She says she paid for a first-class ticket, so why didn’t she get one?

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By | October 14th, 2014

When Gloria Brimley booked a flight from Chicago to El Paso on US Airways through Cheaptickets, she thought she was getting a cheap first class seat.

Instead, she received an expensive economy class seat.

Brimley is furious at Cheaptickets for selling her a ticket in the wrong class of service, and she wants me to retrieve the fare difference.

Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to help, but this case is a little different. Turns out Brimley has already appealed this to the Transportation Department, which regulates airlines, and to the Better Business Bureau.

The responses are interesting, and they suggest this case may not be winnable.

But back to Brimley’s story. She booked her tickets online, paying $540 for her airfare. She insists the tickets were in first class, and that makes some sense. That’s a lot to pay for an advance-purchase, economy-class seat.

When she arrived at the airport for her flight on US Airways, an airline representative told her she would be sitting in coach. She phoned Cheaptickets and was told that her ticket had “defaulted” to economy class.

“There was no explanation and no refund,” she says.

Brimley took her grievance to the Transportation Department. It responded with a form letter.

“I will forward your complaint to the company and ask it to respond directly to you with a copy to us,” a representative promised her in the email. “I will review the company’s response.”

After that, radio silence.

Brimley also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Cheaptickets didn’t offer a written response to her claim. Instead, it simply sent the screen shots (see link to PDF) from her booking. And those clearly show that she purchased an expensive plane ticket — in economy class.

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I can see how Brimley would think she had a first class ticket. She paid a lot for her airfare, and somewhere along the booking path, she probably clicked on something she thought was “first class.”

Of course, it’s also possible that the booking records sent to the BBB, which — no surprise — caused it to close the case in Cheaptickets’ favor, were less than complete. Maybe there were one or two other screens that made Brimley believe she would be sitting in the front of the plane.

Who knows?

The bigger issue is that buying an airline ticket is not a simple task. Airlines try to make it as complicated as possible, with codeshare flights, ancillary purchases, a variety of fare codes, and other meaningless nonsense that only serves to line their pockets. Add an online travel agency and you have yet another layer of potential confusion, with upsells for highly restrictive travel insurance, car rentals and hotels.

I really can’t blame Brimley for being bewildered by her online ticket purchasing experience. But look at the bright side: At least she ended up in El Paso.

Even if I could persuade Cheaptickets or US Airways that they sold her a first-class seat and gave her an economy class ticket, the fare difference would probably be negligible. The reason? Funny airline math, which calculates refunds based on an unknown and incomprehensible formula that always seems to favor the airline.

Then again, it might go her way. I recall a 2009 case that was resolved in the customer’s favor with Cheaptickets.

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After a little forensic work by one of my editors who has access to a professional computer reservation system, I decided not to ask Cheaptickets to take another look at this case. It turns out this couldn’t have possibly been a first-class fare, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Should Cheaptickets have turned down Gloria Brimley's request?

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  • PsyGuy

    See what some forensic digging helps you find? Customers are scammers, who will use your reputation to cheat.

    How can someone think they would be in first class, just look at the itinerary, it should state what class of service you are in.

    I would love to hear what the forensic evidence was?

  • FQTVLR

    At no point does the LW mention a confirmation from Cheap Tickets that shows she is in first class. In fact a confirmation is not mentioned at all—either the lack of one entirely or the fact that her confirmation confirms first class. I find this a glaring omission. If she got a confirmation and it said first class then Cheap Tickets would owe her money. If she did not receive a confirmation she should have immediately contacted the OTA to get one. Or she had the confirmation it said economy and not coach. You always say to make sure you get the confirmation but it is simply not mentioned here (or else I am not awake yet.) And, in many instances, a one-way ticket is much more expensive than a round trip–another example of weird airline pricing. Seems like she made the mistake or simply is pulling a bit of a scam.

  • $16635417

    “I can see how Brimley would think she had a first class ticket. She paid a lot for her airfare, and somewhere along the booking path, she probably clicked on something she thought was “first class.””

    When I go to Cheap Tickets, it seems fairly clear that I am booking an economy class ticket. The only note that I can see causing confusion (and it’s a stretch) is that the nonstop flights from Chicago are operated by Envoy (The new name for American Eagle). “Envoy” also happened to be the name for USAirways international business class.

