TRAVEL CLINIC

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL - SIMONCALDER’S

Ques­tion:

I would like ad­vice as to how to check out whether a flight com­pany is safe to book with. I re­ceived a quote from a com­pany l found on the web that l be­lieve was called “Trip­sn­tours”.

They quoted me over £600 cheaper than Flight Cen­tre, who we have used in the past. But the email is from fly­port.co.uk, which is a dif­fer­ent name al­to­gether.

Be­fore I hand over large sums of money, I need to be sure it is le­git­i­mate. Sarah

An­swer:

Choos­ing an on­line travel agent (OTA) ran­domly from the in­ter­net can be the first step to an ex­tremely ex­pen­sive and stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

Some OTAs de­liver good value and de­cent ser­vice. But some do not, and have some in­ter­est­ing busi­ness prac­tices.

For ex­am­ple, you or I can eas­ily find out what fare an air­line is charg­ing at a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment.

But some on­line agents choose not to of­fer “real-time” quotes. In­stead, they show prices but only later con­firm whether or not it is avail­able — of­ten of­fer­ing some­thing more ex­pen­sive, and say­ing that the fare has in­creased since you started look­ing.

I know noth­ing about “Trip­sn­tours”, but I have found out quite a lot about fly­port.co.uk from its web­site.

It says: “If the re­quested fare no longer be avail­able (sic), we will of­fer you the cheap­est al­ter­na­tive.”

The firm says a “Book­ing Fee From £15-£25” is levied in ad­di­tion to quoted prices, which is not sup­posed to hap­pen.

It also says: “There are 0.5 per cent sur­charge (sic) on Debit card pay­ments”, even though travel en­ter­prises are not al­lowed to ap­ply such sur­charges.

Fly­port claims to have a “Lowset (sic) price guar­an­tee”, but per­son­ally I wouldn’t be in­clined to test it.

On a one-way Gatwick-Ed­in­burgh trip on Bri­tish Air­ways for which the air­line was charg­ing £39, Fly­port quoted £58.

If you have had a good ex­pe­ri­ence in the past with a rep­utable agency such as Flight Cen­tre, then I sug­gest you stick with what you know.

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