Travelocity’s Flaky Fare Watcher Matt 24 Oct 2005

32 comments Latest by French Flyer

Why does Travelocity even bother to offer its Fare Watcher tool? Every time I use it, I feel like I’m playing a game of Whac-A-Mole.

According to the site, a blue date means “Fare offered.”

travelocity fare watcher 1

“Fare offered” is somewhat misleading though. Well, actually, it’s completely misleading. When you click on a blue date, that date disappears as an option and is X’d out (as are a bunch of surrounding dates).

travelocity fare watcher 2

Try again and the same thing happens.

travelocity fare watcher 3

Now it’d be one thing if this malfunction was a rare occurrence. But it’s happened to me the majority of times that I’ve tried the Fare Watcher (usually for international fares). It’s quite a buzzkill to see a low fare offered only to realize you can’t actually get it. Not to mention the time sink factor; Most people probably have to be fooled a few times before they realize they’re wasting time with this thing.

To its credit, Travelocity offers a popup that warns that “The fares shown for this option do not always have up-to-date availability. There are times when you may notice a calendar that displays available dates when later it shows as unavailable. We apologize if you experience this inconvenience.”

At least there’s an apology somewhere. Too bad I only found it after I became fed up enough to ask, “Why on earth is Travelocity persistently offering customers this slap-in-the-face?” Travelocity needs to fix this Fare Watcher, offer a more prominent warning about the tool’s flakiness, or put her down.

32 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Reefdog 24 Oct 05

Not a fan of minesweeper, Matt?

Jens Meiert 24 Oct 05

Yeah, just another everyday life problem, albeit in terms of the Web.

eric scheid 24 Oct 05

I’m not reading it as a malfunction per se, more poor communication instead.

The light blue “fare offered” days are the days they have flights, while the green “seats available” days are those where they have a flight *and* not all the seats have sold out.

Why they want to tell you what days they have flights i don’t know. That’s not what you are looking for.

Reefdog 24 Oct 05

I imagine that’s exactly the point, Eric. The site gives useless information to customers. The availability should be the first thing shown, not the last. Boo.

ML 24 Oct 05

The light blue “fare offered” days are the days they have flights, while the green “seats available” days are those where they have a flight *and* not all the seats have sold out.

Eric, you’re right on that but, in my experience, the screen is always all blue days when you first see it. If green “seats available” days do actually exist, they don’t show up until after you click one of the blue days.

glasser 24 Oct 05

USAirways does the same thing.

Andy 24 Oct 05

Do I smell some juicy AJAX going on in the background, though? Methinks the developer got a little too excited about doing some AJAX, and usability went out the window…

Wood, meet trees. Trees, this is wood.

Andy Crouch 24 Oct 05

US Airways uses Travelocity’s technology behind the scenes. And yes, it is maddening.

Doug 24 Oct 05

Yeah, this why I don’t even look at Travelocity anymore. I had to book two flights yesterday and based on past experience Travelocity did not even get searched. I prefer Expedia and Orbitz to find the fare and then go to the Airline’s site to save an extra 5 bucks that inevitably gets tacked on by the travel sites. I’ll purchase through the travel sites when they provide a cheaper deal on multiple airline flights. At this point, I think that is the only value they add.

Anonymous Coward 24 Oct 05

I haven’t bothered with Travelocity for a while now. In fact, I’d go sa far as to say I hate travelocity. Hate them from a “grumpy customer tired of dealing with web pages that lie” perspective.

Because that is essentially what the pages are doing: lying. Which means that Travelocity is lying to me. So why use them?

Is it over the top to use words like “lying” and “hate?” Of course. But that’s how real people feel when they use web sites. Why do we keep making them feel this way?

Don Wilson 24 Oct 05

Time to get out the shotgun!

Anonymous 24 Oct 05

I would imagine that the query would be way too complicated and taxing to be able to tell you availability for all those calendar days…

Darrel 24 Oct 05

Ok, not directly related to this thread, but I have to ask…

Anyone know of a travel site that returns results based SOLELY on price?

Ie, I want a site where I can say ‘we want to travel to Italy sometime in 2006…what’s the cheapest package’? Every site I use seems to demand that I know exact dates for it to find it (which probably makes sense as they need some sort of filter to sift through the immense amount of data).

Chris K 24 Oct 05

They really aren’t lying - at least they aren’t if you use the airlines terminology.

There is a difference (to the airlines) between “fare offered” (a specific fare is filed and matches rules for that date) and available (there is a seat at that fare). The first search that ends up serving the calendars only does a fare search in the reservation system. That fare search pulls back all of the possible fares filed between two markets as well as the general fare rules (only available on Mon, Tues, Thurs with 21day advance purchase as an example). From that, the calendars are built.

But why don’t they do what we want and show availability?

