This is a story about what happens when a little David consumer takes on a goliath travel company. Well my name is David and the company in question OPODO, the online platform created by a number of the world’s biggest airlines.
A bad day in San Francisco
There’s no better way to end a holiday than finding you can’t get home. After two great weeks in the USA last summer my wife and I arrived at check in. We found the flight we didn’t know we needed had left 3 hours earlier than the one we were supposedly booked on. And what made it worse was that we would then be 24 hours late getting back to the UK – to collect my 89 year old mother from respite care.
The flight had been booked with OPODO, which has always been a very reliable help in arranging my personal and business travel. The pleasant check-in guy at Westjet looked concerned when we tried to check in, and said OPODO should have alerted us to the schedule change. They couldn’t help us. We were stuck.
Being a Sunday, there was no one to call at OPODO. We had to get back, and so had to spend $4000 on flights to get us home with BA, leaving that afternoon. While waiting to board, we emailed news of our plight to OPODO. We even included screenshots showing that ‘My Opodo’ confirmed our flight as we had booked it – shots taken at the very time we were told the bad news….
Don’t hold your breath
Three days later we still had no word from OPODO. A telephone call and further emails yielded a ‘holding’ email. We emailed explaining that as we had not been informed of the change we expected OPODO to reimburse us for the BA flight. OPODO responded saying we had to take up the problem with Westjet – which didn’t really make sense, as they were our agents, the people we had paid, and were still confirming it on the day of travel.
We were getting nowhere fast – so we researched OPODO and emailed the CEO with a full explanation of the story so far. We were pleased that this generated a rapid response from a customer services person called Elena. She claimed we had been emailed in July regarding the schedule change, but I could find not evidence in my mailbox. The best she said she could offer us was a £30 gift voucher – which hardly matched the £000s we had spent on our emergency travel home.
Enter Leszek Werenowski with good news
We realised we needed legal advice on our position. Fortunately, a friend and neighbour is a solicitor and he looked at the case. His name is Leszek Werenowski and was happy to advise us at no cost. Leszek advised that if OPODO did not make a reasonable offer to cover our costs we should sue through the small claims court.
We were reluctant to go to law and carried on trying to be reasonable. Elena was swift to reply to our emails but would not accept my claim that I had not received advice regarding the schedule change in July. The supposed email actually required us to call OPODO to discuss it! I suggested that my lack of response to the July email would have surely been followed up by another email, text or phone call. Instead, Elena emailed the following remarkable statement:
‘Opodo is a global company, which as a general condition, do not make calls or send text messages’
Like most of us, I am a customer of many ‘global’ companies – and none are quite that arrogant.
Not long after this, communications directly with OPODO ground to a halt. Maybe it was because I asked them to ring me to discuss it….
See you in court
We took the advice of our solicitor and filed a simple claim with the Small Claims Court.
To our surprise, OPODO failed to even acknowledge the claim within the required time period set by the court.
So the court judged in our favour by default and required OPODO to pay us £3850.
We all expected them to fight back.
But instead OPODO emailed me two days later to ask for my bank details… and within a couple more days, we had our money. An amazing capitulation.
Huge Goliath ignored me until we found a small pebble for our slingshot. With the help of my wonderful solicitor, we scored a direct hit. If only OPODO had been more serious about dealing with this genuine problem sooner, we would have been happy to have met them halfway…
If you have had a similar experience, seek advice from a good solicitor. And if you don’t know one, can I recommend my friend Leszek?
Leszek can be found by calling 07753 607128 or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll be pleased to know we shared our winnings with him – and he is taking his wife and daughters to Disneyland.
And you’re right, he isn’t booking with OPODO.