help! A British travel agency owes us $3,891 and we want it back.

help!  A British travel agency owes us $3,891 and we want it back.

In August 2020, we booked a trip to Iceland through Jetline Vacations for $3,891, a deal we found through an email offer we signed up to receive via Travelzoo. Shortly thereafter, Iceland closed to foreign visitors, so we contacted Jetline to ask for our money back. We didn’t hear from them for several weeks, finally filing a dispute with our credit card issuer. That shocked them, because then Jetline came back to us: They’d give us two years of credit. We completed booking a trip to Portugal for April 2022, but got worried when Jetline didn’t send us the confirmation details. We complained, waited weeks for a response and were finally told we owed $800 dollars due to the rent increase. We refused to pay until the documents were checked, but when we received them, we learned that the flight we were on had already been cancelled. We informed Jetline, tried to book a third trip and encountered the same problems. We want our money back! Can you help? Meghan and Jay, Clifton, VA.

The entire travel industry was shaken by the pandemic, so it makes sense jetlineThe London-based travel agency, which has a strong online presence, would ignore your requests until your credit card issuer intervened and then refused the refund, instead booking another package for you, later I raised the price and ignored you for several months. It was fun! It sounds terrible.

I reached out to Jetline, also known by the British name Jetline Holidays. I finally spoke to its chief of operations, Richard Levy. He refunded your money and asked me to give you a $200 credit for another trip. (Update: You refused in the strongest possible terms.)

“The most important thing is to make sure the customer is satisfied, and I’m very sorry,” he said in a phone call shortly after reading your account, which I forwarded to the company. “You know when your blood starts to boil? I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t someone stop this early and keep the customer happy?’ He told me that his customer service team made some mistakes and needed some retraining.

To be fair, they called me back later with some solid evidence that there were inaccuracies in your story. For example, they emailed me internal records that show that after booking travel to Portugal, Jetline immediately sent you reservation information, including documentation of your flights and hotels. You confirmed it later.

However, your story of running into Jetline’s customer service is true. My own blood boiled for five days as I tried to get answers from Mr. Levy before I finally reached him. First, there’s no customer service email listed on the website, so I called their London number, and told a customer service agent named “Trevor”—a pseudonym, he confirmed—that I was a reporter. He told me that he cannot take calls from “lawyers” and instructed me to send an email to the address he provided on the phone. I have mentioned in the document you sent me several staff members with whom you interacted, including a manager named Rose.

Rose responded, writing that Jetline “made diligent efforts to rebook the customer’s travel” and continued: “Unfortunately, it appears that the customer has expressed reluctance to pay the price difference, while Our policy requires customers to cover any additional costs. We understand their concerns, and we are committed to finding a mutually beneficial solution. Their claim that the reservation manager has contacted you “multiple times” contradicts your account, so I wrote back with several additional questions, citing Steven Roberts, the company’s managing director.

When that and follow-up emails went unanswered, I found another number for Jetline posted online by a disgruntled customer who eventually got a refund. This took me to two more customer service agents, waited a long time and eventually a third number took me to someone who eventually forwarded me to Mr. Levy.

In that first conversation, Mr. Levy told me that he had just been shown my original email. it had taken five days to reach it, and it also required some help—from travelzoo,

Travelzoo is an intermediary that vets travel deals and then posts them on its website as well as sends them to its members in promotional emails. (Companies pay to have their offers included.)

Since you mentioned you’d heard of package tours there, I wrote to Travelzoo and Riya Saran, the company’s global head of brand and content, got back to me immediately. He noted (as you told me) that you complained to Travelzoo in February. He added, at that time, Travelzoo contacted Jetline and was told that the matter was being resolved. But this time, he said a Travelzoo colleague contacted Mr. Roberts directly, and that’s when the complaint gained some traction. We compared notes, and it turns out that Travelzoo had contact with Jetline for less than an hour before speaking to Mr. Levy. “Now knowing that a solution is still out there, we’re glad we were able to jump back in to help lead this to a positive resolution,” Ms Saran wrote.

problem solved. But the question, as it often is in these columns, was your experience a one-off problem, or should jetlines be avoided despite attractively priced packages to Europe and beyond?

Ms. Saran said Travelzoo stands behind Jetline. They wrote, “Compared to other travel companies, we have not received a large number of complaints from members about them.” “On the other hand, we have also received feedback from many members who were satisfied with the trips booked through them.”

But as you noted yourself, a lot of complaints about Jetline appear in online reviews Old And Newas well as some of their poor press coverage during the pandemic, It’s hard to know how much stock to put in these — despite my displeasure, things were chaotic in 2020 and 2021 — and Jetline fares much better trustpilotTravelzoo is one of the sites it monitors to rate the packages it promotes.

Which brings us back to a recurring theme in this column: the complicated issue of middlemen. Unless they offer a clear advantage, the advice is to book travel services directly through airlines, hotels and car rental companies. Yes, this exercise may take a little extra time, but can save you a lot of hassle if something goes wrong or plans change. My inbox is filled with countless versions of “I called Company A, and they said it was Company B’s problem, but when I called Company B, they forwarded me back to Company A”. (And only then the companies are legit. Don’t tell me what happens when people book flights through companies with names like

But exceptions do exist, and one of them is that online travel agents both large (eg, Expedia) and small (Jetline) can put together packages that are not only convenient to book, but often cost less than what you paid for. are cheaper than if you book everything separately. , And local travel advisors can offer even more customization and valuable advice.

There are other times when you need (or at least benefit from) using a middleman, for example, when you use points to book a flight from your credit card’s rewards site. . But be careful: Every time you involve another company in the reservation process, it can make everything more difficult if something goes wrong. And things go horribly wrong on the trip.

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