Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Online Travel Booking and Bidding Agencies
Reload this Page >

SmartFares agency bait and switch - avoid

SmartFares agency bait and switch - avoid

Old Feb 9, 19, 7:19 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Northern California, USA
Programs: Most FF and hotel, i.e., spread too thin.
Posts: 142
Angry SmartFares agency bait and switch - avoid

I recommend avoiding the supposedly San Diego-based agency "SmartFares" at all costs.

I used the 'jetcost' site to find a flight. A convenient, low cost option on Air Airabia showed up. Clicking that link led to the "SmartCost" web site to complete the selection and transaction. I booked and paid for it and got an email with a reservation code and confirming the price. So far so good.

HOWEVER - a couple of days later another email appeared. "The airline you selected for your flight reservation was unable to confirm the flights and/or the fare for the dates and times requested. Call us immediately ..." Ok, they claimed there had only been one seat at that price and it went away. They said they were refunding my charge (TBR). When I asked how they can book a flight when the seat is actually not available they had no good explanation. Amazingly, there was a seat available - but at almost 2x the price! When I accused them or running a bait and switch they said, oh no, it is just the airline.

At that point I told them to forget it and planned to book otherwise. Just for fun, I went back to the same 'jetcost' site looking for the same itinerary - and guess what! The same flight was available at the same price! So, I clicked through - and went through exactly the same process and dialog again with smartfares. I asked the agent if they could contact the airline to confirm they actually could ticket the higher-priced seat. The agent went away for a bit and came back and said the airline issued the ticket for that one. NO, I said, I just wanted to find out if you could do that - I do not want that ticket. Please cancel. They claimed they did - and were able to give me a confirmation number. We'll see. It seems so far I have charged 3 tickets on 'smartfares' with hope for refunds on all of them.

It does turn out in the booking confirmation there is this in the fine print: "Please note that reservation requests are only confirmed once the airline has issued a ticket number. A second and final email with ticket numbers will be sent to your email address within 24 hours (up to 72 on the weekends) indicating that a ticket has been issued. You can monitor your reservation request on our MyReservation Page ." Emphasis added. It seems that for a real bargain airfare it will not be confirmed.

Their call center number is San Diego. The agents there claim to be in San Diego. However, they sound distinctly South Asian. The BBB site is San Diego - and they give them an A+! However, the user reviews are all one star - the lowest possible.

Where should these scammers be reported?
RickR is offline  
Old Feb 10, 19, 6:33 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: LAX or NYC
Programs: AA MM; AS Gold; Nexion, LLC/Travel Leaders
Posts: 637
Originally Posted by RickR View Post
Their call center number is San Diego. The agents there claim to be in San Diego. However, they sound distinctly South Asian. The BBB site is San Diego - and they give them an A+! However, the user reviews are all one star - the lowest possible.

Where should these scammers be reported?
Hope your refunds come through quickly. Definitely start with your credit card issuer to ensure you have someone with financial weight pressing your case.

You can file complaints with the State of California as well through https://oag.ca.gov/travel
RickR likes this.
NYC Flyer is offline  
Old Feb 10, 19, 12:26 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: NYC
Programs: UA
Posts: 433
There are numerous shoddy OTAs that do not have access to live inventory. They do have the disclaimers as to the "reservation request" and fare not guaranteed until ticketed.
The pay the BBB to be an accredited business, the BBB ratings are pathetic and useless.

Do report them through the State of CA, but I worry that they may have enough disclaimers that what are doing is legal.
RickR likes this.
arttravel is offline  
Old Feb 13, 19, 11:25 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Programs: BAEC OW Gold/Emerald
Posts: 445
All the best on getting your money back and reporting this company to the relevant body for investigation.
Sadly these shoddy OTAs operate across the globe and will continue to be in business when passengers hand over their money, often I suspect, without first doing a search for reviews on the OTA. I don't know if the OP did a search on SmartFares, but when I did, there are testimonies on TripAdvisor which mirror the OP's experience which would make me think twice and judge my appetite for risk. Before handing money to any OTA, I read reviews and their terms and conditions and not be rushed by "only 1 seat left" and other nonsense on their website.
NYC Flyer likes this.
IntVic is offline  
Old Feb 27, 19, 3:18 pm
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Northern California, USA
Programs: Most FF and hotel, i.e., spread too thin.
Posts: 142
Smartfares booking - scammers

Originally Posted by NYC Flyer View Post
Hope your refunds come through quickly. Definitely start with your credit card issuer to ensure you have someone with financial weight pressing your case.
You can file complaints with the State of California as well through https://oag.ca.gov/travel
Originally Posted by IntVic View Post
All the best on getting your money back and reporting this company to the relevant body for investigation.
Sadly these shoddy OTAs operate across the globe and will continue to be in business when passengers hand over their money, often I suspect, without first doing a search for reviews on the OTA. I don't know if the OP did a search on SmartFares, but when I did, there are testimonies on TripAdvisor which mirror the OP's experience which would make me think twice and judge my appetite for risk. Before handing money to any OTA, I read reviews and their terms and conditions and not be rushed by "only 1 seat left" and other nonsense on their website.
I finally found a discussion on TripAdvisor regarding SmartFares. This led to quite an educational discussion, mirroring the comments here. Complaints filed. They did reverse credit card charges ok so that part worked. AVOID this company - and others like it.

Bottom line learning for me: research flights and fares on sites but then book directly with the airline. I had actually done that and wound up with a fare at least as good as the original 'bait' with the airline and it was simple and easy. Next time I know better.
RickR is offline  
Old Feb 27, 19, 3:40 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: LAX or NYC
Programs: AA MM; AS Gold; Nexion, LLC/Travel Leaders
Posts: 637
Originally Posted by RickR View Post
...They did reverse credit card charges ok so that part worked. AVOID this company - and others like it.

Bottom line learning for me: research flights and fares on sites but then book directly with the airline...
Thanks for reporting back. Good news that you received a refund. There are reputable sellers of travel, including some OTAs, that can get you legitimate bargains, but it always pays to do your diligence and understand who you're doing business with (like anything else in life).
NYC Flyer is offline  
Old Mar 4, 19, 8:14 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 68
Originally Posted by RickR View Post
Bottom line learning for me: research flights and fares on sites but then book directly with the airline. I had actually done that and wound up with a fare at least as good as the original 'bait' with the airline and it was simple and easy. Next time I know better.
From my limited experience I've never been able to get as good of a deal directly with the airline traveling overseas. I don't say it's unheard of but definitely not that common for infrequent travelers.
Dealing with OTA's requires some minimal research to be done but is well worth the effort it if you're looking for a bargain.
No one would ever purchase through them if the airlines would routinely offer similar deals.
btw, my last purchase via SmartFares went though without a glitch.
unleashed is offline  
Old Mar 4, 19, 9:23 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: LAX or NYC
Programs: AA MM; AS Gold; Nexion, LLC/Travel Leaders
Posts: 637
Originally Posted by unleashed View Post
From my limited experience I've never been able to get as good of a deal directly with the airline traveling overseas. I don't say it's unheard of but definitely not that common for infrequent travelers.
Dealing with OTA's requires some minimal research to be done but is well worth the effort it if you're looking for a bargain.
No one would ever purchase through them if the airlines would routinely offer similar deals.
btw, my last purchase via SmartFares went though without a glitch.
Lot's of bricks and mortar agencies can get you better fares too, and you have a contact to personally answer questions, address changes or issues that arise etc. It's not all or nothing when it comes to getting a deal.
NYC Flyer is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: