Similar travel booking websites could cost consumers dearly
It doesn’t take much for astute computer coders to build an e-commerce website that looks like an extension of a popular airline or hotel chain, and start charging oblivious consumers for transactions they’d have. could be done through a trusted professional travel advisor.
While these sites appear to make actual bookings, unlike traditional aggregators like Expedia and Booking.com, these websites often add additional booking fees and provide travelers with substandard customer service.
This seems to be what happened when a Michigan family nearly lost $ 300 recently trying to book a flight to Japan on what looked like a Delta Air Lines website, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.
Naomi Poel, 33, and her husband Hunter Pulaski, were planning to take their 2-year-old daughter to visit their family in Japan. On the morning of their departure, Delta warned them that their flight would be delayed. Fearing that a delayed departure could cause them to miss their connecting flight, they searched Delta’s website via Google. The first result that appeared implied that he was connected to Delta – but it was not.
“It’s very easy for a scammer to impersonate a legitimate business,” Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau in Eastern Michigan, told Detroit Free Press.
The website offered to change their flights for a service charge of $ 300, but that they would be reassigned to a flight the next day. At the airport, a Delta employee informed them that they had dealt with a website not associated with Delta.
According to the article, Delta worked with the third-party website to get reimbursed for the $ 300 service fee charged to the couple’s credit card.
Tracing the couple’s internet steps later, another Better Business Bureau employee noticed that at the bottom of Delta’s fake website, the “About Us” section quoted the lyrics to the TV theme songs from “The Brady Bunch. and “Laverne & Shirley.” One section even said, “This is how we all became the Brady Bunch.”
“Anytime you deal with a third-party website claiming to represent Delta Air Lines, you risk compromising your personal information, as crooks more frequently attempt to abuse your trust in us by impersonating Delta using illegitimate websites and outlets before defrauding you, ”Delta said in an online alert.
“Fraud is growing rapidly in the travel industry and the chance that you will land on a bogus airline or travel agent website is unfortunately real,” says the International Air Transport Association on its “Fake” webpage Travel Sites “.
“Fraudulent online travel and flight booking agencies operate internationally. These websites can look very professional, with some even displaying the IATA logo to appear legitimate. We do everything we can to try to stop fraud, but you should be aware that an IATA referral on a travel or freight website or social media page does not necessarily mean that they are IATA accredited.
Consumers struggle to determine who is legitimate
Esky.com is one such site that uses an IATA logo at the bottom of its web pages.
When Travel Market Report Googled “Delta Air Lines,” Esky.com appeared on the second search page. The link landing page on the Google search page displayed the Delta logo. As you scroll down, the site lists historical information about the Atlanta-based carrier, including a description of when Delta was founded and its flights.
“Favorable transport rules, a modern fleet and the possibility of efficient check-in via the Internet or a mobile application are factors that encourage passengers to use cheap flights with Delta Airlines,” the site describes.
Esky.com has received numerous complaints on Trip Advisor regarding its customer service. Other customers wrote that they were surprised to find that they had been charged a $ 30 “service charge” for booking through the company.
“Please don’t book with this company,” wrote Dean H from the UK. “11 emails 5 phone calls at £ 1.50 per minute and still no response just to try to reserve a bag. Once they pay for your reservation they don’t want to know or you will just pay to find out if you can ask someone (sic) to answer or reply to your emails. If you want to be stress free and be able to manage your trip, whatever you do, stay away from esky. ”
Odydegenova, a Trip Advisor forum member, from Toronto, Canada, used the website to book a flight with Allegiant Air and was concerned that he would not have a reservation. After researching her reservation she wrote, “In the end, all that was different was that I was charged an additional $ 30 for their ‘service’.”
Carol G from Edinburgh advised another struggling Esky.com customer: “Tracey – your flights are probably good if you can see them on the Easyjet site (you probably paid more than you need for their ‘service’) Your reservation will be non-refundable, so if you choose to cancel you are unlikely to get anything back as I’m assuming the administration fee will likely be more than the refundable tax.
Travel Market Report this week researched a flight booking from Newark, New Jersey to London Heathrow on the Esky.com website, departing August 13 and returning August 19. The lowest fare returned by the website would be $ 933 for a 17-hour, 20-minute one-way trip on SAS, from Newark, to Cincinnati, to Stockholm, to Heathrow. The return flight to Lufthansa lasted 20 hours with a stopover in Cincinnati.
Reading the fare details, Esky.com revealed that the total payment was $ 1,182.30, including a plane ticket of $ 788.17, “airport fees” of $ 358.40 and a service charge of $ 35.73. Meanwhile, Delta.com has shown a direct flight for $ 1,900 (including taxes and fees) on its codeshare partner Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Last year actor James McAvoy almost got ripped off over nearly $ 13,000 booking a Ritz Carlton hotel while planning a family vacation to Spain. On Instagram, McAvoy described how realistic the website looked, but when someone tried to email him for a bank transfer, he realized he was being fooled.
In an Instagram video, he showed a photo from the website. “Don’t use them. They almost took $ 10,000 from me, which is a ton of money. A guy who called Joaquin emailed me, [I] almost made a bank transfer. Very convincing.
He added, “Their website is actually better than the one at the Ritz-Carlton. It’s extremely compelling, filled with a phone number, stuff like that. Just very, very convincing.