It's easier than you'd think to make an expensive mistake while booking an airplane ticket. The below mistakes are common with train fares and buses as well, but mostly it's a bit easier to fix the mistake afterwards without spending much of your travel budget.
Before you book, make sure you've read about these 5 whoppers and make sure to learn from others' mistakes!
1 - Buying a ticket from the wrong airline
Are you getting what you expect from the airline you're flying with? This isn't about buying a ticket to the wrong place, but if you're doing business with someone you'd like to do business with.
If you're a business class traveller, a Ryanair flight from London's Stansted to Bratislava probably won't tickle your funny bone. What with the haphazard service, fees for everything, and restrictive luggage policies.
On the other hand, if you're a budget traveler, the exquisite service from Quatar Air will probably just make you complain about the ticket price!
In fact, it's quite easy to end up with the wrong airline with all the codeshare partnerships out there. So, if you're a dyed-in-the-wool American Airlines customer, make sure the flight you're on isn't, in fact, run by Mexicana. You might end up disappointed.
2 - Putting the wrong name on the reservation
Before air travelers were treated like security risks rather than valued customers, a nickname or maiden name on a ticket may have permitted you to check in and fly. Not so anymore. Any variation from what is in your passport or on your driver's license is likely to leave you hanging once at the airport. And there are two things that cause this: Security concerns and the change to make a dollar from you.
The TSA and other air transport security authorities need to make sure you are the person they think will board the plane rather than a terrorist. So they won't let you through to the plane.
And of course, because of this, the airlines have realized they can sting you with a $100 fee to change any minor inconsistency on your reservation so you can travel on your booked ticket. Or even force you to buy a whole new ticket if you've bought an unrefundable fare!
So, while booking your ticket, check and double-check that your name matches what's in your passport.
3 - Booking the wrong dates
Quite easily done this one, and expensive too. Even with the calendar you pick a date from, it only takes a moment's inattention and you're flying out on the 11th instead of 10th, and will pay a $100 or more change fee or new ticket to get there in time.
While this mistake would be easily corrected by actually reading the screens and the confirmation page, many travelers each day simply don't. But let's not just blame Joe Q Traveler, as airline websites, or travel agents' sites, aren't exactly user friendly. And sometimes, your travel agent or booking website will make the mistake on your behalf.
Believe it or not, but even when the mistake isn't your fault, the airline will try and make you cough up.
4 - Selecting the wrong city
Another very common error is to pick the wrong city. No, not Venice, Italy, instead of Venice, Florida. That does happen, but it's even more common to pick the wrong order in your pair of cities. For example, you're booking a return flight from Cleveland to sunny Amarillo, Texas. Or so you think. But because you're stressed and aren't looking too carefully, the ticket you end up with is from Amarillo to Cleveland, and then returning to Amarillo.
Which isn't any fun, as you live in Cleveland... And yes, the airlines will make you pay a change fee again, or even buy a new ticket.
5 - Buying restricted tickets instead of flexible air fares
Frequent business travelers quickly get familiar with this one. While a nice bargain air fare is great for the leisure traveler, if changes are needed, they're expensive to change (that infamous fee again) or even impossible. If your plans might change, as if your Thursday meeting will now be in Los Angeles instead of New York, a flexible fare is definitely worth it.
Unfortunately, these can be tricky to find. Most aggregators give you the cheapest fares first without letting you filter for flexible rules. And even the airline websites don't help, as often you'll have to dig deeply into the site to find these flexible, and more expensive fares.
Your best option
Booking air travel (or trains, or...) is definitely a case of ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer beware. Your best defense in each case is to carefully check your itinerary before you click to confirm it.
Share your misadventures with ticket booking in the comments below. Myself? I've done most of the above already and learned my lessons the hard way!
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