Travel Mistakes: What I Learned Booking Cheap Flights Abroad

Simran Kaur is co-founder of Girls that Invest, which offers personal investment commentary for young people.

OPINION: Have you ever heard of the quote: “Buy cheap, buy twice?”

I never really understood it until I was on the phone at 11pm last night in a panic talking to my third party travel agents who stoically informed me that they had canceled my flight from Auckland to London next week.

“Only one of the six flights I’m taking have been cancelled, my first flight is next week, so you’ll help me find alternative flights, won’t you?”

“No, we have now canceled all six flights. You will see a refund in three months. Is there anything else we can help you with today? »

shudder.

READ MORE:
* A traveler’s guide to getting the best deal
* Why do airlines charge so much for changes?
* Tales of Travel Woes: My Hell with a Low Cost Airline
* Budget Buster: Seven Strategies for Scoring Cheap International Flights

As many Kiwis are starting to look to wider horizons with the world reopening, our borders opening up and travel finally starting to feel a little more normal, it was time to dust off the old passport.

It’s fair to say that many of us might have a few cobwebs in our noggins when it comes to international travel and how to do it right.

Over the past few years, I had forgotten which booking sites were trustworthy and which let me know nine days before a flight that there was no more flight and that I was on my own.

Third-party booking sites can be a great way to find flight deals, but they're not without risk.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Third-party booking sites can be a great way to find flight deals, but they’re not without risk.

As more Kiwis start to travel again and start using the ever-increasing number of cheap flight sites, I think it’s important to revisit how to “shop smart” without getting into hot water.

I had thought that a company I trusted would not let me down.

I was in shock, then in denial, then panicked again.

I started scrambling trying to find last minute flights, by which time the prices had doubled from what I had originally paid.

What had been a $1,400 one-way ticket had become a $4,500 one-way ticket. I was mortified. I would like to publicly apologize to the Swiss Air agent, whom I called and between sniffles asked if he could stop this third party booking site from canceling all my other flights.

“We are very sorry ma’am, we cannot help you with third party booking site issues.”

“Is there nothing you can do?” They canceled all my flights without my permission.

“Next time…book directly with the airlines”

Is it worth trying to skimp on cheap plane tickets?

123RF

Is it worth trying to skimp on cheap plane tickets?

How could you get yourself into this mess, Simran? Aren’t you supposed to be good with money?

A month ago I bought tickets, my first vacation in Europe! How exciting. Using Google’s flight search tool, I thought I had scored a great deal.

It was $60 cheaper than booking directly with the airline. And it sounded trustworthy, the company self-proclaimed Europe’s number one online travel agency! What a flight, I thought to myself. A $60 flight is now costing me thousands in last-minute tickets only a month later.

I had no idea how third party booking systems worked. The company’s number one Google search was “how do I get my money back from ******”. Their trustpilot score was one star. How could I miss this? Is there a “don’t use third party sites” club that I wasn’t aware of – and more importantly, how is this all legal?

Third-party booking sites can be a great way to find flight deals, but they’re not without risk, and it’s important to understand how these search engines work and how they can impact your trip. After all, who will be held responsible if something goes wrong?

Most people who book on these sites have no problem when things go well – that’s where the fun stops. When things go wrong, that’s when it really pays to have access to good customer service. Third-party vendor reviews are plagued with customers waiting for refunds, with some suggesting they’ve been waiting since 2020 when the pandemic began.

In a frantic rush I was able to find alternative flights, although much more expensive than what I had paid for. Do I expect this third-party site to refund my tickets? They said it takes three months to process. At this point, I may just need to cut my losses and remember that it pays to pay, after all, “buy cheap, buy twice”.

So what can you learn from my experience?

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Emotional meetings at Auckland International Airport as borders reopen to 60 visa-free countries.

– Be sure to compare all your options. Use sites like Skyscanner to find the best deals, but don’t book on these sites.

– Book directly with the airline or a travel agency. They are the ones who will ensure that you are taken care of, even after paying for your ticket. And for God’s sake, get travel insurance.

– Read the fine print carefully. Some of these companies will charge you additional booking fees, change your name, and have different policies on how they handle flight cancellations.

– If their website has a big button for “refund requests” at the top, go for it. A high volume of refunds is never a good sign.

As for me? Well, this drama makes me feel like I have to go on vacation. So is it worth trying to skimp on cheap plane tickets? I will have to say no.

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