    With no confirmation or explanation given as to why she thought she was in first class, is it possible she confused the Envoy airline name with Envoy class?

  • TonyA_says

    You can read it in full here:
    drive dot google dot com/file/d/0B2_6U5nqTCPBRGFieFNkWlM1Zzg/view?usp=sharing

    My conclusion is (just like many other cases), the complainers think they have been fooled, scammed, etc… but in reality they were probably only confused.

    I hope your conclusion is that it is expensive and time consuming to do forensic research especially without the complainer providing documentary evidence. Unless you are a travel professional with very good skills using a GDS, it is very difficult to look up historical fare data and make a reasonable conclusion.

  • I should note that Tony was the editor who helped us get to the bottom of this one. I’m very grateful for his help.

  • sirwired

    Maybe you should change the headline, since all evidence points to the fact that she did not, in fact, pay for a First Class ticket.

  • sirwired

    Well, looking at your research, my best guess is that it said “First” on the initial results screen, but she didn’t pay any attention to the change that was flagged when she went to try and actually purchase the ticket and the initial result was no longer available.

    It’s not a entirely stupid mistake to make, but re-emphasizes that people need to be careful and read the confirmation screen.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I think that some of the OPs are scammers but most are just ignorant.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Forensic research is time consuming and expensive but I think is needed in cases like this one in order to make reasonable conclusions; make judgments and to be fair and balanced to all parties instead of making the travel provider out as evil, a money grabber, etc.

  • backprop

    As much as I enjoy a consumer using photo evidence to refute, say, a bogus rental car damage claim… I really enjoy a clueless scammer getting refuted by screenshots!!

  • “Scammer” seems harsh. The OP probably really thought it was a first class ticket. Mistakes can be made, quite easily in fact. Now that the facts are in, after research, it’s easy to see that it wasn’t first class. But at the time…

  • BMG4ME

    It depends on whether she could prove it was a first class ticket. It makes sense when getting a great deal with a reseller to maintain proof of what you purchased.

    By the way there are instances when you can order first class and end up with economy. This happened to me at work with a corporate booking. Usually we can’t purchase first class but here it was cheaper so it was allowed. I actually saw the first class seat on Delta.com after confirming but before the agency completed the sale. When they issued the ticket they changed the class of service and increased the price, downgrading the first class seat on the process. Here even having proof didn’t work. The agency claimed the original fare class was invalid. In the end I called Delta and they fixed it for me.

  • backprop

    Sorry, when you’re presented with what amounts to photographic evidence, and you make yet another appeal to a travel mediator to drag the TA’s name through the mud in order for them to pay you for your own mistake…I say scammer is right on target.

    I notice there is no response from the OP about the evidence sent to the BBB.

  • MarkKelling

    I doubt the screen shots that the BBB has are from her specific booking. It appears Cheaptickets are simply pointing out the default to economy “feature” to “prove” she didn’t buy what she says she thought she did.

    But I do agree that if she bought ticket in 1st, she should have some sort of confirmation from someone saying she did. Lacking that, it appears she thought she was getting a great price on something when she probably got just a fairly normal price for the flight. Just a quick look at flights shows only a couple non-stop flights on AA for a random date in the future that cost over $350 for coach. $540 for coach could be a reasonable price depending on the exact dates traveled.

  • Richard Smith

    A lot of these search sites will show coach results if first class (or business class) is not available, and they do not always do a good job of indicating the class of service is not that specified in the search. Sometimes, the results even include a mix of classes.

    I’d argue this is a UI problem for these aggregate search sites. There should be a requirement that the user actively confirm “This is not in the class for which you searched (coach instead of first.) Do you wish to proceed?” or the like.

  • MarkKelling

    I know the airline I normally fly inserts a large font message in red stating “There are no tickets in the class requested for this flight!” when that happens. Nothing stops you from ignoring that message and selecting the flight anyway.

  • Helio

    It seems you were in a good mood when you wrote your report :-)

    A question – did LW provide any documentation, like E-mail confirmation, print screens, etc., or just the flight #?

