Orbitz Worldwide, currently in the news regarding a combative relationship with American Airlines, has been slapped with an unconnected Class Action lawsuit alleging "false and misleading advertising practices in its Internet travel business which includes, but is not limited to, 'bait and switch' tactics."
The suit has been brought by the Law Office of Kenneth M. Mollins, P.C. on behalf of Francis Shea, a prominent private investigator who has specialized in uncovering scams, including bait and switch promotions. Shea is a frequent patron of Orbitz and has achieved VIP status with the Internet travel agency based on the number of bookings he has made with the company.
The suit also specifics that Orbitz "wrongfully, and unlawfully, fails and refuses to refund monies rightfully due to and requested by members of the Class. In addition the suit alleges that Orbitz "engages in the practice of charging consumers additional non-disclosed fees without notice to, or consent from, consumers.
The complaint, filed in Suffolk County, New York Supreme Court on Monday, November 8, states that "The Class consists of all persons and entities who have been the victim of, and suffered monetary damages as a result of, Defendant's false and misleading advertising practices, including, but not limited to, Defendant's 'bait and switch' practices."
The complaint goes on to report: "An investigation of consumer complaints published on the Internet against Defendant establish that as of November 4, 2010, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers who share the same complaint as Plaintiff concerning Defendant's false and misleading advertising practices."
Shea's attorney, Kenneth Mollins explained that Shea had researched flights to Tahiti on the Orbitz website which included one domestic flight each way and one international flight each way for a total of four flights. The website showed availability and costs for Business Class on all of the flights.
Shea wanted to make sure that these flights were all in Business Class and called the Orbitz reservations line and spoke with a live reservations agent who "confirmed the flight information, more specifically the fact that the tickets were Business Class tickets." Shea explained that the agent confirmed what the website indicated as well as confirming "no less than three times, that the $2,414 per person price generated by Defendant's website was indeed for two roundtrip Business Class tickets."
Shea then booked the trip with the reservation agent who confirmed all of this over the telephone and charged the tickets to his American Express Card. However, "within minutes of paying for the flight" Shea "received an e-mail confirmation from Defendant of the flight information booked and paid for. The email confirmation showed that the first leg of the flight from JFK to LAX was First Class, however, the remainder of the trip was Economy or Coach."
Immediately on seeing the error in the flight confirmation, Shea telephoned Orbitz and "was advised by a supervisor that there was a mistake in the confirmation; that the flights booked were indeed for Business Class and that the mistake would be corrected."
Shea never received anything from Orbitz showing the correction. Then he received his statement from American Express with a charge for $2,424.80, or $10.80 more than the cost of the ticket "without any explanation for this additional charge."
During the following three months from May 2010 through July 2010, Shea "spent no less than seven hours on the phone with various agents and supervisors of Defendant's trying to either have the flights corrected or have his money refunded."
Each agent and/or supervisor he spoke with "confirmed that a mistake had been made;" that he had "indeed purchased Business Class tickets" and that they "would correct the error." Orbitz never followed up with Shea and never corrected the error.
"Finally, on or about July 29, 2010 Plaintiff spoke with a manager of Defendant who advised Plaintiff, contrary to what all of the prior agents and supervisors had told Plaintiff, that Defendant did not have any proof that Plaintiff ordered Business Class tickets."
What this manager agreed to do to help was "waive a $250 re-booking fee and offered to re-book the tickets, but Plaintiff would have to pay the difference in the cost which was almost $2,500 per person more." No other options were offered.
As a result of this "bait and switch" practice and the additional unexplained $10.80 fees, Shea launched his own investigation and found that there are hundreds of complaints listed online at a number of sites catering to complaints. The Class Action suit is a result of this ongoing investigation.