Please sign in to post.

Airline Tickets - lesson learned

We are joining the RS 'Athens and the heart of Greece' Oct. 10th. Two months ago we booked air travel through cheaptickets.com and purchased tickets for travel on US Air for Seattle to Athens. We were promised the best deal of any site and got the flights that seemed to fit best our needs. Last week Cheap Tickets e-mailed us and said there was a 'significant' problem with our travel.
That turned out to be an understatement. After 3 phone calls (to finally get to talk to a live person) we were told our flight home from Greece was cancelled. I was told to talk to US Air directly and when I did their rep informed me THERE ARE NO USAIR FLIGHTS TO/FROM GREECE AFTER OCT 16TH. GREECE IS A 'SEASONAL ROUTE' ONLY. The rep was sympathetic and referred me back to Cheap Tickets. After much looking for an alternative and not finding one that met our needs he offered to refund our money (the rep was wonderful and very helpful). So... the moral of the story is to do your research- we found exactly what we wanted by booking directly with Delta and we saved $550 in the bargain! See you in Greece!!

Posted by
506 posts

If everyone was like me non of those sites would exist. This third party flight business is too risky. You will be completely lucky if all goes perfectly well buying the great tickets you bought. Airlines are not our friends these days!

Posted by
439 posts

Hi,

I have not had much luck with the 3rd party sites. I may use them to find the best fair, then go go the individual airlines to actually book the flights.

We may actually see you in Greece, we leave on the Oct 12th tour!

Thanks,

Mary

Posted by
162 posts

Well, Ive used Orbitz twice and Cheap Tickets once for three trips to Europe with no real problems. However, the night before I was supposed to leave last year, Cheap Tickets also emailed me a "problem" with my tickets. When I called them (cant remember how long it took to reach a live person, but I did), they told me the airline (Czech Airlines) cancelled my Prague-Amsterstam portion of my travel. They put me on another flight, but Cheap Tickets cancelled my whole itinerary and they had to rebook the entire trip, which they did without any further hassle. I HAVE noticed that when I compare prices at all the discount sites, there isn't much price difference...maybe $100. This year someone at my work is selling me their frequent flier miles, so theyre are booking direct through their airline, and putting the tickets in my name.

Posted by
31318 posts

michele,

Thanks for posting that. This is one of the reasons I prefer booking directly with the airlines and not through one of the booking sites. I've seen examples in the past where passengers have had troubles with cancelled or changed flights, and the booking sites seem to resort to "passing the buck" and saying that the airline was at fault (that is if you can even contact anyone that knows what they're doing). The airlines tend to absolve themselves of any responsibility since the reservation wasn't made through their system.

I've never used one of those sites, and your experience is another good reason why I will never use one!

Posted by
3630 posts

Frank, you will be in violation of the airlines terms and conditions by buying frequent flyer tickets from your coworker. Hopefully, it will all work out but airlines are seeking to cancel such tickets (and the sellers frequent flier account) when they find that selling of frequent flier tickets has occurred. There have been some sad posts on other forums where people arrive at the airport to discover they have no ticket.

Posted by
6766 posts

US Air in general is being phased out completely - everything is under American Airlines and the probably need to readjust their schedules. There's nothing wrong with 3rd party sites - they make comparisons easy (provided you see the whole menu of airline ticket prices). Not sure why there are any negative comments about 3rd party comparison sites - the alternative is you'd have to go to each site individually and this takes up much more time. But there's no reason to book with a 3rd party site - booking with the airline is preferable because any further communication/ticket alterations don't need to involve the 3rd party.

(I'm directing this mostly to those who needlessly criticize 3rd party sites) I don't think Cheaptickets did anything wrong in your story - they communicated well and you got it straightened out. If you booked through US Air, the same thing would have happened if they pared down the flights - they'd have to notify you as well and you'd ultimately have to find a carrier/flight that works for you.

I'm not sure I caught what the moral of the story is - how could you do more research when you have no idea that the airline will pare down their schedule in the future? Cheaptickets would not let you book a flight that didn't exist in the same reservation system that the airline itself uses (there are no parallel reservation systems) - so you could have booked the same exact flight on the US Air website and the outcome would be exactly the same.