  • Helio

    I know people who may do this kind of mistake…

  • Joe

    Did she have a confirmation email from the booking indicating that she booked a first class ticket? Does she have a confirmation email at all? I’m guessing no, or those details would have been included in the story. Next time, hopefully she just books a ticket through the airline website directly or hires a travel agent. Would save a lot of heartache and probably a lot of money too.

  • emanon256

    I voted yes. Going on a regional jet to a small town, often costs that much for economy, even in advance, depending on the volume of travel that day. Don’t assume that because a ticket costs more that it is first class. $500 is way to cheap to expect first class. I’ve had to travel to regional airports for events in small cities where advanced coach tickets have been $700 or more.

    I disagree with the part in the article that says buying an airline ticket isn’t a simple task, and that airlines try to make it as complicated as possible. It’s actually quite straightforward. Though I do agree that buying on a third party travel vending machine does cause problems. It’s always best to book with the airline directly. But I am not sure how the OP though she was buying a first class ticket. Every thing from the confirmation page, to the e-mail confirmation, to the on-line reservation shows the class of service.

  • Blamona

    So when she bought did she get seat assignment? That would be a big clue too…

  • emanon256

    Wow, she lied! She said it was advanced and it was 7 days out. So frustrating.

  • emanon256

    The simplest solution is usually the correct one, and I think you figured out the source of her confusion. Too bad she didn’t look at the confirmation’s class of service.

  • emanon256

    Look at Tony’s link. IT shows she booked her flight 7 days out. $540 seems pretty normal for 7 days advanced booking.

  • James Orth

    Now that the OP’s complaint has bee dismissed by 1) Transportation Department 2) The BBB and 3) Mr. Elliott. I think it is time for her to give up the fight and realize she actually bought an economy seat in coach. Three strikes and your out.

  • Kerr

    While it isn’t as big as Chicago, El Paso isn’t a “small town”. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0763098.html

  • cp

    She searched for a senior fare which I find most times is not less expensive than economy coach so that could be why the fare seems high. And if she had tried to book a seat and saw the seats available to her she should have realized she was not in first class. Just a few red flags in this complaint.

  • Annie M

    I bet she bought a refundable coach ticket or purchased last minute.That’s about the right price range.

    Some people shouldn’t book their own travel. A travel agent could have saved her money.

  • bodega3

    If are a DIY’er, then you have to step up and realize you may not really know what you are doing, as evidenced by this letter to Chris. Right off the bat the give away would have been the seat assignment, which interestingly she doesn’t even mention. Also, the confirmation that is sent also mentions the cabin. While I may not use Cheapair, she booked with a company that has Cheap in the name, yet what did she gain? Did she assume something by booking with them? She learned something and may be embarrassed to have her name out there seeing how she made a mistake and tried to pass the buck.

  • Annie M

    Some people shouldn’t book their own travel, and this is one of them. She most certainly should have received a confirmation. I don’t think she was a scammer, just didn’t read and didn’t know what she was doing.

  • mythsayer

    That’s what I thought, lol! TonyA has been in a bad mood lately. Sorry, Tony, but it’s true. Maybe you’re just sick of the stupid people… that’s easy to understand, even if your definition of stupid isn’t the same as someone else’s (and that’s okay… and I didn’t mean mine or anyone else’s in particular… we all have our opinions about what stupid entails).

  • mythsayer

    Well, he did prove there was a cheap first class fare 7 days out… it just wasn’t non-stop. I wonder if she got that “proverbial” not available screen and that’s where the confusion started.

  • IGoEverywhere

    There is another fine example that some people should not play Travel Agent. How much you pay has nothing to do with the class of service that you are flying.
    I respect Tony’s research, it is easy to see, but much is missing for the truest answer.
    1) How far in advance was the reservation made, for what legnth of stay, days of week?
    2) What class of service – not economy or first – but A, F, or Y in this particular case V for supersaver.
    3) How long ago did the passenger travel in order to retrieve an historical fare?
    4) Why did she buy the ticket on USAir instead of American, the actual airline flying this route. I see a full coach to first class upgrade ticket with assigned seating when I looked up a June fare. Code sharing becomes an issue here.
    5) Why was her seat not assigned as part of the reservation process? F seats are very rarely assigned at the airport.
    Every decent travel agent would have saved Gloria the hours of calling, writing, and complaining, because it is such an easy fare to calculate; supersaver or First Class? Book a reservation, then 10 key strokes, 5 to price super saver and 5 to price supersaver First Class.

