A Marketplace Tip from Your BBB Denver/Boulder
Don’t go broke over break!
Young travelers warned about spring break travel offers
‘Tis the season for your BBB to warn high school and college students to be particularly careful as they plan their spring break or graduation trips. There’s quite a lot of exciting advertising on the web, on flyers, and even through fellow students who are paid by the travel operators to recruit their peers and friends.
Often the amazingly low prices on airline travel involve charter flights. Remember, however, that charter flights are not held to the same standards of performance that a normal commercial passenger flight would be, i.e, they have a very wide allowance of time for arrival and departure. Over a week-long spring break vacation, it is possible that a passenger on a charter flight to spend up to 72 hours waiting at an airport for both arrival and departure. Suddenly that very low ticket price doesn’t seem like such a good deal after all.
One web site of a New York City-based charter operation states, “We can quote trips between any two locations in the world!” Like many travel offers, this one seems a little too good to be true—surely there is sub-contracting to other carriers going on.
Always check out any business with the BBB and beware of high-pressure sales tactics or prices on flights and accommodations that are too good to be true.
Do your homework with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Public Charter Licensing office at (202) 366-1037 to make sure the carrier you’re considering is approved for the specific destination and departure city you have in mind. The DOT issues a “PC number” (Public Charter number) to all legitimate charter companies, and that number should be stated in all travel advertising.
Beware of certificates or coupons for “free trips.”:
- Example: One free ticket is provided if you purchase a second highly priced ticket
- Example: If you “win” travel, there are often substantial hidden costs.
- Example: You may be a “winner” but the details are only available through an expensive toll call.
Compare prices with regular airlines and with the various accommodations directly to see just what kind of deal you’re really getting.
The BBB suggests that students avoid these “red flags” when considering travel offers:
- Heavily discounted offers - If the offer is significantly lower than the regular price of travel and sounds “too good to be true” . . . it probably is. Be sure to shop around to evaluate prices from several companies.
- Policy changes - A company that will not accept credit card payments is preventing your best avenue of recourse should the company not fulfill their obligations; forcing you to pay by cash or check instead virtually eliminates your chances of canceling the transaction or obtaining a refund.
- "One call, one chance" - On the initial phone call, some high-pressure sales companies will put a deadline on their offer to try and get you to commit on the spot, saying that the offer will expire if you do not buy right away.
- Hidden costs. Does a "bargain" travel package include all costs associated with the trip, i.e., ground transportation, lodging, meals, port fees, taxes, peak season price increases, and gratuities? Are you being asked to travel to a distant location before the company pays for "free" travel?
- False bookings. Before traveling, confirm all arrangements yourself with the airline, cruise line, and/or hotel. Even though you have paid for the trip in full, it’s possible that your actual reservations don’t exist.
Take a trip “without getting taken!” The BBB reminds all consumers to always call or click first before you buy or donate! 303-758-2100 or bbb.org.