PSA: Don’t use Opodo (OR how not to make a gesture of goodwill to a customer)

by Stephen Tall on October 15, 2013

I was actually pretty organised this year. Booked my travel and hotel accommodation for Lib Dem conference in June, more then 3 months early.

But when I turned up at Gatwick to catch my BA flight to Glasgow on (appropriately enough) Friday 13th September, it turned out I didn’t have a seat. I did have an email print-out of my booking confirmation. And I did have a text message sent by Opodo the previous day with my booking reference — it even helpfully gave me the weather forecast for Glasgow. But no seat. And on a flight that was fully-booked.

The lady on the British Airways desk was very sympathetic, looked into what had happened. Apparently after I’d booked my tickets, Opodo’s system then cancelled my reservation 20 minutes later. Except they didn’t tell me they’d cancelled it. Hence me turning up to Gatwick with my luggage only to have to return home.

I had two options. Book the next available flight, which was the following afternoon and three times the price I’d paid – and hope Opodo would refund the difference afterwards. Or I could try another way of getting to Glasgow. The trains were as expensive as the flights and would take 6.5 hours. The Megabus was cheaper than my flights and only reckoned to take 1.5 hours longer than the tain — so I decided to risk it.

Big mistake. Major traffic hold-ups meant the journey took 11 hours in total (3 longer than billed). Worse, there was no wifi or working power sockets at all, and the only on-board toilet was blocked by the time we got to Watford Gap. To be honest, I can cope without a toilet for that long… but a battery-drained mobile and no wifi for 11 continuous hours??!! I’m with the updated version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on that.

Anyway, having made clear my displeasure at Opodo for putting me through all this via Twitter, I was contacted by their customer relations team. I DM-ed them my mobile number and reference details, and they called me that afternoon. To be fair, they said they would re-imburse me my out-of-pocket expenses – in fact, if I could send through a claim by 2pm it could be processed that same day. I was at work so I said I’d see what I could do but didn’t have all the receipts on me (eg, wasted train fare to Gatwick, or the cost of missing a day of the conference), was told that was fine. Here’s the response I got…

Thank you for your recent email.
Taking a look at all the aspects of your requests we have refunded your original account with £123.25 . Please allow 5-10 days for the amount to settle.
Generally would require receipts,and refund up to the value of the original cost of the ticket £ 84.84, however on this occasion we have made a decision to arrange it as a gesture of goodwill on amount requested by yourself £123.25 .
Once again thank you for contacting Opodo and we hope that we can be of service to you soon.

Yours sincerely,
The Opodo Team

To me, that reads a bit, well, grudging. No apology for their original cock-up, just a heavy implication I’m in the wrong for not being able to provide them with receipts at 40 minutes’ notice. On the upside, at least it means I didn’t have to pay for my Megabus journey from hell (and in its defence, the overnight Megabus Gold back was hassle-free).

Maybe mine was just a one-off, who knows?, but 1) I feel better for getting that off my chest, and 2) if you’ve read this and still use Opodo then at least forewarned is forearmed.