When to expect and how to avoid flight booking scam.
All of us are used to the fact that the price originally announced may differ from the real one, and we are basically interested in only one thing ant that's the exact amount of the difference:
We gladly overlook smaller increments, but some companies go beyond reasonable limits attempting to squeeze from their client as much as possible. Additional useful information you'll be able to find on the following pages: Tips for Buying Affordable Air Tickets and Best Flight Search Engines and Flight Search Techniques.
Let say that you are already using all the tips from the page How to find cheap air tickets. So now let's try to figure out how to avoid being scammed during our flight booking.
The sellers tricks vary wildly and at the same time different marketing strategies may be use during a specific time span only, that's why the rules of the game may change. So I won't emphasize on individual examples, but just list the most common ways of scamming customers.
Below I'll be talking not about search engines or search sites, but specifically about price aggregators (price comparison, metasearch engines), OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and about airlines themselves; if you don't understand what I'm talking about, please read the article about the most effective ways for searching air tickets, you'll find there a lot of useful and not always easily accessible information.
— I won't go into great detail on the subject of those vendors who initially (in their ads or for price aggregators) are impudently giving rates, that do not correspond the stark reality (for example, not so long ago it was normal to provide only the price of the flight itself without airport taxes, fuel or any other surcharges, thus making it three times or so smaller the actual one).
— Beware undertaking multiple flight search attempts from one IP address on the same search website within a short period of time (sounds intricate, but I believe, that you've understood).
Finally the price of your desired ticket can grow quite significantly, the rate of price increase vary from site to site, at one time on the site supersaver.ru you could double it just in three (easy) steps, at the time being on the site airberlin.com each step will cost you about €3: usually the price increase is very modest and one of course relies on you to overlook it (what exactly you, more often than not, will do to the general satisfaction).
— Further it goes a bit worse: some (dishonest, from my point of view) online travel agencies (I've seen this technique only by OTAs) provide price aggregators with a certain (lesser) amount, which will be the case only if you're using one specific method of payment.
Very unpleasant, impossible to get around not using exactly the payment method specified; in such selling schemes are engaged: edreams.com, that adds from €4.46 to €33.55 per passenger per each (!) flight segment (usually meant stop-over or change of aircraft), charged if the client not using Viabuy Prepaid MasterCard; paravion.uk.com imposes about €30.00 for not using upay and so on, so be careful.
By the way, a lot of leading OTAs doesn't charge any service fees anymore, especially if you are using only one airline: expedia.com, for example.
— Some travel agencies go even further: they're simply not providing or hiding the information about their service fees. Sometimes it looks really impressive.
On airfarewatchdog.com there's an article, dated 2007 (!), concerning travelation.com, about the service fees of which a customer was made aware only by means of ticket purchase confirmation (i.e. after successful payment). And what would you think, has anything changed from that time? Of course! They've raised their service fees: it was up to $25 for booking online and $40 for phone booking, and it became $30 (in some cases up to $75 for flights originating outside the US or Canada) and $50 respectively. And its for each ticket! If you don't believe me, see for yourself.
How are they doing it and why the business is still up and running: during the booking process you see a specified fairly reasonable price (you are able to see the basic ticket price, taxes and fees and the total). Your total trip cost here is not by any means the final price: by clicking PURCHASE button you also agree to the Terms and Conditions (where you can see at last their service charges).
But you must not think that only Americans doing this. Similar examples you'll be able to find all over the world, only fees, found in your invoice alongside with the "total price" of your trip will differ, depending on the country. They are relying on you not to be too much affected by the price increase and that you won't object to it ... especially.
— And don't expect, that buying an air ticket directly from the airline will allow you to avoid all the unnecessary expanses: your baggage fees (sports equipment fees and whatever) can double / triple / ... (depending on the number of stops), and if you fly with your pet in cabin, then for a stop-over lasting two hours or more you'll likely to be required to pay additional $50 - €250 in order "to cover the animal’s care during the transfer" (see for example Traveling with pets, KLM, at the bottom of the page) and so on.
By the way, that are the airlines, whom we must blame for the apparent greediness of the travel agencies. A lot of them are trying to bind clients (bonus programs, promos) and stop sharing with the distributing their tickets travel agencies! The fact is that an airline can receive for additional services (such as meals, baggage, notorious legroom, etc.) from a passenger a lot of money and doesn't want to loose this opportunity (it is very convenient to sell and advertise these services precisely during the booking process).
At the same time, if a client goes to the site of the airline at the first place, the chances that he'll bother to look at the service prices of its competitors are close to zero.
— There's only one advice that can be given considering all what was said above: read careful all the documentation regarding your prospective flight before money transfer and not after it.
And what sometimes helps with airlines: print all the information from the site of the air carrier about carrying your skis as part of free baggage allowance or other pleasant and advantageous (for you) things, because the people checking you in not necessary relate to the airline in question or know (or want to know) a lot about it (by the way, they can even refuse to understand not only English, but and their mother tongue, if they wish so ;).