In Travel on Sunday 1st Jul, 2018

Dodgy online booking sites scam customers with hidden ‘extra’ fees

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The sole job of a travel agency is to do the hard yards for a customer to find the cheapest and easiest option for their holiday. And while most agencies excel at their jobs, some dodgy sites are creating a bad name for online flight bookings.

A recent investigation by Which? Travel exposed several cleverly veiled scams that certain online travel agents have been using to charge travellers extra. 

The travel website interviewed a woman who had booked a last minute flight through online travel agent Checknfly. After paying for the flight in full, the company called her to ‘confirm’ her booking. 

According to the woman, Checknfly demanded she pay an extra $129 or they would cancel her flight. After she refused to pay the unnecessary fee, the company cancelled her booking and she was fortunately able to receive a full refund.

A popular scam among these travel companies is to fool fliers into picking seemingly cheap flights before adding overpriced ‘extras’ and marketing them as cheaper than booking direct. 

Starts at 60 completed a price comparison of a Brisbane to Sydney return flight next week. It compares the price between online travel agent Gotogate and budget national airline Jetstar. The results showed how largely these online scams are growing. 

Upon first searching for the particular flight, Gotogate only had one flight from Brisbane to Sydney return with Virgin. All other flights diverted to Gold Coast despite not searching for that destination. The only viable option on Gotogate was $219 despite the cheapest price for the same dates on the Virgin website being $118. 

The cheapest flight on the online travel agency was $154 and landed in Gold Coast instead of the chosen destination. This price was identical to booking directly through Jetstar except this flight flew directly to Brisbane. 

Read more: The scam tourists fall for time and time again

Jetstar’s basic flight includes optional extras of $80 for 20kg of baggage each way with seat selection and $25 for flight insurance including cancellations and lost baggage. This makes for a possible $259 flight.

Gotogate’s extras include $88 for 15kg of baggage, $15 for baggage services, $22 for flexible ticket, $30 for choosing a seat, $8 for flight insurance, $12 for check in, $11.50 for cancellation protection, $4 for booking reference by text and $19 for travel documents sent by post.

If one were to select the exact same flight with the same included extras as Jetstar, it would be $303 with Gotogate.

While not all online travel agencies are simply looking to make the largest profit, it’s worth looking at reviews from experienced travellers on their personal experiences. It’s best to stay safe by doing research and comparing prices between a number of sites before settling on your ticket.

Travelling can be stressful enough on its own but once you find a trusted and reputableagency, it can be made a whole lot easier.

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