  • mythsayer

    I don’t know… 7 days is pretty standard these days. You can usually get pretty reasonable tickets 7 days out. It’s when you book later than that that they get more expensive. $540 seems rather expensive to go from Chicago to El Paso. I could go from California to NYC for less than that.

  • mythsayer

    And that’s the thing… she must have SOMETHING that from her flight. How come she didn’t provide that?? At the same time, it seems odd that someone would knowingly claim she bought first class and then keep at it even after seeing something (from the BBB complaint) that shows it was economy, so I have to assume she really thinks it was first class. But where is her confirmation????

  • mythsayer

    I wrote above that I could fly across country for that price, but you’re right… the small airports do cost more. When my husband was at Camp Lejeune for training, it was shockingly expensive to fly into/out of Jacksonville, NC airport.

  • emanon256

    She could have gotten the error, but it still said Economy on the confirmation, and was still a few hundred higher than what she did pay, and yes, was not non-stop. She missed several things there.

  • emanon256

    I usually have trouble getting decent fares under 21 days out. I never see anythgin decent 7 days out. Also, a regional hop usually has less capacity and thus higher fares than Cali to NYC where there are a lot of carriers, a lot of capacity, and a lot of competition.

  • emanon256

    I often fly to a bigger airport and drive, sometimes for hours, to save money over the regional. With the low capacity and few flights, they are quite pricy at times.

  • bodega3

    Did I miss the part on searching for a senior fare? The carrier she picked doesn’t offer domestic senior fares. WN does and they are usually higher in cost, but give you flexibility for changes and full refunds.

  • bodega3

    No to mention better chance to not having weather delays, which regional carriers deal with.

  • mythsayer

    Wait… that was a one way ticket? I have to say, that really is crazy expensive. If the CheapTickets screenshots are correct, and I have to assume they are, I’m not sure why she thought it was first class, unless that’s what she selected originally and then got one of those “this fare isn’t available screens” and she got redirected to this fare and didn’t look at the class change… but man, that really is an expensive fare, even for a small airport.

  • IGoEverywhere

    When you are on the Southwest site for example, they show 3 different fares. They are all the same exact type seating. It is just is web only non-refundable, any time, with no refunds, and business which is fully refundable. Any of them could be available, but none of them are “First Class”, even though people think business class is a better seat. There are 54 airfares on the ELP ORD for USAir alone and a whopping 246 different airfares using all airlines. No wonder paople get confused. I was using Galileo Software for this information.

  • Lindabator

    Smaller airports are normally higher priced to begin with – El Paso is one of those.

  • mythsayer

    I think that may be exactly what happened. You get those “fare not available, try this fare instead!” screens all the time. I bet it changed the fare class but wasn’t that much more expensive so she thought it was still first and it wasn’t. But how in god’s name do you miss that “economy” statement? It’s RIGHT THERE, prominently displayed (on the pdf CheapTickets submitted to the BBB).

  • mythsayer

    Unfortunately the more people proven to be wrong like this, the fewer people we will believe when more problems arise.

  • mythsayer

    No… I agree that it clearly said economy. I’m not sure how she missed that. It’s pretty clearly displayed.

  • bodega3

    I agree.

  • mythsayer

    No you’re right… like I said somewhere else, when we flew in/out of Jacksonville, NC, the fares were crazy expensive. But $540 still seems like a lot for a one way fare. El Paso isn’t THAT small of a city.

  • wiseword

    First class on US Airways? Surely you jest!

  • mythsayer

    If you look at the screenshot from BBB response, she picked “senior” where you click the “adult”, “senior”, or “child” buttons. I don’t think it means she would get a senior fare… I think that’s only relevant really to hotels and children on airplanes (sometimes… like when they are under 2). I don’t know if she thought that would give her different fares, but I think that just further shows she doesn’t travel much because does anyone really think seniors get better rates on websites like “CheapTickets”?

