGHT thing. To clarify, based on some of the other comments it seems that BA may not have been obligated to honor our reservation because the flight was technically a Vueling flight, not Iberia. However, the flight is listed as an Iberia flight on our itinerary. So, BA should have simply booked us on their next flight to London. If this was indeed the case, I understand BA wasn't OBLIGATED to do this. However, if they had simply stepped up and solved the problem, they would have earned our undying loyalty. Now, not only would we NEVER consider flying them again, we’ve told everyone we know what happened, posted our story on social media and travel sites, written the CEO directly (as well as those for Vueling and Expedia). So, in the long run, they created more problems for themselves than if they’d simply said, “Geez, what a mess!” gotten us to our destination, and then fought it out with Iberia, Vueling, Expedia, or whoever, after the fact.

Posted by
23550 posts

Oh, I thought you were a loyal reader and Rick Steves follower.

It seems from your last comment that we were just the fodder for your campaign. It looked like this was a discussion about the best ways to travel. It is just part of your hate campaign and we are only one little place among many.

If you had visited here prior to your journey you could have learned all sorts of tips to save money and stay out of trouble.

Well maybe, when you have cooled off and calmed down, you could join our little community where we all help each other and learn something, and contribute some of your extensive knowledge to help new travelers.

Posted by
5308 posts

And this posting definitely will not deter me from flying BA in the future if theirs is the most convenient flight -- just will remind me to look at connection times.

Posted by
2865 posts

Although I agree with everything that's been said about using 3rd party ticket sellers, I'll spare you any further sermonizing on that issue. Here's a possible source for help. There is a travel writer who does a column for Nat'l Geographic Traveler magazine, entitled "Travel Troubleshooter." He can't resolve everything, but he does get results sometimes, when all else fails. Christopher Elliott: elliottc@gmail.com

Posted by
8609 posts

You've got to get this idea that these airlines are of the same "group" and must honor each other's tickets. Yes, they are owned by the same parent company but that doesn't mean they are the same.

FAC corporation owns Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, among others. If you bought a new Chrysler and needed repairs, you wouldn't drive into a Ferrari dealership and insist they fix your car under warranty because they are of the same group.

The reason you may not have gotten boarding passes in Barcelona for your GVA to LHR flight was because it was oversold and most other passengers had already checked in. In that case you would get your boarding passes when you arrived in GVA. And if it was oversold, chances are you would have been bumped because I'm guessing you were flying on the lowest fare class and had tickets purchased through an outside consolidator. (Expedia does not work like a travel agent. It buys the tickets and resells them to you. A travel agent acts as an agent for the airline and gets a commission.) Airlines and hotels put these kind of customers last if problems arise. I live full time in hotels and every desk clerk I've spoken to has horror stories about companies like Expedia.

Posted by
18 posts

Nigel…sorry you don’t like our tactics. Complaint letters sent to people who have the power to make decisions and the Internet/social media are VERY powerful tools in getting companies to “do the right thing.” Watch this video for a case in point - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo. Rosalyn…thanks for the tip on Christopher Elliot. Frank… we can relate to your Expedia “horror story” comment since we now have a “horror story” of our own.

Posted by
6798 posts

There have been lessons and sermons flying in all directions. IMHO, they could have put them on a flight and been done with it. Reservations are canceled only when you miss an outbound flight--as I learned the time I showed up at CDG a day late for my flight home. Air France put us on the next flight. My husband had a AF ticket; I had Delta. They charged us only 45 euro each for the change and apologized for having to charge us. They could have caused us grief but didn't. On the other hand, if we had missed our flight over, the reservation would have been canceled.

Wouldn't there be some compensation due via EU 261? http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/air/index_en.htm

P.S. Years ago, after my first delayed flight using an on-line agency, when all those who had booked directly through the airline were immediately re-routed but I was left to fend for myself with the agency's 800-number--that was the last time I ever used an on-line agency for a flight or hotel. Most of us have learned by our own bad experiences.

