You may not know Ashley Fleetwood, but to us she’ll always be nerd royalty.
Ashley is the widow of Daniel Fleetwood, who became internet famous after a campaign called “The Force for Daniel” rallied to allow Daniel a chance to see the new Star Wars movie before he passed away of connective tissue cancer. The campaign was a worldwide success, and even lead to a follow up campaign “Save A Seat For Daniel” that we here at Image Freedom participated in, as did Chewbacca himself Peter Mayhew.
It has now been seven months since Daniel passed away, and Ashley has been working to get back to some form of normal. She had scheduled her first vacation since Daniel’s passing and was going to be joining family in Orlando for a much needed break. As you can imagine there is a lot of paperwork, medical bills, account management, etc, that follows a loved one passing and this was the first chance Ashley had to get away.
Fleetwood used the travel booking website Orbitz to book her travel, but when she arrived at the airport they told her no travel had actually been booked, despite receiving a confirmation from Orbitz. So now hours away from her first vacation she was forced to pay again for a plane ticket she’d already paid for once.
She had to pay a six hundred dollar last minute price to even get on the plane.
I don’t know about you but if I was starting a vacation, especially my first actual vacation following the death of my spouse, I’d be pretty wrecked by having to pay over six hundred dollars extra just to get the journey started. This is the nightmare all travelers fear, being stranded somewhere and our e-mail confirmations not being accepted – but thanks to Orbitz that is the experience Ashley received.
Fighting with Orbitz for a refund proved to be no small feat either, and at the time of writing this Orbitz has only offered Fleetwood a travel credit to use their service again, refusing to refund her purchase (if you can even call it a purchase).
As a frequent business traveler myself this calls to question whether these discount websites are worth this risk. In my experience booking directly with the airline has always been the same price as using a “discounter”, though I guess some travelers might appreciate being able to search multiple airlines, I tend to fly Southwest when possible.
I polled some friends on Facebook and my friend Bobby jumped in saying that websites like Orbitz and Expedia lead a close friend to quit working in hotel hospitality all together. Hotel Guests would arrive with a promised two bed reservation and be told Orbitz only booked them a single bed, or no reservation at all. He was on the receiving end of all that frustration as in the middle of the night he’s the only warm body there to yell at.
Imagine the abuse? Not fun.
So buyer beware – don’t use a service like Orbitz – who not only might neglect to actually book your reservation at all, but if they do book it they often get it wrong, and while traveling that is a nightmare no one needs.