I want to pre-face this Vayama.com public service announcement with the following disclaimer: to get me to this point, you need to really really mess up or drop the ball. I don’t enjoy posting this type of stuff but sometimes it needs to be done.
Unfortunately for Vayama.com, it has driven me to such a decision.
Over the years, I’ve booked with Vayama 4 or 5 times (including our honeymoon flights). Never had an issue and thought they were one of the better travel sites around. The prices were great, the interface was solid and the process was simple. So, naturally, I used Vayama again in mid-November 2019 to book our next big international vacation in mid-April 2020. We were super excited about it.
*COVID-19 enters the room*
When COVID-19 first hit in early February, everything still looked okay. However, as the world fell into more and more chaos and countries started closing their borders, that changed. Originally, they cancelled our flights and rebooked us on a different flights. Receiving a new booking number, I was curious as to who ‘owned’ the reservation. I confirmed with the airline that it was still Vayama. Two and a half weeks before our scheduled departure, the airline cancelled the flights entirely due to the pandemic. I immediately tried to contact Vayama (this was on 3/27/20 – about 18 days before scheduled departure). This is where the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan.
Vayama turned off their phones. Yep. Completely. There was a pre-recorded message stating that due to the call volume they were not accepting calls. That same day, I contacted them via email inquiring as to what the next steps were. In response, I got an auto-generated email stating to contact my airline for any change or cancellation. At this point, I have two companies pointing fingers at each other and my wallet feeling light.
I started doing digging on social media (specifically Vayama’s facebook page) and it turns out I was one of hundreds of people in the same boat (and probably many thousands who either don’t have FB or aren’t the type to make a stink – good for them). Some people had already missed important flights and were waiting for refunds while others were halfway through their itinerary when other legs of their trip were cancelled, etc. Complete chaos. So, on 3/28, I filed a case with the Better Business Bureau.
The following is breakdown of the following months of back and forth:
- 4/27/20 – Got an email from Vayama stating a refund was coming due to flight cancellation.
- 5/8/20 – No response and still waiting for refund.
- 5/19/20 – Vayama, via BBB, states that they are waiting for the airline to refund them so they can refund me.
- 6/17/20 – Still waiting for Vayama to issue me the refund. On this day, I also spoke with the airline who swore up and down that they can only issue the refund if and when Vayama contacts them which to that point hadn’t happened. I got fed up and initiated a charge back with my credit card company and provisionally got my money back (pending an investigation).
- Every 2-3 weeks since Vayama has emailed me a boiler plate email stating they are still waiting for the airlines to issue them refunds so they can issue their customer refunds and to be patient (adding insult to injury, so to speak).
- On 8/13/20 I received another boiler plate email sent to all customers again blaming airlines.
- On 8/22/20, after “Syed” at Vayama looked into my pending refund he saw that I had initiated a charge back and stated that as a result they cannot proceed with changes or cancellations (fine by me). Vayama stated that I need to cancel my charge back, thus losing my money (again) and that they will continue to work on getting me a refund (with zero estimated time for that being completed).
Why would I do that? Exactly. I wouldn’t. And I didn’t. The money has already been rightfully returned to me and my bank is investigating the Vayama transaction. Cancelling the chargeback will only prolong the pain of this as I guarantee it will still be a minimum of a few months before people receive refunds from Vayama (many are still writing posts on FB stating that they are waiting…5 months later). I’m not about to let a company keep multiple thousands of my dollars hostage.
Perhaps this type of post isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and if you feel that way, I understand. We can agree to disagree. However, I will try my best to ensure that someone else doesn’t get taken advantage of by this company. A company that has no backup strategy for customer service when the going gets tough that it has to shut its phones off. What’s the saying? When the going gets tough, the tough get going? Not Vayama. So, unfortunately, a post like this is necessary. I hope this Vayama.com public service announcement serves its purpose and prevents at least one person from getting taken to the cleaners.
I will never use Vayama again and I recommend that you strongly consider other options for travel agencies when booking your next flight. Based on recent research, I find that a lot of times the airlines themselves are very competitive in pricing. And if you follow my tips for saving on travel, you may be able to pay slightly more for a proper airline-direct ticket and not feel so bad. I think going forward I will try to do my best to purchase directly from airlines vs 3rd parties like Vayama.com.
Stay safe and happy travels everyone!