Third party bookings vs direct from the airline

May 17, 2013
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. When traveling with my brother's family we got stuck in Denver. My brother stood in a long line at customer service for Frontier who immediately turned him away saying, "You bought your ticket through a third party, we can't help you." This was close to midnight, customer service would not even hear the issue. We have to cobble together different airlines because we fly into tiny airports in southern Colorado so we do use Travelocity, Expedia or whatever -- which they were calling the third party. So how to cobble together airlines without using a third party so that we are not turned down when the trip goes awry -- particularly late at night? Do travel agents still exist?

    A. You're correct that sites like Expedia and Travelocity are useful for "cobbling together" itineraries that combine flights on more than one airline to find the best fares and schedules. But those sites are indeed travel agencies. Not "bricks and mortar" travel agencies, but online travel agencies (OTAs) with 800 numbers and customer service agents. You should have or could have called them for help rather than going through Frontier. Frontier has been very aggressive in pushing consumers to buy on their own website (by offering more frequent flyer miles, avoiding carry on bag fees, and allowing advance seat selection, among other things), and perhaps this unhelpful response was just another manifestation of this policy. In any case, at midnight in Denver there was probably little chance to be put on another flight. Depending on the cause of the problem, travel insurance might have helped defray the costs of a hotel room, meals and other expenses, but probably Frontier was under no obligation to defray those costs since there's no regulation or law requiring them to do so. 

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