This past year, I spent a lot of time in Europe. It was quite easy to travel around. I once flew to Dublin during peak Christmas season for 39€ and around the same time I also took the bus to Paris for a whopping 9€! Europe is super easy to get around and for the most part, a bargain if you’re willing to compromise. But sometimes you do get called out.
I’m a fan of the cheap webpages like the Skyscanner’s, the Kayak’s and the Secret Flyer type companies. When I’m in ‘travel mode’ I monitor them closely, set daily alerts and always make sure that their posts are at the top of my Facebook feed. I have found that these websites are great for when you are a flexible traveller that’s happy to go anywhere at any time. But, sometimes if there’s a specific place and time you want to go, you may get scammed.
It all started when I found a super cheap EasyJet flight to Lyon for 34€. They were flying to and from Lyon on Friday’s and Sunday’s but this didn’t suit the time when I needed to be there. I scanned my other favourite cheap webpages and found a return flight to Lyon with the exact dates and exact times for 150€. Ok, this was a bit of a pinch compared to the 68€ I was going to spend, but it worked for me. I booked it.
Now, to clarify for you a bit more, Skyscanner and Kayak are awesome travel tools. They go though and scan multiple companies and travel agencies for the best flight they can find on offer so. However, in theory you’re not booking with them, but booking a third party for your flight which is a travel agent. Make sense? This means you’re subject to the third party’s rules and the booking system of the third party. If you think about it, their system may be slow and might not be updated and in sync to the airline provider… so that means the travel agency’s system may not be synced up with for example airline providers like KLM or Air France.
Ok… so my flight is booked, and I’m leaving in 24 hours. I’m normally super chill with booking flights but this one I started to question. It had been a few hours and I noticed that the conformation code they gave me didn’t work. I fished around the email to find a a phone number. The email didn’t have a phone number but they had a link to another website. I clicked on the link and it brought me to a webpage all in Spanish (they have since fixed this and it is now in English). Let me be clear, I got a conformation code however it didn’t work….. and I just wanted to confirm that everything was ok. If I didn’t check, I’m not entirely sure how this would have panned out. But what I found fascinating is the travel agency offered me a conformation code and charged my credit card the full amount without confirming the availability of my flight.
So, I cracked my knuckles and went into full “Sherlock Holmes” mode. After clicking on the Spanish webpage, and translating – I did find a number that said… “and for English, call this number.” I called… the lady answered in Spanish. She hung up on me. I called back. No answer. I called back. I was stuck on hold… and then, I called back again and this time, she put me though to another person who spoke English. I grabbed his number straight away incase we got disconnected. Then, the gentleman checked the booking and told me that I owed another 250€ for the flight on top of the 150€ that I already spent because you know… my flight wasn’t available. Oh yeah.. I would also be flying with a completely different carrier and actually direct rather than though Paris or something.
Basically, old mate had me over a barrel because his company had already taken the charge of 150€ for my flight which doesn’t exist and I could either forfeit the 150€ and not go to Lyon and chase the amount of cash I was about to lose, or just play their game and pay the rest of the 250€ and get on with life.
I felt I had no choice so I paid the rest… I waited a few more hours and still no code. I called back again! Eventually, I got the conformation and the next day, had an excellent flight with Air France and learned a serious life lesson. However, I wasn’t going to end it there.
I emailed Kayak though their website regarding the issue and spelled out how it completely unfolded. They were of no help. To make a long story short, their email below says that it wasn’t their fault that the travel agent in question was a scammer.
I sent them an email back:
And then came back to me again:
So, I was pretty much blown off because nothing ever happened after this last email. To be fair, Kayak didn’t do anything wrong but allow the third party to do the scamming. I was bummed that my case was not taken any further after they said they’d investigate, which sucks… So the best I can do for you is this: Here are some tips and things you should know so this doesn’t happen to you:
Yes, Kayak and Skyscanner are excellent ways to travel cheaply! I’ve used them a bazillion times without incident until now.
No, providers may not care about you even though you’ve got all the proof in the world that you did nothing wrong. Perhaps this will change and they will take our issues in higher regard because I do love their product.
Yes, booking directly from the carrier is better than a third party agency because like I said, there are some are brutal scammers…
What can you do? If the price seems too good to be true, do more investigating. I was being silly when I found the price and booked straight away. I should have compared the price I found with the actual airline. Also, if you do find a super cheap fare online, who says you can’t call them direct and find out over the phone what the deal is?
If you do get scammed – keep all details and a paper trail if possible. Sometimes, you can call your credit card company and they’ll help but all companies are different and some are more helpful than others. It also depends on how much time you have and how much effort you want to put into getting your money back. Also, research the company who scammed you online – see if there were issues that other travellers dealing with the same company. I did a quick search of the company online and sure enough, this happened frequently!
Did you get scammed whilst on holiday? Got a story to tell or do you have some tips on how to avoid being scammed? Share your experience in the comments.
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!