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, and got someone in the Philippines. Both 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.
The rest of the saga is well worth reading, detailing the negotiations before court, the company’s refusal to clarify its policy online, and final judgment: Award to the plaintiff for a full refund, legal fees, and $500 for the trouble. Despite voting fully for the consumer in this case, small claims courts can’t force the company to change their policy or the content of the website.