Online Travel Agents - Caution

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Online Travel Agents - Caution

Postby mongolking » Sat Jun 17, 2017 8:55 am

I travel a lot during the southern winter, and in the past I've used online flight searching tools like SkyScanner to find a flight from one place to another. Skyscanner lists all the flights that match your query, and links to online travel agents who will take your money and make a booking for you. These agents will even keep you informed if the airline changes flight departure times.

But be very careful - these agents don't do refunds easily. If the airline cancels your flight, they may well consider it a cancellation, and so you lose.

A personal experience with the online agent travel2be/travelgenio highlights this. I made a booking with them, and some weeks later the agent informed me that the airline was putting on a different plane for the route. The new flight would leave 20 minutes later than the one I was booked on. Was I ok with that? I replied I was. The next day they informed me that the airline had cancelled me from the now replaced flight, and would not issue me with a ticket for the new flight. (I checked with the airline directly, and they informed me that it was the agent that cancelled me, not them).

The agent then went silent, and of course, no refund.

Fortunately it was only a short flight involving only a small amount, but having done some googling I discover that these agents are notorious for doing this. Their strict 'no cancellation' policy means if the ticket is cancelled for any reason, not just you cancelling, then getting a refund out of them is like getting a dollar off a conman. I suspect they would rather this wasn't generally known, and that is why they go silent - to avoid admitting to their actual policy.

Fortunately, most airlines now have internet ticket booking websites of their own, so it's a lot easier to book with the airline directly than it was only a couple of years ago. Avoid the internet agents wherever possible. You're unlikely to get any advantage from using them, and only the burden of your booking becoming worthless for reasons beyond your control.

I still use Skyscanner to find out what flights are operating between two destinations and what airlines offer them, but once I've found that out, I book directly with the airline.
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Re: Online Travel Agents - Caution

Postby Notorious GIT » Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:08 pm

Yet another reason to avoid flight whenever possible.

It's the same with everything. Buy a car, it's a lemon? Check your state lemon laws: you will NEVER get full value. You'll get something of equal value to the depreciated value of your car, and forget compensation for your inconvenience.

Can't use your cell phone data plan in your own home? Check your contract, they're not in breach. They have to provide access, doesn't say anything about you being able to get out of contract if they don't provide it where you use it most, even if their coverage map puts you right smack in the middle of their coverage area.

Everything that can be a scam is, and the law is rarely of any more use than making you waste a shitload of time and money just to be made partially whole, and that without any consideration of compensation for the time and money you took just to get a piece of what you initially paid to receive, product or service.

Vote with you wallet and your feet.

If everyone agreed collectively that the first which of this BS from any company would never see a dime of anyone's business again, guess what? Companies in like industries with a policy of "the customer is always right" (where've we heard that before?) would be the only ones left standing.

And of course they'll fuck up. No one's perfect. But if when they fuck up, they are known to trip over themselves to make it right, they'll get a BETTER reputation. "My travel agent fucked up my weekend flight to Cancun, so they gave me a week all expenses paid to Hawaii with compensation for pecuniary loss from work, since I didn't have vacation to cover it."

If they're only fucking up as often as anyone should, it should be WELL within the means of such a company to do so for a customer.

As it is, just think of what calling customer service is like. Customer satisfaction is NOT a priority to businesses past a certain level of success or proliferation. Getting your name signed to obligate you to them is IT.

Vote accordingly. Wallets and feet.
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Re: Online Travel Agents - Caution

Postby mongolking » Sun Jun 18, 2017 1:32 pm

Notorious GIT wrote:Vote accordingly. Wallets and feet.


It's the only response they understand.

They've been so successful at insulating themselves from any cost related to refunding, that they've actually incentivised themselves towards cancelling flights at the least opportunity. They get to keep the full-fare, rather than a small commission.

What they don't seem to value is the lost revenue from future bookings. Once bitten, twice shy. I would have kept using these agents had they not pulled this stunt, and the commissions lost on bookings I've already made while studiously avoiding them already surpasses whatever quick dollar they made with their easy cancellation money.

I guess there's still a big world of spring chickens to pluck, and new internet identities to assume, before reality finally arrives at their door - but I wouldn't count on any karma coming their way in some vague future. It's enough to know I won't be dealing with them personally again.
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Re: Online Travel Agents - Caution

Postby Slade » Sat Jul 15, 2017 4:10 pm

FWIW, expedia saved our butts when British Air had it's world wide IT crash on May 27 and had to cancel all their flights. My son was going to fly to London that day. Expedia was able to rebook him for May 28. I know of people who booked directly through British Air who couldn't talk to an agent for days after the cluster fuck, and thus had their vacations ruined.

Airlines suck. Period. But you can't drive to London from the USA. And I wanted to see it before the muzzies take over.
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Re: Online Travel Agents - Caution

Postby mongolking » Sat Jul 15, 2017 4:49 pm

Slade wrote:FWIW, expedia saved our butts when British Air had it's world wide IT crash on May 27 and had to cancel all their flights. My son was going to fly to London that day. Expedia was able to rebook him for May 28. I know of people who booked directly through British Air who couldn't talk to an agent for days after the cluster fuck, and thus had their vacations ruined.

Airlines suck. Period. But you can't drive to London from the USA. And I wanted to see it before the muzzies take over.


I had one experience with Expedia where I booked a non-cancelable airline ticket on the wrong date, realised it immediately, and called them right away. They told me that they'd cancel the ticket immediately and issue me with a full refund (though it did take a week).

If you look for an airfare on Skyscanner, then select a particular flight, you'll then get shown all the deals on that flight offered by the different online agents. Each of the agents is rated by a 0-5 star customer rating. Expedia is rated amongst the best by those that use them, with a rating of 4-5 stars. Travelgenio is one of the worst rated, at 2 stars - though they are also usually offering the best deals on a price basis. I guess you get what you pay for.

EDIT: Your positive experience with Expedia over booking directly with the airline is an example of one of the few advantages of using an agent. They have their own computer systems. If the airline's is down, and theirs is still running, they can still function. It's not an advantage I would bank on though. It could just as easily go the other way.

What I have learned from dealing with online agents is that the main cause of their terrible service is that their systems are sub-standard. The poor quality of them is exposed as soon as anything unusual occurs.
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