Federal Trade Commission: Tips For Shopping For Airfare Deals, Avoid Surprises

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Tips that will help you weigh your options and avoid surprises you didn’t bargain for.

You want the best deal for your next flight, but the choices can be overwhelming. Will you book directly on an airline’s website, or buy through a site that lets you compare costs across multiple airlines?

These tips will help you weigh your options and avoid surprises you didn’t bargain for.

On cost comparison sites, what seem like apples-to-apples comparisons may not be – if baggage or other fees aren’t included. Cost comparison sites can also charge you more than the airline’s fees for services like changing or canceling a flight.

When you make a reservation for a flight that is at least a week away, the airline must allow you to cancel for free within the first 24 hours after booking, but you could still be charged if you didn’t book directly with the airline.

Having a reservation is not the same as having a ticket.

Normally, you make your reservation and then the airline issues a ticket, but things can go wrong. We’ve heard from people who used unfamiliar booking sites and learned at the airport that they did not have a ticket to fly.

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People also have told us that small errors like misspelled passenger names caused big headaches. Some people had to pay fees to fix mistakes, and some even missed their flights.

If you’re thinking of using an unfamiliar booking site to reserve tickets, first look for reviews and ratings of the site to make sure it’s reputable. You can search the site’s name with words like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam.”

Also:

– consider fees as you comparison shop, and take change and cancelation policies into account
– check cost comparison and airline sites to find the best overall deal, and keep in mind that some airlines only book directly
– confirm directly with the airline well before the day of your flight that you have a ticket and everything is in order

If you have a complaint about booking a flight, report it to the Department of Transportation and to the FTC.

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