It comes down to performace and $$. The web interfaces are build in front of awful legacy systems that were never meant to be used like this. To make matters worse, these systems aren’t owned by the airlines themselves (for the most part) so the airlines get charged for their usage. The way they get charged is per “message” sent to the reservation system. To do an availability search on every flight for a 3 month timespan would not only be incredibly expensive for the airlines (or travel agent in Travelocity’s case), it would also take longer than you are accustomed to waiting for results. While the perceived lag in results could be improved with AJAX, the cost factor is still going to be there.

If you want true availability over a stretch of time, use Orbitz’s flexible search, but you’ll make the trade-off that you will only get to be flexible over a much shorter period of time. If you want a true price search, you are going to have to “hunt and peck” your way to the lowest fares on Travelocity and usairways.com.

MSF 24 Oct 05


USAirways.com has a similar tool and experience and I find it beyond frustrating to use.

What’s the expense, transactionally or otherwise, of simply presenting accurate information at the start? Why should I have to click again?

Neil Bainton 24 Oct 05

The concept is great, but it can be frustrating when you keep hitting dates that fail.

Moz 24 Oct 05

You guys and gals(who am I kidding) have heard of Kayak, right?

Anonymous 24 Oct 05

From a usability perspective, yes that design is terrible. It punishes the user for trying to use the system. The system doesn’t check availability until you click a date or intend to purchase, then it connects to the ‘legacy’ system - Sabre GDS - to find out if it is actually available.

This also happens with hotel bookings. About a year ago I needed to travel to Pensacola, FL for a last minute trip and needed to book a hotel room. About a month prior Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast and most hotels were booked. However, when I went to Travelocity it showed there were 15 to 20 hotels available, until I clicked ‘BOOK’ and then it said it wasnt available - for ALL OF THEM. Again, same situation where Travelocity used cached data. Needless to say, the other sites (Expedia, Orbitz, etc..) actually showed available hotels and were much easier to use.

Andy 25 Oct 05

*sniff* *sniff*

Hmm, what’s that smell? Oh, it must be that stinkin’ Yahoo Farechaser user interface!

Travis 26 Oct 05

I believe the Xs are the dates you’ve selected, when you’re done selecting your “preferred” and “different” departure dates, I think you’re supposed to hit the blue arrow to get to the screen where it verifies your selections

Jeena 28 Oct 05

Hilarious!

Kevin 14 Dec 05

Someone at Travelocity is listening to 37 Signals!

Just noticed that in last few days that Travelocity has now fixed this annoying problem. Now if you do a search with flexibile dates, the first screen will now show you whether there are seats available.

Jared K 30 Mar 06

I have said before us here at Travelocity could care less about a bunch of morons out there the same thing happens with all the travel agencies so if you don’t like it go somewhere else I DARE YOU.

Katie R 09 Apr 06

I like the airfarewatchdog site and their newsletter. It’s at www.airfarewatchdog.com

DT 31 May 06

Coming from Travelocity, I can say that Jared is not a Travelocity representative, and should realize the legal liability involved with this.

I apologize for letting this go on and for the frustration I’ve seen from each of you. I am forwarding this information to appropriate teams in the company.

Jared 13 Jul 06

Jared here I figured I would make one LAST appearance to defend myself and by the time this is read by anyone my computer will be on a moveing van heading far away from here so this is posted from an ex employee of travelocity and I will tell you why they suck and list all the reasons they don’t care about customer service and then you won’t here from me again. DT said I didn’t work at Travelocity well I did at the time he posted I didn’t I gladly gave my resigination some month before because I knew I would be moveing soon and because they screwed me out of alot of money in comissions. So lets look at why I can tell you they don’t give a shit about customer service.
1. Takeing away american jobs and giving them to India where most of them don’t speak good english and you can’t seem to get them to understand your promblem or can’t understand them but I am sure Travelocity saved some money on payroll.
2. You purchase a 14 day advance ticket at 9:45 p.m. pst and it sits around in queue for 20 minutes so when it’s ticketed at 12:05 a.m. cst no more 14 day advance guess what you loose.
3. I can’t tell you how many times I had a customer call and thier ticket had been issued but multiple times if they catch it within 24 hrs. great if not you have to send in your credit card statement showing us proof. Of course if we gave a shit about the customer we would clearly be able to see our mistake and correct it and if you used a debit card I hope you have some extra money sitting around because you are screwed.
4. How many people have seen a rate advertised for a flight, hotel or cruise only to try and get and fail and all we do is feed you some line of BS as to why we are not going to honor an advertised price?
5. How many of you hotel clerks like our easy billing system for our hotels. 6. Speaking of hotels we are required to offer you what we call an MMH hotel which may be the best price if you are not military, AARP, AAA or senior citizen but try to get a rate for one of the above on a good buy hotel(the ones with the green tags) not going to happen we are going to tell you that is the best rate.
Well I have defended myself and really not told anyone here something they already didn’t know.I must leave for good I have movers waiting on me. I will continue in the future to bash the shit out of Travelocity and tell everyone I come in contact with how bad they are and as an ex employee I will have more of a chance to have a listening ear. This is Jared saying good bye.

