Travel

Why did eDreams book this round-trip flight?

Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott Courtesy photo

Q: I booked a one-way ticket from Osaka, Japan, to San Francisco on eDreams recently. My middle name was incorrect, so I called eDreams to make a correction. That resulted in hours of phone calls.

While I was trying to fix my name, I learned that eDreams had reserved a round-trip flight. EDreams denies this, but I have a copy of the Japan Airlines reservation and can verify the ticket number and other information. EDreams says the ticket can’t be reissued with a correct name and is nonrefundable. Can you help me get a refund from eDreams? – Mary Reed, Sacramento, Calif.

A: This is one of the most bizarre cases to cross my desk in a while. Not only was your middle name wrong, but you’re right – eDreams booked a round-trip even though you ordered a one-way ticket.

If you spoke with an eDreams representative by phone, then he or she should have gotten your middle name right. All eDreams would say is that your middle name was“wrongly introduced” and that changes are not allowed. So it’s not entirely clear how the name was misspelled.

Typically, an airline will allow minor changes to a ticket. Just show up at the airport a little early and ask for a correction. I’m willing to bet that you would have been allowed through security with one or two letters wrong on your ticket.

(For example, my first name is too long for some airline reservations systems, so it prints as CHRISTOPHE instead of CHRISTOPHER. I’ve never been turned away at the screening area, and I can guarantee you, it’s not my charming personality that persuades them to let me through.)

But why would eDreams book a round-trip instead of a one-way? Ah, that’s an even more interesting question. You pressed eDreams for an answer, and it finally admitted that it did indeed book a round-trip.

“During the booking process, the system detected that a round-trip would work out cheaper than buying a one-way ticket,” a representative told you. “For this reason, we have confirmed a round-trip so you could pay less than by only getting a one-way flight. Please note that the return flight will be automatically canceled, as it was not requested during the booking process.”

Hmm. In the airline world, that practice is referred to as throwaway ticketing, and although it’s not illegal, it violates some airline contracts. It’s true that a one-way ticket can be more expensive than a round-trip because business travelers are likelier to buy a one-way. Airlines can get more money for them, even though they are offering less service. Go figure!

EDreams shouldn’t have booked a round-trip, if for no other reason than that you would have been a no-show for your return flight, leaving an empty seat on a flight back to Osaka. That’s a waste of resources in order to circumvent bad airline policy. And as my mother always said, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Our advocacy team contacted eDreams on your behalf. It apologized for the misunderstanding and refunded the $978 you spent on your ticket.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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