Travel websites lie!

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This topic contains 26 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Ahmad 28 May 2017
at 08:57

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 27 total)

  • Tom Otley

    Not ours, obviously

    Travel websites ticked off over ‘misleading’ claims

    Key findings:
    In one third of cases the first price shown was not the same as the final price to pay.
    In one fifth of cases promotional offers were not really available.
    In nearly one third of cases the way the total price was calculated was not clear.
    In one quarter of cases prompts on scarcity (eg “only 2 left”) only applied to availability on that particularly website, which wasn’t made clear.


    Great topic. I recently had a spat with a very high profile online travel agent in Australia regarding a Singapore Airlines fare I purchased online. Having paid the quoted fare, I was sent an email the next day and told that unless I paid an additional AUD100 the ticket would not be issued. This was despite the original quoted fare having already been charged to my card the previous day.

    I contacted the travel agent online (no telephone support was available) and alerted them to the fact that they had misled and deceived me into buying the fare. Further, I said that I had relied on the fare quoted (and accepted by me) when deciding which fare to purchase. In short, there was a valid contract they were refusing to perform.

    In the end, after an hour on the phone and messages posted on social media and threats of legal action, they issued the ticket for the original fare and paid me the AUD 100 difference by way of negotiated compensation as settlement.

    From my experience, persistence and the use of social media is a good way to deal with these things. Sadly many online travel agencies mislead to get the sale and count on passengers coughing up the difference out of fear or lack of awareness of their legal rights.

    It’s great that Business Traveller is alerting its readers to this!


    A good travel agent can be worth their weight in gold, especially if something goes wrong and you need help to sort it. Unfortunately they are rare and so try to make their money by underhand means such as you describe Alec_F.


    Yes good travel agents are like gold dust. In 2004 I was on a project that required me to travel to several SE Countries ( I was residing in Singapore at the time) and my client was always late with their payments and expenses reimbursements, including airfares.
    At one point I had not received any payment for over 3 months. I spoke to my client demanding payment and threatening to cancel the next three trips. They did promise payment before I was due to travel next.
    I visited my travel agent and explained that although I wanted to book the flights I could not confirm or pay for them until the day before the travel date.
    My Travel Agent, Veronica, looked at me and smiled and said “Not to worry” that I was a good customer and they could wait until I was paid for payment and they would issue the ticket to me that day.

    Now that is service!


    Some airfares require immediate payment and ticketing at time of reservation,, others have a 72 hour deadline, and others have different ticketing time limits, up to day of departure. Generally, the higher and less restrictive the fare is, the later the ticketing time limit.

    If an agent issues a ticket, it can generally be voided up to midnight on the day of issue, without penalty. Thereafter, once reported to BSP, it becomes a refund, and is thus possibly subject to penalties according to the fare rule, which could say that the fare is non-refundable, or that there is a penalty, of it may be fully refundable. A common rip-off is that even when the fare is non-refundable, all or some of the taxes may be refundable, but some agents keep this. It’s theft.

    Further, some agents tell customers that all tickets they issue are non-refundable regardless of the rule. If the customer cancels, the agency withholds any refund. One large chain is known to do this and was the feature of a documentary on Channel 4 a year or so ago about this and the other unethical practices they use. So it’s not just travel websites that lie!

    In order not to enter into discussions with customers, many agents have a blanket practice of saying that all tickets must be paid for and ticketed when booked. Although this is a little unfair, it makes sense as a business procedure.


    Very true, capetonian. Also in the case of APD the tax point is not until the plane leaves the ground. Until that time it cannot be considered as tax. Therefore it’s a cash windfall if not refunded.


    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side of the political divide one chooses to be) such sharp practices are legal in many jurisdictions. Let the buyer beware!


    Chris_S, I know you said your experience was back in 2004, you dont know if this “Veronica”is still trading? Being able to find a decent travel agent in Singapore is the equivalent of finding rocking horse do do and I am sick of the BS that Amex give me as I try to kick start my fledgling business…..

