Flyer Sues Orbitz (and wins) Over Their Courtesy Cancellation Policy

BigFlyer posted his story on Flyertalk about why he sued Orbitz in small claims court — and won.

My Orbitz adventure began with reading about Orbitz’s “courtesy cancellation policy” on its website. The site stated that one could cancel an airline reservation by 10:00 P.M. Central Time the following day and get a complete refund. The exceptions were paper tickets, tours, and “certain airlines.” I wrote to Orbitz customer service, and was told that “The two airlines that are an exception from the ‘Courtesy Cancellation’ option are Spirit Airlines and AirTran Airlines.” So, I felt safe booking Virgin America through Orbitz.

The day after my booking, I needed to cancel. I went to the reservation, but there was no “courtesy cancel” button. I then called Orbitz customer service.. the first person I spoke with, and the claimed supervisor, said that the courtesy cancel policy did not apply because there was no button allowing a courtesy cancel, therefore the policy did not apply. The simple logical assertion that somehow Orbitz was bound by its own website and its prior response to my email inquiry seemed to be over the head of the representative.

For the next few days I corresponded by email and phone and received varying explanations …

* “It is a courtesy by itself. It is not a policy”

* “When you canceled online and it did not allow you to, it means the ticket is no longer courtesy cancelable. When you called to request a courtesy cancellation, and you were told it was no longer possible, it means it can not be done anymore.”

* “Airlines not offering courtesy cancellations are, but not limited to, Air Tran and Spirit. The response given to you was a general answer to your rather general question.”

* My refund request was “ex post facto.”

… My next step was to go the website of my state’s Secretary of State, where I found the address of the agent for service of process for Orbitz, LLC, the actual entity which operates and sells tickets on the Orbitz website.

I filed in small claims court, naming Orbitz, LLC as a defendant. I asked for my $194.60 back, plus damages for inconvenience and annoyance, and for punitive damages.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Just an update — I booked a Spirit Airlines ticket through Orbitz today, decided to cancel. They canceled it just fine, but I had to call them up to do it, because they needed to put me on hold for 10 minutes and call Spirit themselves. Annoying, but it worked fine and they were super friendly. So this guy really made a difference.

  2. I’ve also just been stung my Orbitz by this scam. I booked my ticket yesterday afternoon and it said I could cancel it before 10PM today (the fight is at 1PM today). I went to their website which says I have to ring a US phone number if I want to cancel. I rang the number (from Bali) and got sent through hoop after hoop with the automated service constantly failing to recognise my chosen options. I finally had to give up after being on the phone for 20 minutes and going around in circles. I have now written to my credit card company requesting a chargeback as I have not received the service I paid for (which included the option for a refund).

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