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.

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

  1. Wow, what a frustrating experience! But this definitely isn’t the first time I’ve heard bad stuff about one of those third-party sites listed on Kayak. Some friends of mine once bought tickets from them and got to the airport…then got turned away because they didn’t actually have a reservation!

    I’m glad your situation got sorted out.

    • Hi Jessica! Thanks for reading… Yikes! Sorry for your friends’ experience – major bummer! It’s really a shame Kayak hasn’t given us a resource to omit the third-party sites. Hopefully it’ll come soon!

  2. That’s interesting. Chelsea had a great experience with cheap-o-air. She had a unique flying situation in which she was flying to bu-fu Kansas from Chicago and then from Kansas to Vegas. Even I was having trouble finding a good deal and I’m good! We clicked on cheap-o-air and got her a fantastic deal. She had no issues. Maybe domestic flights work better than international?? But also probably good advice to go with reputable businesses🙂

    • Hi Samantha! Multi-city options can definitely be tricky, and not every airline website or third-party reseller website has that option, unfortunately. I’m glad Chelsea had a good experience! She was one of the lucky ones! The reviews were either ecstatic (a few of these) or worst-story-ever. Maybe domestic is better?! Keep me updated if you use it again🙂 Thanks, as always, for reading & for the comment! Glad we got at least ONE success story!

  3. Great advice. Perfect timing, too, as I’m about to purchase airline tickets and I use Kayak to search for flights.

    • Forgot to mention – since you’re searching right now, Anna – a few things can help you get a better deal (you maybe know these already, but I think it bears repeating):

      1. Use flexible date searches. Mid-week fares tend to be less expensive.
      2. Search multiple airports. If you happen to live in a metro area where there are a few major and/or minor airports around, you can type up to four airport codes into Kayak.com for each field. For example, I might type “ORD, MDW, MKE” for my origin airport and “AMS, BRU, PAR” for potential ending locations.
      3. Check early in the week. Even though sales happen all the time and inventories and prices change constantly, Monday and Tuesday seem to the days when more flights are added to the websites. Good thing you’re on it now!
      4. Use Google.com search for flights to get an idea of the price range, if you don’t already know. In the search bar, for example, type “ORD to PAR” and then search. On the left there should be an option hidden for “Flights.”
      5. Follow airlines and third-party travel resellers on Twitter, and Facebook and subscribe to their e-newsletters.

      Good luck!

  4. Actually, CheapOAir has saved me quite a bit of money in the past. We at Travelgrove also have them integrated and never received any complaints. I guess things do go wrong, and there are many scams out there, but CheapOAir is actually one of the largest US OTAs by now and not some shady business.
    Cheers, btw Travelgrove searches some smaller sites as well, especially for Intl. fares, we usually beat Kayak by quite a margin.

    Cheers

    • Hi, Peter! Another success story, glad to hear it, but of course, my story turned out differently! I’ve never heard of Travelgrove, I’ll take a look. Thanks for reading and commenting, Peter!

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