Posted by
4468 posts

It seems clear that BA in GVA had no knowledge of you being on any kind of connecting flight. You also from above seem to accept that it is likely that the itinerary shouldn't have been sold to you, which would probably put Expedia in the frame.

You state you have insurance so the best thing may be to claim off them and they can then pursue all the parties for any financial responsibility they might have.

This does not help you, but BA at Heathrow in general goes above and beyond what is contractually required for connections in that they do where possible do space available transfers even on two OW tickets. The ability and willingness of a contracted outstation is a different matter.

Posted by
2954 posts

No implication- Stating it directly. I also showed sincere sympathy for your situation and the fact that you had reasonably expected Expedia to give you a good routing.

Here is a quote from your dropbox posting, "All I know is two people had NO fault in this: James Gordon Patterson and Marguerite Catherine Patterson"

I continue to have great sympathy for your situation. I just think you need to slow down and look at it from another perspective.

Posted by
6798 posts

In addition to the National Geographic Travel Troubleshooter, you could also contact "The Hagler" at the New York Times. His cases are in the Business Section.

Your travel mess-up has to be one of the worst I've ever heard, costing you over $6,000 in added expenses.

We have friends who are trying to get reimbursed for a canceled Austrian Airlines flight with the ball being passed between Austrian and United and no one taking responsibility. They are being forced to use the EU 261 appeals process to get past the Austrian/United roadblock. Compared to you, they were lucky as all they lost was about $1,000, a prepaid night at a hotel and concert tickets.

Posted by
34 posts

Marnip-

We don't post on here much any more for some of the reasons that you have found with some people and their soapboxes.. But I empathize with you in this situation...
A few Europe trips ago we flew Iberia into Madrid changing planes to Paris.. We left the gate in Chicago 15 mins early and somehow ended up being almost an hour late.. We were met at departure by Iberia staff and given 2 lunch vouchers and told we wouldn't be able to make our connecting flight - we had 20mins and if the staff had helped we feel we could have made it..we were stuck in the airport for 6 hours until they flew to Paris again! Even though there were several other airlines flying there regularly..we lost several reservations and had to pay our car company that was picking us up at our gate another fee as well...the worst part was how once we were in the airport asking for help no one seemed to speak English! They had a few moments before but clammed up when we explained what was going on..we couldn't get anyone to help us make a phone call from Spain to France!
If you feel like continuing in your efforts contact Airhelp, there is an app on the Apple Store or they have a website, our case after a year didn't go thru because it turns out there was weather but your might be worth a try, EU carriers have different rules and they can advise you.
Our lesson learned was to never schedule a flight that doesn't have at least 2 hours for plane changes!
And we damn well made sure that we had all of our info printed out and on hand..including dialing instructions from any country we enter to our destination and U.S..

Good luck and don't let this stop you from traveling..
Ragan

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks Ragan. We'll definitely contact AirHelp if necessary. However, we seem to be making progress. This morning we received an email message from Vueling apologizing for what happened. They asked for banking coordinates and copies of the invoice for the airfare and said they'd wire transfer the $5,600 we had to spend to buy new tickets. This is ironic because Vueling is the party we figured was LEAST likely to accept responsibility. (No idea why they want to do this via wire transfer. It'd be a lot easier to simply credit our Amex, but who's arguing?) Both BA and Expedia contacted us last week after they saw our Facebook and Twitter posts and said they'd "research the issue." No idea how long that'll take. American Express and Allianz both said we should expect them to get back to us within 10 days.

Posted by
4468 posts

Veuling could be the party at fault if it was something they didn't do that caused you to be marked down as a non show on the second leg of a legitimate sequence of a connecting flight.

Posted by
8609 posts

Vueling can't refund your AMEX because they didn't make the charge.

Not to get you scared, but the email you received from Vueling was actually from Vueling? It had a Vueling email address?

