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Problem with ""

"Hotwire" offers discount airfares based upon travel dates and other criteria you provide. The airline and exact travel times are not revealed until after you make the purchase at the quoted price. You have 30 minutes to make the transaction, otherwise the quote expires and you must wait 72 hours before searching with the same itinerary again.

I had shopped them on and off for several months in 2001. When I was ready to buy, I went through the process of entering my credit card information and choosing an itinerary. I was quoted a price of $231 on March 27th, 2001, 16 days before I planned to travel.

After confirming my itinerary, I clicked "purchase". Instead of a purchase confirmation, I got the error message below:

(I always take a screenshot of my online purchases for my own records). I believe "NSAPI" refers to the Netscape Server Advanced Programming Interface (Hotwire runs Netscape Enterprise on the Solaris operating system). There were no instructions for proceeding with their transaction, or anything to indicate it did or did not go through.

I clicked "back" and tried again, and got the message below:

Although I could understand this message, it was inaccurate. I had not been inactive for 30 minutes.

I went to the site's Customer Service section and sent a message using their web-based email form. I included the complete text of the error message, my purchase reference number, and user name. After submitting my email message, I received a confirmation which said I should hear back within 12 hours.

I didn't hear back, so I called later that same day. The customer service agent said the site was having difficulties, and the email staff needed a few more hours to get caught up.

I was told my transaction would still be completed at the price I was quoted. In other words, we had a deal; a sale had taken place, and I should not purchase a ticket elsewhere.

Two days passed, and I never heard back, so I called again. I was now told that my my transaction would not be completed, and they didn't have any of the emails I sent.

I was told the price of my itinerary was now several hundred dollars more. They would not honor the earlier transaction or give me the same fare because I didn't "complete the purchase".

They told me the purchase was completed on the phone earlier, preventing me from buying my tickets elsewhere. The 14-day advanced purchase window had now closed, and they were reneging on the transaction we agreed to over the phone.

I was told the website originally crashed due to a "necessary re-cycling of the servers". This is not a technically valid reason for dropping transactions. Hotwire could not explain why my email went unanswered, which is obviously poor service.

I would caution those looking for discount airfares that I found Hotwire (in 2001) to be unreliable their web technology and customer service.

This page last modified on 2007-12-03

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