After Jutta Baumgarten orders airline tickets through CheapOair, she discovers that her last name has been misspelled. Her only option is to buy another ticket and eat the loss. Is that fair?
Q: I recently booked a flight from Frankfurt to Orlando, Florida, using CheapOair. I spoke with a representative at an Indian call center, who helped me make the reservation.
The booking number was issued under the name of Jutta Monica Baumgaster. The correct spelling should have been “Jutta Monica Baumgarten.” Ongoing email and telephone conversations between myself and upper management at CheapOair did not resolve this problem.
The only option I had, according to a manager at CheapOair, was to purchase a new airline ticket and throw away the first ticket, which was nonrefundable. So I paid $697 for a new ticket.
I expect CheapOair to assume full responsibility for this matter. I expect to be reimbursed for the total value of my second airline ticket. Outsourcing services to a foreign country invites room for error due to language barriers. Can you help me?
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— Jutta Monica Baumgarten, Deland, Florida
A: CheapOair should have spelled your name correctly. When you book an airline ticket, you have 24 hours to cancel and receive a full refund, unless you’re within one week of flying. If you’d reviewed your itinerary within a day of making the reservation, and spotted the error, you easily could have fixed this.
It’s hard to know what happened. Did the agent have a hard time understanding you, or was it just a bad connection? Did CheapOair not send you your confirmation until sometime after the 24 hours? What we do know is that you were stuck with a ticket that had the wrong name after the one-day grace period.
There’s an easy way to fix this and a hard way. The easy way is to show up early at the airport and ask your airline to fix an obvious typographical error on your ticket. That’s been known to work in the past — but no guarantees.
The hard way is to push this with CheapOair. You didn’t enter the wrong name; a CheapOair employee did. You tried to resolve this, but in the end, a manager told you that you had to buy a new ticket.
CheapOair records its calls for “quality assurance” purposes, so it easily can go back to the tape to figure out what went wrong. I’ve always believed, and still do, that you should have the same right to record a conversation with a call center. That way, you can know for certain if you misspoke or if it misinterpreted.
In this particular case, I think CheapOair goofed. You know how to spell your own name, no doubt about it. I think you’re right, this was a language issue. I’m not sure that moving the call center back to the States is the solution. I’ve spoken with plenty of call-center employees who work right here in the U.S. of A., and we had similar communication challenges. The workaround? Make your reservation online next time.
You could have appealed this to someone higher up at CheapOair. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of its parent company’s executives on my website: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/fareportal/.
I contacted CheapOair on your behalf, and the company refunded your second ticket.