  • mythsayer

    I can answer the first question… she reserved 7 days in advance, thus the 7 days Tony checked. And it was a one way, so there was no length of stay. I’m not sure if the days of the week he checked were the same… probably not, since she booked on a Sunday to fly on Sunday and I think he checked Monday (9/15).

  • bodega3

    She clicked on the button that put her into her age bracket. Ok.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Yup. Four separate times… “Economy”!

  • Poley King

    Retroactive fare look-up as confusing to me too. I looked up US filed fares with ticketing date of 8/17/14 for travel on 8/24/14. I looked from the cheapest and worked my way up. All of the cheaper fares have a flight application restriction and only apply to US flights operated by US. HA00ZRW1 is the cheapest fare that allowed US coded flights operated by anyone other than US.

  • Michael__K

    she didn’t pay any attention to the change that was flagged

    Hold on. Of course passengers should double and triple and quadruple check their confirmations to verify that they actually received what they selected. But the only change that was *flagged* (per TonyA’s screenshot) was:

    “Sorry that fare is no longer available. Here is the lowest fare for this itinerary.”

    That’s a completely misleading and inaccurate message. What “lowest fare for this itinerary” are they showing? In this scenario, Cheaptickets displays some (who-knows-what) fare for a different class of service than what the end user asked for. As best I can tell, the Class of Service is never displayed before the payment page, unless you try to use the seat selector (which is optional).

    Even if you check your confirmation immediately and notice the discrepancy immediately, if you booked your travel within 7 days then it’s probably already too late to make changes or cancel.

  • Fred Rupert

    She should have got an email confirmation or something that said first class, if the confirmation said something different, she would have 24 hours to cancel it.

  • John Baker

    What I liked even better is that CheapTickets supplied the BBB with screenshots showing that she bought an economy ticket and she still decided to contact Chris. That takes some chutzpah.

  • bodega3

    This is just very embarrassing for her. She made the booking, but she wants to blame Cheaptickets. Very sad.

  • Michael__K

    Of course, passengers should double and triple (and quadruple and quintuple, etc.) check their post-payment confirmation to verify that it actually matches what they selected.

    That doesn’t excuse an OTA for failing to clearly display a switch in the requested class of service BEFORE it asks for payment information.

    [Experimenting with their site] it appears Cheaptickets sometimes switches at least some legs of travel from First to Economy and it appears they do not clearly show this before you have to enter payment information. You can figure it out if you use their Seat Selector to request specific seats, but that’s an optional feature.

  • emanon256

    Sadly its not the city size that counts, its the airport size. ELP is a tiny airport with just a few carriers, most who only fly there from1 or 2 cities. So its very hard to get to, and there is limited competition on those routes. It’s one of those cities I hate flying into.

  • $16635417

    It also has no convenient alternates. The closest with similar service is Albuquerque.

  • Raven_Altosk

    $540 for FC??? Where do I sign up!!!

    Seriously, no. This can’t be right.

  • Michael__K

    I am not sure how the OP though she was buying a first class ticket.

    Right now, searching CheapTickets for tickets for one-way travel ORD->ELP tomorrow or Thursday, it displays various 1-stop itineraries on US Airways for around $600.

    Drilling down, some of these appear to really be first class itineraries. Others have at least one leg in Economy. The only way I was able to tell them apart was to request specific seats and see which cabin is shown in the Seat Selector tool (which is optional).

    I don’t see where CheapTickets displays the Class of Service info on any mandatory screens before it prompts for payment information.

  • bodega3

    In your test, were you requesting first class and during the booking process or repricing process, was doing this? How were your segments switched?

  • Raven_Altosk

    You, sir. Win the internets for today.

  • Michael__K

    I requested First, and in my test there was no repricing. I could select seats in First for one segment (ORD->PHX) but not for the other (PHX->ELP).

  • bodega3

    That tells me that first wasn’t available all the way through. I just did a test booking and when your flight options come up, when you click on the one you want, right under the flight information states the cabin, either first, business or economy. So you know before you decide to take it, if you are traveling first class the whole way through.

  • bodega3

    Yes Cheaptickets shows the cabin right under the carrier and flight number you picked to book. If you are seeing first on one segment and economy on the other, then first isn’t available on the connecting flight.

