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Beware of low cost airfares

Travel Forums General Talk Beware of low cost airfares

1. Posted by loykerr (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

I am a seasoned traveler, who relied, perhaps foolishly, on a discount airline site called FlyCheapAbroad.com. I was going to Paris in September and noted that the major carriers were asking coach prices of almost a thousand dollars. I thought this might be too high and delayed buying my ticket in the summer, thinking that the airfares would come down in August as they customarily do.

During this period, I checked out various discount airfare sites and came upon FlyCheapAbroad.com. They listed a fare on an as yet unknown major carrier (until I bought the ticket) for two hundred dollars cheaper. I called the 800 number and asked, among other things, would I receive Frequent Flyer Miles? I was told that I would and that they would put my mileage account number on the reservation once purchased.

A week or so later, I noticed that the flight I was interested in had dropped to $609. Thinking the deal might not last, I called the website again, and before making the purchase repeated the question about the Frequent Flier mileage. Again, I was told that I would receive the miles, so I purchased the ticket.

Indeed, as it turned out to be an American Airlines flight, I saw that my mileage number was affixed on the official AA reservation. However, after I took my flights I noticed that I didn't receive any mileage. Upon requesting same from the AA Help Desk, I received a rude awakening. My flight didn't qualify, as it had been purchased through a discount travel agent.

When I confronted FlyCheapAbroad.com, it was intriguing that the two agents expressed surprise that I hadn't received mileage and said they would call AA to find out why. The next day, after I called them again, the agent said that my flight didn't qualify. It didn't seem to faze her that she'd been surprised the day before that I hadn't received the miles, nor that I had been told by the person who sold me the ticket that I would receive them.

I asked to speak to a supervisor, who called me back and cited a sort of "It's not our responsibility" line. No matter what I said, she kept repeating her mantra. I referred her to the Terms and Conditions page on the website, which had wording still in effect in October where, under the paragraph heading of Frequent Flyer it said, "Once booked and ticketed, it is the responsibility of the passenger to contact the airlines to give Frequent Flyer account information." It didn't say to call the airline to find out whether the flight would accrue miles (which would have been impossible before buying the ticket, because FlyCheapAbroad.com doesn't tell you what airline you will be flying), but encourages you to get your information to the airline. What other reason could there be for this verbiage if the mileage was not expected? That, plus the personal assurances I had been given by the clerk who sold me the ticket, gave me the confidence that I would receive the miles.

After arguing with this supervisor for quite awhile, she said she would look into it and then, upon my nudging, emailed me the next day with "First of all, I want to make it clear that I am sincerely sorry for this situation. Please let me continue trying to get an exception from AA to make possible a mileage credit in your account." She said she'd get back in five business days. To this date, two months later, I have heard nothing from the agency. I note that if she felt that I was in any way wrong or had made a mistake, why would she have even indicated a desire to rectify the situation? Perhaps it was because I threatened to write to American Airlines and the administrators of VISA.

The only satisfaction is that they have since updated their Terms and Conditions page, which now, under the Frequent Flyer paragraph has the wording, "Some flights will not accrue miles." One, of course, wonders if they will be up front with someone who poses the question of mileage eligibility, or if in fact any of their discounted flights do yield miles.

Frequent Flyer miles are worth a considerable amount. Their value is approximately $25 per thousand miles, so for a round-trip flight of over 12,000 miles I was cheated by them of about $300. The amount of the AA fare posted shortly before I took off was a little over $700, so even with the hundred dollars I "saved" using FlyCheap Abroad.com, with the mileage loss, I was out almost $200.

I can only urge that if you use this company insist upon the airline before you buy the ticket and demand whether the flight will accrue miles and get it in writing. I would also, upon learning of the exact flight (which usually happens within an hour or so), contacting the airline directly to learn if the flight will get you miles. If it doesn't, you can appeal immediately to VISA or Mastercard to cancel the transaction. In my case, since I didn't know of the fraud until after 60 days of my payment (as I bought the ticket a couple of months in advance and didn't learn of the mileage discrepancy until after the month-long journey was over), VISA cannot refund any of my money.

It is a lesson to be learned about discount airfares. Unless the fare is so very much below what the airline is quoting and/or you fly so seldom that you don't care about the miles (which is silly, as you can give them away), do not risk using FlyCheapAbroad.com or other such websites. It was an expensive lesson to learn for me. I hope that you don't suffer equally.

2. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 9y

I think the thread title "Beware of low cost airfares" is a little misleading, when the grievance is about one website selling discounted air fares and the issue of acquiring miles from flights bought through them.

I'm also not sure how other websites can be linked into this without example, as has happened in your last paragraph - what other experience have you had with "other such websites" and obtaining miles?

3. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 9y

Can't help smiling when I read your post. This happens when you want to have your cake and eat it, too :)

4. Posted by loykerr (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

I'm not sure you're getting the reason for my post.

I am warning you of this company, because they lied. I asked them a direct question -- twice -- before I bought the ticket and they lied.