Jared 13 Jul 06

Jared here I figured I would make one LAST appearance to defend myself and by the time this is read by anyone my computer will be on a moveing van heading far away from here so this is posted from an ex employee of travelocity and I will tell you why they suck and list all the reasons they don’t care about customer service and then you won’t here from me again. DT said I didn’t work at Travelocity well I did at the time he posted I didn’t I gladly gave my resigination some month before because I knew I would be moveing soon and because they screwed me out of alot of money in comissions. So lets look at why I can tell you they don’t give a shit about customer service.
1. Takeing away american jobs and giving them to India where most of them don’t speak good english and you can’t seem to get them to understand your promblem or can’t understand them but I am sure Travelocity saved some money on payroll.
2. You purchase a 14 day advance ticket at 9:45 p.m. pst and it sits around in queue for 20 minutes so when it’s ticketed at 12:05 a.m. cst no more 14 day advance guess what you loose.
3. I can’t tell you how many times I had a customer call and thier ticket had been issued but multiple times if they catch it within 24 hrs. great if not you have to send in your credit card statement showing us proof. Of course if we gave a shit about the customer we would clearly be able to see our mistake and correct it and if you used a debit card I hope you have some extra money sitting around because you are screwed.
4. How many people have seen a rate advertised for a flight, hotel or cruise only to try and get and fail and all we do is feed you some line of BS as to why we are not going to honor an advertised price?
5. How many of you hotel clerks like our easy billing system for our hotels. 6. Speaking of hotels we are required to offer you what we call an MMH hotel which may be the best price if you are not military, AARP, AAA or senior citizen but try to get a rate for one of the above on a good buy hotel(the ones with the green tags) not going to happen we are going to tell you that is the best rate.
Well I have defended myself and really not told anyone here something they already didn’t know.I must leave for good I have movers waiting on me. I will continue in the future to bash the shit out of Travelocity and tell everyone I come in contact with how bad they are and as an ex employee I will have more of a chance to have a listening ear. This is Jared saying good bye.

Jared 13 Jul 06

Jared here I figured I would make one LAST appearance to defend myself and by the time this is read by anyone my computer will be on a moveing van heading far away from here so this is posted from an ex employee of travelocity and I will tell you why they suck and list all the reasons they don’t care about customer service and then you won’t here from me again. DT said I didn’t work at Travelocity well I did at the time he posted I didn’t I gladly gave my resigination some month before because I knew I would be moveing soon and because they screwed me out of alot of money in comissions. So lets look at why I can tell you they don’t give a shit about customer service.
1. Takeing away american jobs and giving them to India where most of them don’t speak good english and you can’t seem to get them to understand your promblem or can’t understand them but I am sure Travelocity saved some money on payroll.
2. You purchase a 14 day advance ticket at 9:45 p.m. pst and it sits around in queue for 20 minutes so when it’s ticketed at 12:05 a.m. cst no more 14 day advance guess what you loose.
3. I can’t tell you how many times I had a customer call and thier ticket had been issued but multiple times if they catch it within 24 hrs. great if not you have to send in your credit card statement showing us proof. Of course if we gave a shit about the customer we would clearly be able to see our mistake and correct it and if you used a debit card I hope you have some extra money sitting around because you are screwed.
4. How many people have seen a rate advertised for a flight, hotel or cruise only to try and get and fail and all we do is feed you some line of BS as to why we are not going to honor an advertised price?
5. How many of you hotel clerks like our easy billing system for our hotels. 6. Speaking of hotels we are required to offer you what we call an MMH hotel which may be the best price if you are not military, AARP, AAA or senior citizen but try to get a rate for one of the above on a good buy hotel(the ones with the green tags) not going to happen we are going to tell you that is the best rate.
Well I have defended myself and really not told anyone here something they already didn’t know.I must leave for good I have movers waiting on me. I will continue in the future to bash the shit out of Travelocity and tell everyone I come in contact with how bad they are and as an ex employee I will have more of a chance to have a listening ear. This is Jared saying good bye.

French Flyer 14 Aug 06

Oh no! Now even this poor functionality is not available at Travelocity! They have removed international destinations altogether. How can I find the good fares to europe now? Has anyone seen an alternate service?

French Flyer 14 Aug 06

To clarify - Travelocity fare watcher is/was the *only* service the showed months and months of possible dates. Is there any replacement anywhere? All of the sites mentioned above search only a 3-day window.

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