    Thanks in advance K


    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side of the political divide one chooses to be) such sharp practices are legal in many jurisdictions.

    I fail to see how keeping anything that is not rightfully yours can be legal in any jurisdiction. As far as airline fare rules are concerned, it’s clear whether or not the base fare is refundable or not, and if there is a cancellation penalty that is specified as an amount or a percentage.

    The so-called fuel (QR) surcharge (ripoff) is normally not refundable, other taxes generally are refundable.
    Travel agents using a GDS have an auto-refund facility which calculates and submits the refund, showing the balance if any due to the passenger.

    Whilst it may be reasonable to charge a small administration fee, it is neither reasonable nor legal to keep any balance.

    Friends of mine were involved in this situation with a travel company in the UK, I helped them with a claim which was submitted to the County Court and they won.


    It depends on the contract you have with the travel agent. The refund terms can be totally at variance with the terms and conditions of the airline. If the contract is for the travel agent to just charge a service fee and act as an agent between you and the airline, what you say may be applicable. Otherwise, it is anybody’s guess.


    One doesn’t normally sign a contract with a travel agent, unless there is a travel management contract in place, although there may be one implicit.

    That said, you cannot contract outside the law, and in terms of IATA regulations, the passenger is liable to pay the correct fare pertaining to the journey he or she has made. I would surmise (and I could be wrong, but I doubt it), that this could be extended to when the passenger cancels the journey, he or she should obtain the appropriate refund as per the air fare rule.

    I would not like to see you challenged in a court of law on your contention, I think you would lose, and in fairness, you should lose.


    From my limited experience, I think all taxes except the fuel surcharges (which is just pure revenue for the airlines and nothing more) are fully refundable as they apply only when a passenger travels. The fuel surcharge should be the same for obvious reasons.

    On that basis, logically, all taxes (and surcharges) should be refundable minus a small service fee of no more than approx 20 pounds.

    Happy to be corrected if I’m wrong on the tax point.



    I am sorry for not being able to get into a lengthy debate on this today. With travel websites you will always be entering into a contract when you make a purchase. Over the counter it will usually be entered into when you pay. The contract will almost always be the agency’s standard terms contract unless a separate arrangement has been expressly made. Of course all such contracts will have to be legal infosar as they would have to be in conformity with the law governing such a contract. For travel websites, which courts will exercise jurisdiction will depend on many things but primarily upon the law governing the contract. This is not to be confused with IATA regulations which may or may not form part of such governing law. Anyway, fares are now deregulated and so far as I am aware IATA regulations no longer have any bearing on fares. Agents who are IATA approved or are members of travel associations such as ABTA in the UK will also have contracts which incorporate terms and conditions mandated by such associations. These will invariably be reasonable and will not incorporate the kind of sharp practices we are talking about. If one is dealing with an agent who is neither IATA approved nor a member of a travel agents’ association having a good code of conduct, it is laissez-faire I’m afraid.


    Ahmad you make some valid points, and when someone books online, either through on OLTA or an airline website, they tick a box confirming that they have read and agreed to the ‘Ts and Cs’, which of course they never do. I find it hard to believe that such an agreement would say ‘all fares and taxes paid on tickets booked through us will be retained by us regardless of the fare rules’. I would further find it hard to believe that such a contract would be valid in case of a dispute. You are right of course : ” These (contracts) will invariably be reasonable and will not incorporate the kind of sharp practices we are talking about.”

    Most airfares are deregulated, although IATA fares still exist but are really only used by airlines for calculating pro-rate settlements between themselves, and are rarely sold and then only under special circumstances. I think the deregulation only applies to the fare levels, and not to the governing rules which sit behind them.

    I suppose if people deal with sharks then it’s ‘caveat emptor’, but as I said earlier one major agency chain was exposed in a C4 documentary for doing precisely what I cited above in respect of refundable fares.


    Travel websites: the champions of Alt-Facts. Fox News would be proud of them.

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