Booking a flight through a Travel Agency

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May 4, 2017
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Hi!
I was looking for flights to Mexico from NYC. I ended up on skyscanner website which told me that an agency by the name of smart fares (smartfares.com) had the cheapest tickets. I have seen advertisements for them on google but I never used them before so I checked BBB to see if they were accredited. They are, so I figured i'll book through them. I also checked some customer reviews on blogs. the reviews were very mixed, but I noticed most customers were complaining about not getting their money back after the customer canceled their own flight. Or the website says you can cancel a flight within 12 hours and customers saying they were within that time frame and didnt get their money back. I wasn't worried about that because I'm not canceling this flight and I figured its some fine print that says under which circumstances a flight can be canceled.
After I booked I double checked their BBB rating which is an A. I decided to read the BBB reviews. On BBB I saw a few complaints about people who did NOT cancel their flight, got a flight confirmation email, booking reference number and itinerary from the agency, (one person said he even called the airline to check his reservation status and his booking was confirmed) and even with all this people were complaining that their reservation was not found in the system at some point in time before their flight. Either at the airport or when trying to check-in online before the flight. That scared the crap out of me! Some people said they then checked their credit card statements and saw a refund but weren't informed by smartfares that they refunded their money so they didnt know the reservation was canceled. Now im scared because I booked a united airlines flight. I havent received my booking number yet because I literally Just did it. I'm not afraid that I wont have a reservation per se. I'm more so afraid that my reservation will/can get canceled before the flight. I thought as long as I don't cancel, my payment to smartfares clears, and the airline doesn't cancel the flight then everything is all good.
I had no Idea that the agency has the authority to cancel a flight without permission after its already booked. I can understand if united cancels the entire flight then clearly no one goes. But to find out that the agency can do it without notice sounds very wrong. Lets say they cancel it the day before my flight and now I cant go because I cant afford a last minute ticket... That would be crazy. do any of you staff members know anything about smartfares and if it's legal/possible for them to cancel reservations once the airline already confirms that there is a reservation? I'm praying I don't have to deal with anything shady later.
 

VoR61

Jan 6, 2015
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We see a great many issues here with OTAs (online travel agencies). So much so that we always recommend booking directly with travel providers. Unless your savings is significant, I would cancel and book with United. If there is a problem before or during travel, they will be far easier to deal with than smartfares, and maybe even recoup the money you "saved" in time alone.

Of course, only you can determine the risk/benefit to you ...

<added>: The DOT specifies 24 hours to cancel
 
May 4, 2017
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I don't really want to cancel the savings is quite significant but more so because like I said most complaints I saw was from customers who canceled their own flights. But I'm still trying to find out if it is even possible for smartfares to cancel a reservation once the airline confirms that there is a reservation. I didn't think that could be possible and I'd like to hear from someone who knows more about that sort of dealings. Isn't that like having a ticket and then being told you don't have a ticket/ boarding pass? I've flown before but not often so im more so trying to figure this all out what an agency can and cannot do.
 
Nov 14, 2016
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I don't really want to cancel the savings is quite significant but more so because like I said most complaints I saw was from customers who canceled their own flights. But I'm still trying to find out if it is even possible for smartfares to cancel a reservation once the airline confirms that there is a reservation. I didn't think that could be possible and I'd like to hear from someone who knows more about that sort of dealings. Isn't that like having a ticket and then being told you don't have a ticket/ boarding pass? I've flown before but not often so im more so trying to figure this all out what an agency can and cannot do.
To be blunt, I think you're going to have to choose between greed and risk. This is an unfamiliar OTA with a seemingly questionable record. A deal that looks too good to be true usually is. We've heard of "deals" before where people were supposed to have a reservation, showed up at the airport and found that they weren't really ticketed. They ended up paying walk-up prices which are extremely high.

If you choose not to cancel because the "savings is significant" then you're taking a risk with an unknown OTA. Maybe everything will go fine. Maybe you'll get hosed. There's no way for us to know and little we can do should you elect to take the risk. Personally, I book directly with the airlines and take out the middleman. It makes it a lot easier to deal with something going sideways.

The BBB is worthless. Given their business practices I wouldn't put any stock into their ratings whatsoever.
 
Aug 29, 2015
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North Kingstown, Rhode Island
If you've received a confirmation number from United use it to log on and look to see if you have been issued a ticket number. If so, then I think it would be quite difficult for that ticket to be cancelled. If not, then contact the OTA immediately, preferably by email, and request that the flights be ticketed immediately. I'm not a travel agent but I believe that it's possible to have a booking number that's not ticketed, and my guess is that's what happened to all the people who ran into difficulties when trying to check in.
 

ADM

Apr 10, 2017
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George you are absolutely right that you can have a confirmation and not a ticket. Sometimes something falls through between the airline and agency and the booking is not ticketed. If the agency doesn't notice and follow up, you can get to the airport and find no reservation.
That happened to me last year on plane tickets we had booked for Christmas on AA. I always check flight itineraries constantly and very carefully and I noticed my husband had a ticket number but I didn't. I noticed it over a weekend and called AA. The woman I spoke with assured me I had a ticket but I was still leery. My husband called again and was told the same thing. The guy he spoke with said not to say anything as this meant we had a free ticket. Yeah, right! Of course we were still skeptical and he checked the credit card. Sure enough we had only been charged for 1 ticket. I contacted AA again on a weekday and spoke with a ticketing agent who discovered I did NOT have a ticket number. The ticket had since gone up but she was gave me the real ticket for the same price as my husband's ticket. That taught me the valuable lesson that simply having a confirmation number doesn't mean you have an actual ticket.
 

ADM

Apr 10, 2017
605
964
93
To be blunt, I think you're going to have to choose between greed and risk. This is an unfamiliar OTA with a seemingly questionable record. A deal that looks too good to be true usually is. We've heard of "deals" before where people were supposed to have a reservation, showed up at the airport and found that they weren't really ticketed. They ended up paying walk-up prices which are extremely high.

If you choose not to cancel because the "savings is significant" then you're taking a risk with an unknown OTA. Maybe everything will go fine. Maybe you'll get hosed. There's no way for us to know and little we can do should you elect to take the risk. Personally, I book directly with the airlines and take out the middleman. It makes it a lot easier to deal with something going sideways.

The BBB is worthless. Given their business practices I wouldn't put any stock into their ratings whatsoever.
I couldn't agree more regarding the BBB. They hound businesses to pay a membership fee and any business who doesn't will get thrown under the bus in a second. But if you're a member they'll do whatever they can to squelch negative publicity and they won't give a member a bad rating. They don't have much credibility as far as I'm concerned.
 
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