  • bodega3

    As I stated to your other posts, the cabin is stated right under the carrier and flight number. So you don’t have to take that option and look to others.

  • Michael__K

    That may have been for a one-way ticket.

    Are you available to travel tomorrow? If so, you’re in luck ;)

  • Michael__K

    You’re right. I was particularly focused on the checkout page where the passenger must enter payment information and click “Agree and Book.” It’s NOT shown there. But it is shown on the flight details earlier.

    Other OTA’s (e.g. Expedia) respect the user’s search options and don’t show those results.

  • Michael__K

    As I replied to your other post, it is not shown when the passenger is prompted to acknowledge all the terms and details and enter payment information and click “Agree and Book”.

    You’re right that it is visible on an earlier screen. I stand corrected on that point, although it’s easy to miss.

    It would be better if CheapTickets did not display flights where First is not available, alongside and undistinguished from the ones where it is available, when the end user specifically selected “First”.

  • sirwired

    Look at that screenshot again: The “Oops” screen clearly displays the cabin class they are offering. (The screenshot happens to be for First Class, but it would display “Economy” if that’s what they were offering.) And when the system tells you that the fare you want isn’t available, wouldn’t it make sense to read the whole screen, including flight numbers, cabins, etc.?

  • bodega3

    Since we didn’t go all the way through the process, I am going to assume that the cabin also shows up in the itinerary. I know that when I generate an itinerary, it has always printed out the cabin. Seat assignments are also a way to know, especially for first class. I did see that seat assignments were offered as soon as I put a name in the reservation. There was an option to wait, but that would be foolish as you don’t want to purchase a ticket unless you can be assured a seat assignment.

  • TonyA_says

    I have to apologize for my short temper these days. I am under tremendous pressure to do a lot of changes. My partner and I decided to close down the PHYSICAL offices we have in Queens, NY (near the airports) and SE Asia.
    Over many years, our businesses were deploying more servers and reducing head count. Neither made the travel business any better. It reached to the point where having an office did not make sense. Why pay ever increasing rents? Just let a few work at home and move all the servers to the cloud. Moving workers one by one to work at home is extremely frustrating. Saying goodbye to people who have worked for you for twenty years is heartbreaking even if we planned early retirement for them as early as 2-3 years ago.

    Just like what Bodega is saying, it is very hard to get young people to work in the travel industry that still has archaic tools. The younger generation does not seem to like problem solving so many are not fit for this type of service job. But as you can see, even the most simple online purchase can be challenging. So good help is needed (although people don’t really want to pay for it).

    I just got back from the Queens office. I walked around the neighborhood and stopped by the places that have been there 20 or even just 10 years. It was kind of sad and refreshing at the same time. I will have up to the end of the month to say goodbye to Queens. Looking forward to semi-retirement :)

    Added: Helio (I almost forgot to answer you question). I only got an early look of the draft/article. Since that had a link to BBB, then I downloaded the pdf and read it. I did not receive any more information from the LW and I did not ask either.

  • VoR61

    If the complainer provides documentary evidence it would likely be the original email they received. At least that’s all I would have within 1-2 days (per United) after the flight has been taken.

    And emails can be edited, so the value is questionable IMO. I think travel providers would do better if they sent the reservation as a locked PDF (no changes allowed). I’ve been advised that certain software can bypass the editing lock, but the odds of that happening are far less.

  • VoR61

    Sorry to hear all that, Tony. Appreciate your time and efforts.

    My best to you going forward …

  • Michael__K

    I don’t think anyone disputes that it’s shown in the post-payment confirmation (in fact, that appears to be the OP’s confirmation in TonyA’s Google doc).

  • bodega3

    I fully understand. I miss our industry of old. I don’t like what is here now. Consumers are the losers.

  • Lindabator

    Can still look up the info on the airlines site – shows all the info on the ticket purchased (fare breakdown, etc)

  • VoR61

    Correct, but United tells me it disappears from their website after 1-2 days, so if Chris asks for “proof”, we’re back to the emails.

