American Airlines Goes After Scam Travel Agencies That Mislead Passengers
Scam travel agents create fake Google listings and take out Google ads to look like they’re the airline you’re trying to reach. They also take over old, defunct airline numbers because people will still find those listed and call. Tell Siri to call an airline? It may dial one of these scam agencies instead.
This winds up costing you big – getting charged fees for things as simple as seat assignments, getting charged to get rebooked when the airline cancels your flight. They stick unwary travelers with bills as much as $1,000 or more unnecessarily.
American Airlines is suing the consolidator that enables these scam agencies. (Skift)
American Airlines has sued airline ticket consolidator U.S.A. Gateway — which does business as GTT Travel — alleging that GTT duped travelers into thinking they were booking direct with American, and then gouged them with exorbitant fares and fees.
GTT has a contract with American and, it says, also “United, Delta, Lufthansa, Emirates and around 50 other global airlines” for wholesale rates, and earns volume sales incentives. It generates volume by partnering with sketchy agencies, according to American’s complaint, and it charges “$20 commission per booking, and it may collect an additional 3% of the total booking.” It also gets a cut of any scam fees the sub-agencies collect, it seems. For instance, “a GTT sub-agent charged a flyer $1,500 for what should have been an airfare of around $1,000, and GTT allegedly helped its travel agency partner “hide the additional $500 charge.””
According to American Airlines,
GTT and its sub-agents have been engaging in extremely deceptive practices solely to profit GTT and at a cost to travelers. GTT is overcharging and hiding charges from customers and engaging in prohibited ticketing practices. Such actions are harmful and unfair to consumers, misrepresent American Airlines, and violate numerous clauses of GTT’s contracts with our airline.
Apparently the agency fails to monitor the activities of its sub-agencies, and refuses to share their details with American despite a contractual obligation to do so.
And while American goes after teens who buy throwaway tickets and agencies who sell them, this lawsuit alleges that scam agencies book throwaways and don’t tell the traveler.
- Say a passenger wants to fly from Jacksonville to Charlotte
- The agency might book Jacksonville – Charlotte – New York LaGuardia for a cheaper price
- And (1) not tell the customer, (2) charge the full Jacksonville – Charlotte price, and (3) pocket the difference.
Recently, American says, GTT booked 20 passengers to fly Dallas to Shanghai on American with an onward connection to Hong Kong. 17 of those passengers were on throwaway bookings, where GTT kept the savings by booking the Hong Kong connection and didn’t tell the passengers. In another example a customer was billed a “tax fee” of $400 (this does not exist!) on top of a $1,086 ticket. GTT failed to stop it, but had an obligation to do so according to the airline.
Customers who think they’re reaching American get redirected and then fleeced. American loses money (for instance due to throwaway ticketing and also paying out commissions) and consumers lose money (by getting stuck with scam fees). Oh, and customers are apparently being charged “wheelchair fees” by the agencies.
I am not often sympathetic to airline lawsuits seeking to enforce their ticketing agreements. But this one seems like a no brainer. In fact, hopefully other airlines will pile on and it will clean up the scams that Google has become a party to, where consumers trust the search engine to direct them to the company they’re trying to reach so are even more trusting when ringing up the scam agency that pretends to be the airline.
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