Posted by
5085 posts

I'd second what Carol says above, re

This year someone at my work is selling me their frequent flier miles, so theyre are booking direct through their airline, and putting the tickets in my name.

What your co-worker is doing (and what you are doing) is a clear violation of the rules. Some people do it, and I'm sure many of them get away with it. But some get caught. If you do get caught, all kinds of bad things can and do happen (tickets canceled, FF accounts closed, points confiscated, with no refunds, no recourse and not a lot of sympathy from the airlines). The airlines take this pretty seriously - they view it as fraud. Just something you should know going in to such an arrangement.

Posted by
162 posts

Wow, I didn't know that. Thanks for the warnings, guys. I may have to re-think that decision.

Posted by
12754 posts

We're like Ken: we'll find the prices through Skyscanner or another search site but we always book directly through the airline. That way if something goes south, we deal with that airline and not through a 3rd-party who can make all sorts of excuses and blame everyone but themselves- leaving you to spend way too much time and money trying to clean up the mess.

Posted by
264 posts

We have friends that had their whole vacation canceled. Nice... All they were told after like you going through a long process was, "too bad too sad". Nice...

Posted by
8625 posts

I do encourage you to check your tickets at least every 2 weeks this far out and for the last 6 weeks or so before your travel date, check your Delta account once a week to make sure there are no changes that you can't live with. Even tho I have frequent flier status with Delta and they have my email address AND my account is set up for notification, I still don't get notified if there are scheduling changes. If you have selected your seats, check the seat assignment as well (particularly important on the international leg).

This does not stop me from flying Delta as it is really my only choice out of my local airport, but I have learned to check.

I am glad you got your tickets worked out favorably!

Posted by
3696 posts

I have used my frequent flier miles a number of times for tickets for other people. I
f I am traveling with a grandkid I will use my miles for their ticket and buy my own so that I will still get the miles for a purchased ticket. Is the problem in getting money for those? I guess I would need to look into it, but I have also given miles to other people and you can easily transfer miles to someone else's account.

Could you please give specifics where it says you cannot use your miles for someone else?

Posted by
7854 posts

TK, You can't sell them but you can gift.

Posted by
11613 posts

My understanding is that you can't sell miles but you can transfer them to someone else's account or use them to buy tickets for another person.

Posted by
6364 posts

So my question is: if you book them with your ff miles and put them in another person's name, how does the airline know that you got paid (under the table, so to speak) by your friend rather than gifting them?

Please don't get off on the ethical or not issue of this. I'm just asking hypothetically, how the airline can crack down on something it doesn't know about?

Posted by
783 posts

Yes Terry Kathryn, the issue is in another person paying you for the miles. I use my miles/points to buy tickets for people all of the time on Southwest and American. And I am signed into my account so the airline knows I am doing it. American charges a fee to share miles (ie transfer your miles into someone elses's account) which is why its just easier to get the ticket for them myself. But I don't take anything for payment because it is for family.

In response to Nancy. I suspect something flags if there is a difference in last names. Or if one person repeatedly does it and it is always for different people.

Posted by
10 posts

TK asked for the language, and I've copied it below from Alaska Airlines for the curious. I suspect other frequent flyer programs have similar language in their terms. (And note that the policies prevent sale, barter, etc., but, unless it is addressed somewhere else that I am unaware of, do not prohibit gifting mileage tickets.)

As to the question of how the airlines would ever know, my guess is that for one-off kinds of transactions, the airlines never would. I suspect the airlines look for patterns in mileage accounts indicative of sales, things like churning credit cards (or other schemes) to quickly compile miles followed by immediate high-value ticketing in others' names. If your office mate has been piling up miles on actual flights, decides that all of the work travel has caused travel fatigue and that he or she will never leave home again, and offers to ticket your vacation in exchange for a little something under the table, I bet the chances of showing up at the airport and finding your ticket cancelled are pretty slim. But that is just guessing. If anyone is really interested, I bet you could wade into the discussions at Flyertalk or other online forums and learn more than you ever wanted!

