09/10/2010 03:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Double Billing: Who's to Blame -- Expedia, the Airline, or Me?

I am just one person, with no split personality problem as far as I know, but I'll need a split body to deal with the issue I'm now facing -- two non-refundable tickets booked on exactly the same flights from New York to Tel Aviv via Rome and Naples in exactly the same passenger name with exactly the same passport number, paid for with exactly the same credit card, with Expedia and Alitalia telling me I should contact the other for any possible resolution. You'd think a red flag would have gone up somewhere in the age of the internet.

On Aug 10 I surfed through Expedia, Travelocity and Alitalia to see who had the best offerings for a multi-city flight New York-Rome, Naples-Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv-New York. I started filling out for Expedia but then stopped and booked directly on the Alitalia site on Aug 11, receiving the e-mail confirmation within minutes.

On Aug 14 I received an Expedia e-mail out of the blue saying Alitalia had informed them that it had cancelled three of my flight segments and giving me a changed itinerary to pay. I found it strange that Expedia got into the act, but assumed that for some reason Alitalia had decided to go through them and I paid for the new Expedia booking, assuming that cancelled also meant that Alitalia had cancelled the earlier payment. Expedia then confirmed the "new" booking -- on exactly the same first three flights that it said Alitalia had cancelled but rerouting my return from Tel Aviv via Air France.

Imagine my surprise when I received my credit card balance for the month and found that I was being charged for both the Aug 11 and Aug 14 bookings. After some pretty time-consuming and obtuse phone calls with Expedia, including one lasting more than two hours with the usual electronic message firewalls, they told me the ticket was non-refundable and I had to pay the Aug 14 fee, suggesting that I get Alitalia to refund the earlier Aug 11 fee. Expedia said it was my fault because I should not have booked the flight on Aug 14 if I thought something was wrong but should have phoned them. But why should I have thought something was wrong?

When I phoned Alitalia, they assured me several times that my original flights had never been cancelled, nor had they ever informed Expedia that they had been. But they said they could not refund me for this non-refundable ticket and Expedia had to do so.

I phoned Expedia to deliver the glad tidings that Alitalia denied informing them of any cancellation. Moreover I asked them why they should have sent me the Aug 14 e-mail since I had no Aug 10 e-mail showing that I had booked any flight through them for them to inform me that it had been cancelled, as has been the past experience in such Expedia-announced cancellations. Nor is there any Aug 10 or 11 charge against my credit card for Expedia, which would be the case had I originally booked through them.

All I got in reply was the same spiel -- that I should try to get Alitalia to refund me for the non-refundable ticket that I had legitimately booked through the airline on Aug 11, and that I should have phoned them if I thought something was wrong on Aug 14.

What I conjecture must have happened is that Expedia marketing's search engines intercepted my original Aug 10 site surfing and, when I did not follow up with a booking -- and unaware of my direct booking with Alitalia -- sent me the Aug 14 e-mail informing me of the cancellation of the flights I had originally chosen in that non-completed surfing, which Alitalia denies ever cancelling.

It certainly would be interesting to know if this is a marketing practice. Meanwhile I have submitted the case to the Better Business Bureau for investigation. Stay tuned for further developments.

For more travel experiences see

Also by the same author, Shakespearean spoofs on current day politics at

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.