One of our friends visited London and endured a frustrating exchange with his Online Travel Agent in regards to a ride to the airport for his flight home. I followed along with the thread on Facebook, and after he arrived safely home, I asked and received permission to share the details.
Here’s the story:
Our friend booked a ride to the airport through AARP Travel Center, which is powered by Expedia.
He prepaid $79 for the one way trip from his hotel, which was in the vicinity of Farringdon Station, to Gatwick Airport. He could have walked to the station and taken the train but if you’re a solo traveler in London and have baggage, it can often be troublesome because the trains or the London Underground often include stairs. Lots of stairs.
This is difficult to manage for someone who’s in good health but add any type of mobility issue and this is a huge obstacle.
As I mentioned the trip was prepaid. The day before our friend’s flight home, he tried contacting the company assigned to give him a ride to the airport, as he wanted to confirm the time they would be at his hotel to pick him up.
Been trying to get a departure time for my airport shuttle booked from AARP. It wasn’t a great price but it’s supposed to pick up from my hotel and takes me directly to Gatwick airport. My flight departs at 1300. No email from service to tell me as yet what time to be at the door outside with my luggage. I assume 8:30-9:00 but without confirmation, I don’t even know if they are still in business. Company support number sends me directly to voice mail. I’ve been calling AARP travel support this morning and afternoon. The response was to give it more time, and I should still get an email with details later today. I’ve been frustrated trying to tell agent my phone allows me to call USA numbers such as his, but not the UK. I really don’t know if a UK number can call me. Best to use email where I have spotty internet service at my hotel only. If they don’t show, I’ll have to leg it to Farringdon station for a train to the airport. It will be close to making my flight.
It was a few hours but he finally received a response:
Just received a confirmation email. I should have a shuttle at 0830 in the morning.
Since that text message, I’ve had two calls and as many emails. They had me listed as 3 passengers and 3 pieces of luggage for the boot.
At least he knew what time to be ready for the pickup.
Over at Expedia, the wheels of ineptitude kept turning, slowly.
5/30 11:30 PM
My shuttle to the airport was today. This morning at 08:30 AM (UK/London time).
At 11:39 AM (UK/London Time) I received the following update from AARP/Expedia regarding my request for information about what time I should be ready for a pickup from my hotel (in England) to get to the Airport, so I could fly home. My calls yesterday I was getting initial answers of 11 AM should be fine for a 1 PM departure. I guess their idea of a shuttle is instantaneous travel.
This was their email. I’ve blacked out the reservation confirmation number only:
Thank you for contacting AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia regarding your shuttle reconfirm request for itinerary number XXXXXXXXXX.
We are still working on your change request, please expect an email update from us within the next 24 hours. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
For any correspondence, please continue to send your e-mails to email@example.com, or you may reach us at 1-800-675-4318 or 1-949-333-4391 for callers outside US and Canada.. We are available 24/7 to assist you.
Thank you for choosing AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia.
Then two days later:
Saturday, June 1st
Response from Expedia regarding my pickup time for my May 30th shuttle. It’s a good thing they know how important and time sensitive this matter was on May 29th.
Thank you for contacting Expedia regarding your reservation on itinerary number: XXXXXXXXXX.
We sincerely apologize for the delay in answering your request. We are currently experiencing a high volume of requests, preventing us from responding within our normal standards.
We are waiting for the vendor’s response in regards to your request. We will send you an email on the results of the call out within 48 hours or as soon as we reach the vendor whichever comes first.
For any correspondence, please continue to send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may reach us at 1-800-675-4318 or 1-949-333-4391 for callers outside US and Canada.
Thank you for choosing AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia.
I received another email from Expedia. They reported they got a hold of the vendor who confirmed I used the service. Nothing further about the problems contacting the vendor for pickup time. According to Expedia case closed. I’ll have to find a different vendor for airport transportation when I return in 2021.
According to our friend, the actual ride was uneventful.
The driver when he came was good. Nice car, helped me with my big bag both in and out of the boot.
What Did We Learn
I understand the appeal of using an Online Travel Agency to book travel plans. You have a safety net in case something goes wrong. But do you really have any type of support backing you up? It doesn’t seem so. There’s no one who will take up your case and be an advocate like you’d think when you hear the term travel agent. For example, take the story from View from the Wing where people booked a flight on Expedia for an airline that’s not in existence anymore. No one contacted them to inform them.
What if, in this case, the shuttle company never contacted my friend? Expedia took no apparent interest in helping my friend contact them. It took Expedia several days to even reply to the request. He would have needed to find alternate means to the airport, at the last minute, and then fight to get his money back.
If it was me, I’d take some time and do some homework myself. Find a company. Make sure they’re real. Contact them in advance before booking. Make sure they reply in a timely manner. This might take some extra time but I think it’s worth it for the piece of mind you’ll have not worrying if your ride to the airport is even showing up.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary