Buyers Beware: Unreliable Third-Party Airfare Resellers on Kayak.com

I did not end up getting that airplane ticket for July 5. I did something stupid. I woke up early in the morning, and I was still groggy. Of course, the smart thing to do was hop online to make a purchase worth hundreds of dollars. 

I saw a pretty cheap ticket on two major airlines to Europe on Kayak.com - around $750 USD for a one-way ticket on Virgin Atlantic to London and a connection to Amsterdam on British Airways. In small blue print, Kayak quoted the price from a website I'd never bought an airline ticket from. I trusted Kayak, so I clicked through.

Here's an example of what a typical fare search result looks like. I did this search today. See the links to the third-party resellers Airfare.com and Vayama in small font.

Once I was on the third-party reseller's website, I re-read the details of the flight I wanted. I put in all my credit card information and I hit the "Purchase" button. I waited and waited. I didn't click "Back" or "Close," I just waited like the website told me.

After a few minutes, I thought, Oh, wait... Is this website reputable?

I googled "cheap0air.com customer review" and I easily found many horrible customer experiences documented over the years on PissedConsumer.com (see the "Best Consumer Reports" section for multiple threads) and IndependentTraveler.com! Reading a few of those was a faster jolt of wake-the-eff-up than an espresso! Here's one example:

At that point, I was still waiting on the cheap0air website, which was still apparently in the middle of purchase. I called the website's "customer service" 800-phone number. After someone finally answered, I explained how I was still waiting for the purchase to complete, but that I wanted to cancel the transaction. The customer service representative hung up on me. I don't think they understood my English.

Taking matters into my own hands, I called up my credit card company and spent a few hours with them trying to straighten it all out. Thank goodness for fraud protection! And I refreshed and refreshed my email to make sure I didn't get a purchase confirmation. And for the next seven days I checked my credit card account online to make sure I didn't get any charges from cheap0air.com.

How does a third-party airfare reseller website like cheap0air.com get away with this? Well, they count on people like me who are at times lazy, sleepy, or who think a deal too good to be true can actually be true just once. The resellers also count on the popularity, advertising budget, reliability and reputation of websites like Kayak.com to reach new customers (like myself). Some third-party travel reseller websites do NOT refresh the airline deals daily/hourly/often at all, resulting in once-valid-but-now-stale prices. So the attractive price you find on Kayak.com may have been valid for someone who searched for the same travel dates on the reseller websites a few weeks ago, but the fare now is sold out, unavailable or hundreds or thousands of dollars more expensive . Some resellers aren't even obligated to keep their information up-to-date! Cheap0air's terms and conditions free them of liability from a fare being available.

Information contained in the Site (including text, graphics, links or other material) are provided on an "as is," and "where available" basis. CheapOair makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, to you or another person or entity as to the accuracy, results, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, fitness for any particular purpose with respect to the Site or any related materials, products, services, or information.

A lot of us travelers have come to trust Kayak.com over the years. They have a lot of great search options like flexible day searches and the ability to include - or omit - particular airlines. I think their site is easy to navigate and Kayak.com has made my life easier by reducing the number of travel websites I have to check to get the best deal. But I don't buy my airline tickets on Kayak, I buy them on the websites they search like the airlines' and the third-party travel resellers'. Kayak.com, are you listening? Please add a filter option to include or omit third-party travel reseller websites like cheap0air.com from your searches. Your customers like me would appreciate the extra layer of choice and protection.

I'll stick to the airlines' websites or third-party travel reseller websites that I know and have purchased from before like Expedia.com next time. And every time.