The reason I bring it up is that you've posted everywhere and probably made your email address available somewhere. A crook could easily send you an email claiming to be from Vueling and ask for your banking information saying they were going to give you a refund. With that information, they could clean out your bank account.

Posted by
23550 posts

Frank II is right. Before you give out your banking details be very sure that you speaking with a genuine rep of the airline, or your disaster can get much worse.

Posted by
18 posts

True. We contacted our bank to see how we could do this safely (I.e. transfer to a temporary account, holding account, etc.) The email address is legitimate because I found it listed as a Vueling contact email address on several web sites, but still hesitant to send banking details through email.

Posted by
2040 posts

Just because the e-mail address matches what you see on Vueling's website does not make it legit! If this is a fraud attempt by someone, their contact to you will appear to show a correct web or email; address. When you cursor is over it, it should display at the bottom of your browser the real web address. This is a standard way of identifying phishing emails thta apear to be from the real site. If Vueling is trying to make an offer to you you should be able to contact them back through their website and get to this, and not just by the email.

Not wanting to scare you, but if your email address has gotten out you coul be scammed on this. It's not likely, but it could be. And you don't need more aggravation on this issue!

Posted by
18 posts

Larry...understand and completely agree! That's why we're working with our bank. We do our "everyday' banking at a credit union. However, we have a personal banking relationship with Chase Manhattan. We decided to go through them since they're more likely to have the knowledge and resources needed to detect and prevent fraud.

Posted by
768 posts

It looks like you got the results that you were after on social media so we may never see your tenth post,I always book directly with the airline that I am going to fly on.Good Luck
Mike

Posted by
18 posts

Mike... Not completely. We're still waiting for replies from Ba, ANEX and Allianz. Besides Tyler's a lot of interesting information on this site, and we like Rick Steve's show. So, I'm probably be a regular visitor.

Posted by
516 posts

I'm glad to hear that you received some responses from the parties in question. I'm also curious how the travel insurance is responding to this. I was in a similar situation last year where my booking involved an impossible to make connection and I ended up missing my second flight. In that instance my entire journey (both flights) were booked through United. The first flight was on Lufthansa and the second flight was on United. I booked through United because I was using miles and the miles were from United's program. United was able to put me on a later flight after missing my connection (as did a bunch of other travelers that was on the same inbound flight as me). In my situation I can't be certain which of the following were the reasons United took responsibility for this poor connection: 1). Was it because United was the party that booked the journey? 2). Was it because United and Lufthansa are partner airlines (under Star Alliance)? or 3.) both flights were on the same ticket?

It appears that BOTH third party vendors and the airlines themselves are prone to booking impossible connections.

Keep us posted on how your situation resolves, especially with the refund from Iberia.

Posted by
5308 posts

Sounds to me like the insurance company will determine that if you got reimbursement for the amount of the tickets you bought to replace BA tickets, you had NO insured loss -- the companies may negotiate among themselves but I wouldn't be expecting more big checks to you.

Posted by
18 posts

No more big checks, but our travel insurance should cover the other incidental expenses such as hotel room and dinner in Geneva, a couple hours worth of phone charges from calls to Expedia, extra parking and pet care charges, etc.

Posted by
18 posts

KC... It's good to hear that United honored its agreement with Lufthansa and made sure you got to your destination. According to our itinerary, our first flight was on Iberia (a British Airways partner), but was operated by Vueling. All three of our flights part of the same sequence. So, this never should have happened. At this point, Vueling has contacted us and said they'll reimburse us for the tickets we had to buy. BA contacted us and said they'd research the situation, and they contacted us again today to apologize for the delay and said they're still working on it. In fact, the only company involved that we HAVEN'T heard from is Expedia. It figures based on what we've learned about them as a result of this experience.

Posted by
516 posts

I was fortunate in that they got me on a later flight and wasn't stuck spending the night in DC. If that had been the case then I would have been able to find out if United would have paid for the hotel...my guess is that they would have.