Budgets are tight right now, and people are looking for deals. But for some people booking travel online, like Emily Mason, those deals are too good to be true.
Emily, a college student, was planning a trip to Colorado. Ultimately, she shelled out $166.20 to a company called MyFlightSearch.com, for an Alaska Airlines flight. She got a confirmation email. But when she never got an eTicket, she started to worry.
“My trip to Denver is in a week, and I thought I had a ticket and I don’t have a ticket anymore,” said Emily.
Alaska Airlines says MyFlightSearch.com did not purchase a ticket in her name.
So Emily made one request to the folks behind the travel site.
“I would just like to cancel my flight, I want to get refunded, I want my money back. And they straight-up hung up on me,” said Emily.
MyFlightSearch.com is a Nevada-based company with more than 300 complaints with The Better Business Bureau. In fact, the BBB has revoked the company’s accreditation for allegations similar to Emily’s.
Tracey West also had complaints.
“I’m telling you, I went through it,” she said.
Tracey paid $1432.00 to fly her family of three to Sarasota, Florida. Because of Covid concerns, she cancelled her flight and asked for a refund.
She has almost the same story as Emily.
“They don’t want you to speak to management, they don’t want you to speak to a refund team,” said Tracey.
We showed American Airlines the credit card charge for Tracey’s tickets. Although the charge read “American Airlines SFC,” American said the charge on Tracey’s card wasn’t from them.
Instead, a spokesman told us that the “travel agency” appears to have charged the customer more than $300 more than the actual cost of the tickets, then booked the cheaper fares directly through the American Airlines website with another card.
And there was a $25 charge to Tracey from another business not connected to American Airlines.
American has suspended business with MyFlightSearch due to suspected fraud.
And the statement is a doozy.
“So what happened here? Bottom line: this was a scam. A site this customer found appeared to be a travel agency, over charged the customer, and then booked a lower fare on aa.com.”
In response, MyFlightSearch manager Abhiskek Mago tells KIRO 7:
“…we ran into issues with the Airlines when our systems started misbehaving when we had to move the entire infra in remote working environment. It indeed took us sometime but now we are back with bookings and tickets being issued within 60 seconds.”
MyFlightSearch also says it is working to regain a business relationship with American Airlines.
After hearing from us, MyFlightSearch agreed to issue both Tracey and Emily refunds. And, they’re letting Tracey keep the flight credit from American Airlines.
But it won’t change what they think of the company.
“I will never ever go through it, I’ll just go through the airline from now on,” said Tracey.
“it just sucks that it happened to me. Wish it didn’t,” said Emily.
So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?
If you’re looking for flights online, book directly through airlines or use reliable sites that have relationships with airlines. You still could get burned, but it will reduce the chances of having that happen to you.
And, paying with a credit card gives you the ability to dispute the charge if you don’t get what you pay for.
Travelers should also ask about cancellation and refund policies up front – and get those policies in writing.
Representatives from both Alaska Airlines said they’re seeing a growing problem of online travel companies taking advantage of consumers, sometimes paying to show up at the top of internet search results and luring victims in by using Alaska’s logo without permission. Some even pose as an Alaska booking agent over the phone. So, be careful to check that the number you’re calling is really for the airline you’re trying to reach.
The FTC has a guide for travelers, including tips and red flags to spot scams. You can check that out here.