  • Lindabator

    I’m not talking about searching for fares — HER ticket will have all that information (so no question that someone charged her fro one thing, and she got another) – fare basis codes, fare breakdowns are under receipt tab.

  • VoR61

    Neither was I, Lindabator. The agent with whom I spoke indicated that the reservation information is viewable online up until 1-2 days after travel is completed. Then it’s a matter for Customer Care, which can take “a long time” to complete.

  • y_p_w

    Sounds plausible.

    I looked at the website, and they do have an option for first class. I entered SFO-JFK this Friday and the seat selection screens show seats at the front of the plane (rows 3 to 6) on AA or United.

    So it can book first class, but there’s nothing specific that points to the selections being first class other than the seat assignments.

  • Lindabator

    Sorry – misunderstood you. Since we were talking about her receipt, that’s what I was referring to. Not what happens after travel.

  • VoR61

    No worries. I was thinking of what would constitute the “best” evidence.

  • Michael__K

    You’re right, it is visible at that point and I missed it. It’s not on the subsequent pages, especially the page with the “Agree and Book” button (which is at least what I would scrutinize most closely).

    The OP could have still caught this if she manually selected seats, or at least when she got her confirmation (although she may have still been stuck if she noticed it on the confirmation because it was a <7 days purchase).

    However I still think it's a poor practice for CheapTickets to include Economy flights (with no availability in First) in the search results for "First". And then for CheapTickets to expect the user to notice the switch on the next screen without doing anything to draw attention to the fact that the search criteria were not honored.

  • dave3029

    Chris – – is it wise to post a link that contains the OP’s full contact information?

  • bodega3

    Yes, after travel has completed, the PNR disappears from viewing, but it can be obtained for a fee. I haven’t seen it done at our agency for years, but in the past, we would request the microfiche if we needed something for a client.

  • TonyA_says

    This is exactly what happens. So it is always a good idea to insert a travel segment dated about 10-11 months from today. It will keep the PNR alive a lot longer. I am sure you do that. But do OTAs do it?

  • TonyA_says

    That is why I did recommend that we put a lot of FAQs in Elliott’s forum.
    It is hard to do (since it will be like a wiki). However, it might be one of the best public service sites since people can read up and figure out their next step before they clog the DOT and BBB with nonsense.

  • TonyA_says

    The way I understand this is – it is standard to show a combination of FC and non-FC if one or more of the flight segment does not have an FC cabin for as long as you disclose those segments will not be in FC and state what cabin they would be in.

    However, it is NOT ok to mix different cabin modes with FC just because an FC seat was not available in the FC cabin.

    Here’s a good example. Suppose I want to fly First Class from El Paso Texas to Cebu Philippines on Cathay Pacific.

    GDS wil display these flights:

    1*O#AA2618 Y7 ELPLAX 520P 625P *6 CRJ 0E
    2*O#CX 883 F3 A3 LAXHKG 1155P 545A 77W 0E
    3*O#CX 921 J3 HKGCEB 420P 705P#2 333 0E

    Only the LAX-HKG flight segment will be on FC.
    The AA flight from ELP to LAX will be on Y since it does not have an FC or BC cabin.
    The CX segment from Hong Kong to Cebu will be in Bizz Class since the flight does not have a FC cabin.

    The First Class Fare specifically tells you what booking classes to use:
    CX F/A REQUIRED WHEN AVAILABLE
    CX J REQUIRED WHEN AVAILABLE
    CX W REQUIRED WHEN AVAILABLE
    CX Y REQUIRED
    AA F PERMITTED
    AA A PERMITTED
    AA P PERMITTED
    AA J PERMITTED
    AA D PERMITTED
    AA Y REQUIRED

  • TonyA_says

    I think you could still have sympathy for the LW the first time she complained about it since it could be a honest mistake.
    However she also filed a complaint with the DOT which did not go well (got a yawn) and with BBB which came out in favor of the OTA.
    She should have stopped there in my opinion.
    But she continued venue shopping and tried to hook Chris.
    That was not nice of her. Chris could spend his time helping real victims. Believe me there are plenty of real victims out there.

    There is a point when people should pause, take a deep breath and reevaluate whether they are still doing the right thing. Just because Chris is a nice guy who works for free does mean the whole World gets to abuse him.