Alaska's Terms and Conditions (in relevant part):

No benefit of Mileage Plan membership - including mileage credit, award travel, upgrade certificates, companion certificates, and elite status nominations - may be sold, purchased, or bartered, except to the extent permitted through Points.com. Mileage, certificates, tickets, or other benefits of Mileage Plan membership that are sold, purchased or bartered, and award tickets or Miles that are obtained from any unauthorized source (including travel agents, travel arrangers and unauthorized brokers), are voidable, in Alaska Airlines’ sole discretion. Attempts to purchase, sell or barter these products or benefits shall be considered an act of fraud against Alaska Airlines. The member and/or the traveler shall be liable for the full, unrestricted value of awards issued as a result of improper or fraudulent transfers or otherwise in violation of these Conditions of Membership. Alaska Airlines reserves the right to deactivate the Mileage Plan account of any member involved in such activities until liability is fulfilled.

Posted by
162 posts

Well, I told my friend at work I was concerned about the 'fraud' aspect of this and he told me not to worry because he does it all the time. He bought the ticket himself on his account, but entered my name as the traveler. I paid him cash (about 1/3 the usual cost!) As my travel time nears, I will keep an eye on this as I usually would, so Im not going to worry.

Posted by
6766 posts

@Nancy So my question is: if you book them with your ff miles and put them in another person's name, how does the airline know that you got paid (under the table, so to speak) by your friend rather than gifting them?

All mile activity/ transactions are completed through the website so of course the airline knows that your miles were not used toward your travel. They can pull up a report of how every mile was used, by whom, when, etc and in whose name they were applied. They also track gifting of miles.

Posted by
6364 posts

Thanks Agnes but that still doesn't answer my question. If I use my miles to get a ticket for my daughter (or friend, or neighbor, or co-worker, etc) and put that ticket in her name which, from what I understand, is okay to do, how would the airline know if I 'gave' the ticket to her or she slipped me a few hundred dollars for that ticket? If I didn't tell anybody and she didn't tell anybody about the money exchange, it would just be between us and the airline would be none the wiser. Remember this is only hypothetical and I have no intention of circumventing the rules like this, just curious.

Posted by
101 posts

It is not at all unusual for airlines to change or cancel flights due to seasonal changes. I had this happen to me on an up coming trip during which I was scheduled to return from VCE to ATL on a direct flight on Delta in late September. However, Delta informed me they had changed their schedules and cancelled their direct return flights after mid-September. Not a big problem, but it did take several calls with Delta and their Air France partner to get a reasonable flight rescheduled through CDG. As one of the other posters suggested, continue to check your flight itinerary on the airlines website since they can, and will, make changes that may, or may not, be acceptable. Even though they should send you an email about these changes, I've found that they don't always do that. The good news is if the changes are not acceptable most airlines usually will let you reschedule without any changes fees.

Posted by
783 posts

Nancy- you are right. The airline won't know if you have an under the table transactions. But they do not need a reason to cancel a frequent flier account. So if they suspect anything suspicious they can cancel your account and any flights you have scheduled would be voided.

My guess is getting tickets occasionally for family members would not be seen as suspicious. The fact that my family all does this for one another and have never had this questioned supports this. But someone who reserves tickets for multiple people that do not share the same last name looks suspicious....or would look suspicious to me if I were working for the airline.

So to the gentleman that is using his friend's miles, they will catch on eventually. Hopefully it is after you have taken your trip.

Posted by
2799 posts

Nancy--if you occasionally book the tickets for someone else, friend or family, and put the ticket in their name, the airline doesn't really care if that person reimburses you. That language in the T and C's is designed to allow them to crack down on people who sell their miles to mileage brokers---Internet agencies with names like "FlyBizCheap" or things like that. These agencies buy miles and use them to book business class tickets and sell them for half or less the cost of paid tickets. People who purchase those tickets will often arrive at the airport to find their ticket cancelled. You see reports of this on Flyertalk and Tripadvisor. And people whose mileage account shows signs of suspicious activity, indicative of selling miles to brokers, can have their mileage account suspended or cancelled. Generally the suspicion is raised by the combination of (1) a new account with (2) lots of miles earned through credit card activity, not flights, and (3) booking an individual award ticket for someone else (not a joint ticket for the account holder plus someone else). There is a report of someone having his Alaska Airline account suspended for that reason on Flyertalk right now.

If you are a long-time member of the mileage plan, have actually flown that airline and have booked tickets with miles for yourself as well as others, the airline really doesn't care what you do privately.