A number of travelers who booked a trip through Travelocity using an offer promoted by the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind have had their trips canceled for improperly claiming the discount.
In early July, the federation sent out a message to its followers on Twitter noting that "Travelocity has offered NFB members $200 off a three-night hotel and flight package through September 4; use code NFB2012."
As can happen in the world of Internet promotions, with the code widely available online, some travelers took advantage of the deal even though they were not members of the NFB. On a Facebook page dedicated to the dispute, other travelers said they had joined the NFB — at-large membership is $10 — just to save money on their trip.
But a Travelocity spokesperson says the discount was never intended to be displayed on the Web and was supposed to be given only to those who attended the 2012 National Federation of the Blind national convention in Dallas in early July.
Dallas-based Travelocity, which last year began a partnership with the NFB in an effort to make its website easier for the visually impaired to use, was at the convention to give an update on the progress of that project.
Steve Dumaine, senior vice president of global strategy and project innovation, spoke to attendees, a group of about 3,000 people.
"As a goodwill token, we were thinking, 'OK, can we do something special for the people who have come all the way to Dallas — show them some "Texas hospitality," if you will,' " said Travelocity spokesperson Joel Frey.
He acknowledged that Travelocity had retweeted the NFB's Twitter message by mistake but said he had removed it immediately.
The online travel agency allotted several thousand redemptions for the code. Frey said as the weeks went by, there were a normal number of redemptions — until a blog posting on the travel website BoardingArea.com in late July.
After that, he said, "It went crazy. We saw a huge spike in redemption of the codes. So that made us pause, and we took a look at it."
Frey said the company discovered that many travelers who were not eligible had taken advantage of the code.
"We made a decision to cancel those bookings," he said.
Travelocity woouldn't say how many trips were canceled, but they could be in the hundreds, if not more.
Many of those who used the promo code said the original terms and conditions for the deal did not specify that it was only for NFB conventioneers or federation members.
Some commenters on BoardingArea.com also complained that Travelocity had told them of the cancellation with very short notice or, in some cases, had charged a penalty fee, which reduced the amount of their refund.
But Frey disputed those allegations.
"Anyone who used the code, they're getting the full refund and are not subject to any cancellation fee."
Chris Danielsen, a spokesperson for the NFB, said he did not know if any members of his group "have been specifically affected" by the cancellations.
Danielsen also said the original Twitter message sent by his group was "inconsistent with what he [Dumaine] said in the convention hall, and we have apologized for the confusion through our Twitter account."
While Travelocity has been frustrated by the unusual turn of events, Frey said the relationship with the federation will continue.
"We're strong partners with the NFB moving forward."