  • TonyA_says

    ROFL. Economy with no one seating on middle seat :)

  • Joe Farrell

    So she did not actually buy a first class seat . . .

    She bought a very expensive coach ticket. . . .

    And Chris Elliott knows she did not . . .

    And there is a story here why?

    Is she a member of the USAir’s FFB program? Spend that much and you often get an automatic upgrade . . .

    Over and over and over and over and over again . . . Mama Gump was right:

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  • bodega3

    Yes, I add a retention line. I don’t know if OTA’s do this. The travel desk that my credit card company uses, does it.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    What is wrong with that? When I read an article which is similar to this situation, I withhold judgment until I have all of the facts for the case unlike several readers who like to jump to the conclusion that the OP is always 100% correct; fully disclosed all of the relevant information to Chris; etc; whereas, the travel provider is pure evil, etc.

    Over the years, I have read articles that I knew that the OP was not telling the whole story or was outright lying or was totally unconscious incompetent (don’t know that they are incompetent) or ignorant.
    To me, it seems like most of the articles are about travelers who are DIYs who made mistakes out of inexperience, ignorance, etc. that expects Chris to get them money instead of being responsible for their actions (or lack of actions).

  • ShrimpBoy

    One word: Cheaptickets.

  • ShrimpBoy

    Buggy whips….

  • brianguy

    this is an incredibly simple error and therefore easily clarified. she paid $540 for the cheapest NON-STOP one way flight, while the indirect fare would’ve been the much cheaper $185. she apparently can’t tell the difference, why I’m not sure. and the even sillier part may be that on these tiny regional jets (as she traveled on) there’s almost no distinguishing first class from coach, in general. so her complaint is moot altogether, because she’s mainly arguing over getting to board first and a free drink and/or snack! pointless!! the complaint should have clearly been turned down and you had no reason to follow-up on her behalf.

  • Helio

    Tony, sorry for hear about that. Must be sad in order to survive, the need to make profound changes in your business, and in the process be obligated to loose contact with people you like and had been with you for decades.

  • cp

    I saw it on the screen shots from Cheaptickets.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Now that this makes a little more sense, she indeed should have been booked in “P” class of service on the actual airline, American. Today’s price for confirmed seating in First Class is $570.00 non-stop $502.00 changing planes in Atlanta First Class all the way, and $354.00 changing planes in Los Angeles with no First to LAX, but full First Class LAX to Chicago. I did not take time to look up historical fares today.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes. That’s why you need to constantly reinvent yourself and try to make yourself useful even as your industry gets disrupted and disintermediated. In a way, that is what makes travel interesting. Knowledge is still important, so I will do more with consulting in the near future.

  • Lindabator

    LOVE the idea of a PDF file as well – ALL my vacation quotes go out that way. :)

  • VoR61

    Thanks. Do you lock them from editing/copying?

  • Lindabator

    yep!

  • VoR61

    Awesome!

  • Michael__K

    Thanks for the explanation.

    This:

    However, it is NOT ok to mix different cabin modes with FC just because an FC seat was not available in the FC cabin.

    ….is exactly what CheapTickets does — at least sometimes.

    For example I see flight 6608 (PHX->ELP) leaving tomorrow (Wed Oct 15) has a FC cabin but no availability in FC according to USAirways.Com.

    Yet that flight shows up in the search results for FC on CheapTickets. I also found the same thing for flight 6564 leaving Thu Oct 16.

    What’s double intriguing is that Orbitz — which is the same company and which from appearances shares the same user interface and search engine — does NOT show those same flights.

    It could be a caching issue on CheapTickets. After I selected 6564/Oct 16 and verified that it was selling an Economy seat on that flight, it didn’t appear again on the ensuing search. But 6608/Oct 15 is still appearing for now in search results for FC (I did not select it).

  • Poley King

    The historical fare look-up is utterly useless because you need to see fare bucket availability at the time the the purchase was made.

  • flutiefan

    it’s Wanna Get Away (usually web-only, always non-refundable), Anytime (fully refundable), and Business Select (fully refundable, bonus points). just an FYI that Anytime IS refundable.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Why would anyone buy anything from something called “CheapTickets”?

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