It doesn't matter what other websites would or wouldn't do. This one lied. Perhaps others wouldn't. Don't know. However, I've learned my lesson and will never again buy such a ticket again, or at least, once having purchased it and upon learning the airline's name, will immediately go the airline's website to determine whether I will in fact get the mileage. If the mileage is not going to be offered, one can quickly go to the credit card company and say that you are cancelling the purchase, because the agency lied. Since you are calling them very soon after the purchase, and if your reason sounds legitimate, most credit card companies will side with you.

As for having my cake and eating it, there was no reason for me not to believe the agency, as I have flown round-trip to Europe with tickets bought directly from airlines for less than the $609 I paid this agency for LAX-Paris, (and received the full mileage for the other trips.) Thus, there was no reason for me to presume that I wouldn't get it in this instance after I took the time to ask the question and was told that I would get the miles.

That I was naive to believe them doesn't change the fact that FlyCheapAbroad.com lied

5. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 9y

Quoting loykerr

It doesn't matter what other websites would or wouldn't do. This one lied. Perhaps others wouldn't. Don't know.

Ok, you're now saying other such websites are no longer at fault in regards to your issue with FlyCheapAbroad.com. That's good, keeping a focus on the issue at hand.

Quoting loykerr

That I was naive to believe them doesn't change the fact that FlyCheapAbroad.com lied

Yes you asked them twice before booking your flight, but how can you be sure that they lied? As you pointed out, the terms do state "Once booked and ticketed, it is the responsibility of the passenger to contact the airlines to give Frequent Flyer account information" - from what you've said, you didn't do this. And as you have now said, you would do this now.

With the change overnight of what the agent told you, it is possible that some information may have come to them in regards to miles being awarded (or not) on certain flights, which was different to the information they had before - and therefore this wouldn't have been a lie (or even fraud, which is intentional deceit) as you have suggested, but rather a misunderstanding. Have you contacted AA in regards to this query with a copy of the AA reservation?

Miles are an added extra, as what you're actually buying is the flight with miles being extra - so I see where bentivogli is coming from with his comment.

6. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 9y

tnx Mojo, that indeed was exactly what I meant :)

7. Posted by loykerr (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

Mojorob, I do believe you're not getting it or are misrepresenting the essence of my post. Although my bad experience was with one such company, I urged people to be wary of all such companies. If they are honest, fine. One was not, despite your herculean efforts to spin what one did to me in their favor.

On their Terms and Conditions page, they encourage us to contact the airline to give frequent flyer information -- not to find out IF we are getting miles, a totally different situation. When you add to that fact that the agents told me that I WOULD get the miles, one would naturally have confidence that the miles would be applied.

Plus, I didn't have to contact the airline to GIVE my frequent flyer information, as FlyCheapAbroad.com put my account number on the reservation, which soon thereafter appeared on the AA.COM website, furthering my belief that I would get the miles. Why else would my number be there, as there is a separate reservation locator number with which I could look up the details (i.e. seat assignments) on my reservation.

As to a possible change in policy about which the agents were not aware that might lessen the onus of their deed as you suggest, in the three months from purchasing the ticket to my learning that I would not get miles after the trip was finished and called to complain -- again, three months later, two agents with whom I spoke expressed surprise that I had not received the miles. Only when they then called American Airlines did they change their tune. So, it was not, as you suggest, an innocent misstep due to a possible overnight change in policy by American Airlines that caused the FlyCheapAbroad.com agents to assure me I would get miles the day I purchased the ticket. Otherwise they would not have expressed surprise at my revelation three months later!

And don't forget that after my haranguing they recently amended the wording in their Terms and Conditions to say "Some fares will not accrue mileage." If it had been clear using the verbiage you correctly quote (from the original text), they wouldn't have had to do so.

So, if they didn't lie, they were incompetent. In both situations, not a great recommendation for FlyCheapAbroad.com.

8. Posted by loykerr (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

The good news for me is that, in a reply from a representative of the CEO of American Airlines, I received half of the miles which I would have received had I bought the ticket directly with them (which I would have done if FlyCheapAbroad.com had not misled me, ensuring that I would get full mileage after buying the ticket through them).

A lesson to be learned. The responsible and caring companies take care of its customers, even as others such as FlyCheapAbroad.com prey on those of us excited to get a bargain. Except it wasn't such a bargain in comparison with the American Airlines fare at the time if you factor in the loss of miles. Thanks to American Airlines understanding of my situation, which I'd communicated to them with a dossier of my emails with FlyCheapAbroad.com and their original Terms of Conditions page prior to its change only a month ago after my complaint (it now says that some fares won't accrue miles), I have broken even with respect to what I paid, plus the 6,100 miles I received.

It took a lot of work and time, but I am satisfied. Happy New Year!

9. Posted by loykerr (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

Just to keep you abreast, the Better Business Bureau of Washington is now investigating FlyCheapAbroad.com regarding the complaint I outlined here.