The roundtrip airfare from Brussels to New York on the European online travel site eDreams was €337 — until Alisa Schlossberg clicked on the “buy” button. Then it jumped to €592, creating an eNightmare.
Schlossberg, a software consultant who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, thought it was a simple misunderstanding. “After all, I had purchased, paid and received a confirmation from the site,” she says.
But that’s not the way eDreams saw it. “Unfortunately, your ticket fare expired when we tried to issue your booking and the fare went up in 251 euros,” Luis Alberdi, a company spokesman, wrote to her after I asked about her ticket. “We do apologize for any inconvenience caused by it.”
Can an online travel agency do that? Yes. And more of them are, to hear travelers like Schlossberg and others talk about it. At a time when more tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars than ever are being booked online, frustrations with the booking process are growing.
The complaints can be divided into several broad categories:
Bait and switch. You thought you’d locked in a price, but were asked to pay more. Either surcharges and fees were added, or the ticket was completely re-priced.
Double booking. Your Web browser freezes during the booking process, you page back and make a reservation, only to find you’re now the proud owner of two nonrefundable reservations.
Sleight of hand. The site offers a ticket or hotel room, but once you try to book, you find out the tickets are gone. If you’re buying a vacation package, the site may offer you an alternate destination — usually at a higher price.
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