Airline bookings can lead to surprises

Air travellers can get an unpleasant surprise if they do not fully understand who they are buying their ticket from and what conditions apply. This is evident in Danish passenger complaints to consumer Europe.

The holiday season is just around the corner, but the Danish weather can be fickle, so many choose to jump on a plane and head south.  When you book your trip, chances are you use one of the websites that presents an overview of flights and prices for comparison. But there is something you need to be aware of:

“Many travellers assume that the ticket agent has to help them if problems arise, but often the agent is not a direct party to the contract. It is therefore a good idea to be aware of who is responsible for your trip and, more importantly, the conditions that apply, before you book tickets. That way you can avoid unpleasant surprises and be better prepared if you need help,” says Lars Arent, Director of ECC Denmark.

Avoid turbulence

There may be multiple contracting parties involved when you book your tickets, and this will affect whom you have to contact if problems arise:

“ECC Denmark has seen many examples where passengers end up being tossed back and forth between the airline and agent when their trip does not go as planned. The airline passes responsibility on to the agent, or vice-versa,” says Lars Arent.

If you only want to deal with one party, consider booking the ticket from the airline’s own website instead of via the ticket agent. It can be an advantage that there is only one party to contact.

Responsibility for transfers

If a trip has stopovers, not everyone is aware of whether the tickets they book via an agent are ‘self-transfer’ or ‘non-protected transfers’. This means that you buy separate tickets for each flight and are responsible yourself for your total trip. This can end up being expensive.

The difficulty with ‘self-transfer’ tickets arises if a flight is cancelled or delayed. Then it’s your problem if you don’t make the next flight. You risk having to still pay for the flight you missed, as well as for a new ticket and other expenses, such as hotel accommodation.”

If you book via a ticket agent, note carefully whether you are presented route suggestions with ‘self-transfer’ stopovers. If so, you are being offered separate tickets. You can also check if the tickets have the same reservation (PNR) number. If they do, it is a single trip and the airlines are responsible if delays occur along the way.

Tips when booking your flight:

  1. Note carefully who the contracting party is and the information and route suggestions provided during booking. Also make sure that you enter correct information.
  2. Always check the price on the airline’s own website and think about if you only want to contract with one party.
  3. Note which airline you are booking your trip with and check the conditions that apply at the given airline.
  4. Consider whether you need the many additional services often presented by the ticket agent – cancellation service, guarantees, etc. You may want to check if you are covered by your own travel insurance.
  5. Use the filters available on the agent’s website to ensure you only see relevant trips. For example, you can choose ‘direct flights’, specific airports, etc.
  6. Consider whether you want to book self-transfer tickets, or to be protected by an airline. If you build your own itinerary using multiple separate tickets, it is a good idea to allow plenty of time for flight changes. If you choose multiple separate tickets, consider whether you want to pay for assistance in case of delays from the ticket agent. Note carefully what the conditions say about what they will help with and what you have to do yourself.
  7. Choose a ticket agent based within the EU. Then you are protected by European consumer rights and can get help from ECC Denmark.
  8. Contact ECC Denmark if you have any questions or want to lodge a complaint about a foreign airline or ticket agent.

    Read more about your rights when flying