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Thursday, November 26th 2020

"I'm a travel junkie who's hooked on deals from YYC." - Chris Myden

Why you should *never* use airfare.com to book a flight - and my apologies for a deal that didn't pan out

So on Thursday evening I reported a deal to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile - both were showing up on airfare.com for an incredible price of $530 roundtrip after tax.

Airfare.com is large enough to be linked to from Kayak.com's search results, which gave them credibility, or so I thought.

I was pretty excited about it, and even booked a flight for myself to Santiago. But on Saturday (2 days later!), I received a call from airfare.com to tell me that my booking was canceled, and my confirmed booking with Air Canada had also disappeared!

Here's my confirmed booking from airfare.com

Booking successful. Confirmation number issued. 'Your tickets have been issued electronically'. Payment successful. Sounds pretty solid right?

And here's the screenshot of what my flight booking at AirCanada.com looked like from Thursday to Saturday:

Along with my itinerary ...

So for nearly 3 days we were all lead to believe we would be heading to Chile, or Argentina, with a confirmed booking. That is, until receiving news from airfare.com that our booking had been cancelled. And when trying to look at the booking at aircanada.com I'm now greeted with this:

So what happened? Who's to blame?

Airfare.com is basically a consolidator that buys blocks of flights from airlines like Air Canada. In this case, it was a legitimate block of fares that were offered by Air Canada to Airfare.com to sell at a certain price. Whether or not they meant to offer them at such a price is not clear. But regardless, they did.

So Thursday rolls around, and everyone books their flights through airfare.com and we're all lead to believe we'll soon be sipping wine from Mendoza. But probably sometime around Friday morning, Air Canada realizes what's happening and pulls the plug on the fares.

So here comes the real crux of the problem. Sites like airfare.com aren't advanced enough to have your ticket issued immediately from the airline. They basically rely on doing everything manually, which in airfare.com's case appears to involve using carrier pigeons to relay your booking information to Air Canada.

By Friday morning, Air Canada's contention was that the fares at that price were no longer available, so airfare.com couldn't honor the bookings.

This sort of delay between when a site like airfare.com receives bookings and when they are actually ticketed from Air Canada is unacceptable in 2011. It's also what likely leads to so many terrible things about airfare.com being posted on the Internet. People think they have one thing booked, and the next day airfare.com isn't able to offer that same price. The world of airfares moves quickly these days.

The other reason people probably hate them is the impossible to understand offshore labor that they use. Being in the tech industry, I'm pretty used to thick accents from overseas, but the two interactions I had with airfare.com 'support' were excruciating. I couldn't even understand my own e-mail address being read out to me.

In fairness to airfare.com, Air Canada shares some of the blame here as well. If you ask them, they'll say that 'airfare.com canceled the booking' but what they really mean is 'we changed the price back on them so they couldn't honor the booking'.

In 2011, an airfare booking should be near instantaneous, either you have it or you don't. You shouldn't be receiving a call 2 days later to be told that your booking is invalid.

So, the moral of the story is, avoid consolidators like airfare.com whenever possible (in this case it wasn't, the fare wasn't available on AC's site) . The less parties you have between you and booking directly with the airline, the less chance there is of something being screwed up, whether it's your name on the ticket, or the fare changing price a day later.

I'm sorry to anyone out there who thought they had a ticket to South America, only to find out a few days later they didn't. If you want to make a difference, just tell your friends and neighbors to avoid airfare.com like the plague.

You can also report them to the Toronto chapter of the BBB, their official company name is actually:

Sky Link Travel Inc
1027 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M4W 2K9
Tel: 416-922-7000
Fax: 416-413-9270

And the CEO is Joe Bous - you can e-mail him: joe -at- airfare.com (And yes, he does read his e-mail, he responded pretty quickly when I mentioned I would be letting everyone in Canada know what I thought of the way they do business).

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8 Responses to "Why you should *never* use airfare.com to book a flight - and my apologies for a deal that didn't pan out"

    Has Adele Zanutig been here?
       Adele Zanutig on February 28th, 2011

    Thanks for the heads-up Chris. What would we do without you?!?

    Has labf been here?
       labf on February 28th, 2011

    i don't know if you can blame AC for this, and i really don't know why you're blaming AC when you seem to have a pretty good grasp as to HOW seat inventory and yield management works. what's even more silly is that you blame AC even though you explained to the reader earlier that you were actually going through a consolidator. the consolidator oversold the block at that price point, got burned, and AC, being a business seeking profit, wouldn't release the seats at that price. shoot the messenger.

    regardless, my condolences. at least you found this out BEFORE you showed up to the airport.

    Has Kee been here?
       Kee on February 28th, 2011

    I would send in a complaint to the BBB about AC... They should of honored those purchased the fare at reduced price up till the minute they pulled the plug
    And those after be informed that fare level is sold-out .

    Has Chris_Myden been here?
       Chris_Myden on February 28th, 2011

    labf: I don't necessarily disagree with anything you're saying, but I wonder if airfare.com really did oversell the block at that price point.

    I've heard that Air Canada realized what was going on and removed the block.

    The point I wanted to stress though, was that in 2011 nonsense like this shouldn't happen. The technology should be in place for consolidators like airfare.com to be able to 100% confirm you have the seat at X dollars or not. There shouldn't be any ambiguity.

    Has Kevin Lee been here?
       Kevin Lee on March 3rd, 2011

    Hey Chris,

    long time fan of your work, and congradulations on the new job! Been reading your material there as well.

    That said I'm suprised that airfare did not try to rectify the problem or try to make it up to you considering what you do. Regardless even if they did it is none of antibes business, but if they did glad you did not sell out and not write this article! It was a good read and good to know we should avoid airfare.

    Air Canada is notorious for over booking selling seats when they can. I personally do not like travelling with them unless I can justify using their brutal service. Going through their bitter customer service staff, to the garbage bag handling that they bring, don't forget the snobby plane personnel. The only thing going for them was the maple leaf lounge which I stopped using since I much perfer to fly with west jet.

    But by the sounds of it there was plenty of blame on both AC as well as Airfare.
    They should defineately have something so that it is 100%. Defineately let you know right away not two days after.

    Has Chris_Myden been here?
       Chris_Myden on March 3rd, 2011

    Thanks Kevin,

    I've actually sent an e-mail to 4 Air Canada executives, asking if they would be able to offer a response to the situation.

    The four execs that I sent e-mails to were:


    Lise Fournel
    Senior Vice President - E-Commerce Χ

    Susan Welscheid
    Senior Vice President, Customer Service

    Craig Landry
    Vice President, Marketing

    Claude Morin
    Vice President, Global Sales

    I've heard they're usually decent about following up, but as of yet, no response.

    Has ruben been here?
       ruben on March 11th, 2011

    Did you ever hear back from AC Chris?

    Has Chris_Myden been here?
       Chris_Myden on March 11th, 2011

    Nope, not even an acknowledgement of receiving my e-mail or a standard brush off response.

Comments are automatically closed 30 days after the post is made.

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