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Rant: Bait And Switch at Orbitz

Want to annoy your online customers? Get them all the way through the order and then tell them they can’t have what you pitched them.

Most online retailers play it straight. Seldom do leading online e-retail sites play bait-and-switch with inventory availability or pricing. Information from earlier screens holds true all the way through checkout.

Not so with online ticket search engines. Increasingly, I’ve found Orbitz, Expedia, Travelicity, and SideStep will “sell” you a ticket, all the way through collecting passenger name and credit card, and then seconds later “discover” that that those attractively-priced tickets are sadly no longer available.

I’m seeing messages like this far too often:

Because flight availability can change rapidly based on traveler demand, the flight you selected is no longer available. Please make another selection. (Message 150)

Yes, airline tickets are dynamic and sell fast, but this issue is happening much more this year than last. The “oops that ticket is suddenly sold out” message is among the most frustrating screens on the web.

There’s a growing opportunity for better travel sites than Expedia, Orbitz, and SideStep. I’ll try kayak for my next few bookings, but it seems easier these days to buy directly from the airlines. They don’t play bait-and-switch games.

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
  • Comments
    5 Responses to “Rant: Bait And Switch at Orbitz”
    1. Lukasz Pawlik says:

      There is a reason for that. Every request flight avaiablity or reservation to GDS (Global Distribution System like Sabre, Amadeus, Worldspan) costs quite a lot. The sites that are selling tickets want to prevent searches that do not end up with a booking. But I agree its not a friendly solution.

    2. John says:

      EXPEDIA is even worse. EXPEDIA ruined my trip and they tried to steal money from my credit card for an airline ticket they failed to deliver. Later I found that EXPEDIA is listed in the top ripoff link at the bad business bureau ( http://www.ripoffreport.com ) and has two “dedicated” websites due to poor customer support and lies: http://www.victimsofexpedia.com (I created this site to alert people) and http://www.shameonexpedia.com

      Kind regards

    3. danzar1972 says:

      Have you tried Trabber.com? is a travel search engine that aggregate content in real time directly from travel agencies and airlines websites. Here is the address: http://www.trabber.com

    4. Justin says:

      Searched for “orbitz bait switch” and you came up first. I was actually hoping an Attorney General somewhere was suing them. I looked up their legal proceedings in the Annual Report too—but no such luck. They have probably settled such matters quickly in the past, as I’m sure a lawsuit would unearth a pattern of deliberate bait advertising.

      Kayak is no help, it just uses the bait prices supplied by Orbitz. I tried buying tickets on several different departure dates, and every time Orbitz would switch the price (at an increase of 215%). Start the search over, and it resets to the bait price. I would like to file a complain with the FTC, but the form is for people that actually pay the switched price.

    5. Julia Barlow says:

      I was trying to book an overseas trip today. During this process Orbitz pull the old bait and switch programming 14 times – none of the trips were available except for a trip twice the cost of booking directly. I’m going to look at the better business bureau complaints section and see what I can dig up. Annoying.