How to avoid getting scammed by an online travel agency
By now, you’ve probably heard lots of stories of people who purchased tickets or packages online and didn’t get what they thought they were getting.
Or, as in the case of Audrey and Brian, an elderly couple from England who got way more than they were expecting. Mr. and Mrs. Kay booked a trip to celebrate their diamond anniversary in Australia through an online travel agency. The tickets were indeed incredibly cheap — around $400 for both tickets.
But when the Kays had to change flight times — and then when their passports were stolen in Sydney and they had to make another adjustment while waiting for the replacements before they could return home — the online booking agency wound up charging them fees that totaled eight times what their original tickets had cost. These fees totaled over $3,000 USD, plus the original cost of the tickets.
This is unfortunately not uncommon with online booking agencies. They are not required to use the same fee structure as airlines use directly. So, for example, the airline that runs to Sydney from where the Kays live would normally charge about $115 USD for flight changes, not several thousand. But they Kays didn’t know that, and the online agency didn’t return their calls. It wasn’t until one of the Kays’ children sent the story to a local news outlet that the unscrupulous fees were reduced. But how many other travelers have been hit with onerous hidden fees like these and haven’t had someone to go to bat for them?
A reputable travel agent will give you your all-in cost, fees included, right up front. There should be zero confusion as to how much your trip or package will cost! That’s what a good agent does. That’s what I do for my clients. Do not, under any circumstances, do business with an online agency that does not provide this information up front.
A good agent (or agency) is there for you form the moment you call in inquire. They will return your emails, your texts, your phone calls. They will answer your questions fully. They’ll be a phone call away if something unexpected happens on your trip and you need assistance for anything, big or small. They can provide you with top-quality travel insurance so that if something happens like happened to the Kays — you have to change flight times, or your passport gets stolen, or you have a medical emergency — you and your investment will be covered with zero hassle.
Your vacation should be a source of delight and excitement for you and your family. It should be the most relaxing thing you’ve done all year. That’s what professional agents are committed to providing for their clients. It’s one of many reasons why I do what I do, and why I believe that the unique service we offer cannot be replaced.