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Rip-off travel: Online agents charging hundreds of pounds for flight extras

Which? is warning travellers to take bargain flight prices advertised by some online travel agents with a pinch of salt
Which? is warning travellers to take bargain flight prices advertised by some online travel agents with a pinch of salt. Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP

Online travel agents are advertising bargain flight prices and then hitting travellers with hundreds of pounds for flight extras like luggage and seat selection.

In one example, Which? was quoted £556 by OTA eDreams (part of the same group as Opodo) for a return flight from London Gatwick to Orlando, flying with British Airways.

This was the cheapest price on offer for the route, just £2 less than if a traveller booked with British Airways directly. Once Which? added hold luggage and chose a seat, the price quoted by eDreams shot up by £258, to £814. The same flight booked directly with BA, with the same extras, would have been £712 – a saving of £102.

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Similarly, a Ryanair flight from Stansted to Athens was priced at £104 via Opodo, £3 cheaper than Ryanair. Once researchers added one 20kg hold suitcase, one 10kg cabin bag with priority boarding, and chose a seat, the price quoted by Opodo more than doubled, coming in at a grand total of £261. Booking with Ryanair and making the same selections, Which? was quoted £195 – £66 less.

Which? carried out 28 spot price checks, comparing the amount travellers would pay on popular routes when booking directly with an airline or with online travel agents eDreams, Gotogate, Kiwi and Opodo.

In all cases, it was cheaper to book directly with the airline if adding on extras like hold luggage or making a seat selection, despite the headline prices offered by OTAs often being marginally cheaper.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “It’s easy to be tempted by headline airfares from online travel agents that save a few pounds but you are always better off booking directly with the airline. Not only is it likely to work out cheaper in the end, but in the event that something should go wrong, it will be clear where the responsibility lies.

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“If you’re looking to find the best value prices, flight comparison sites will always be the preferable option for finding the cheapest seats. Likewise, if you’re keen to book as a package and add accommodation to your flight booking, Which? would always advise using a reputable package holiday firm.”

As well as charging inflated prices, there are reports of these travel agents offering substandard customer care, with the consumer body hearing from numerous travellers who have had issues accessing assistance when things go wrong. In its recent survey of flight booking sites, no company achieved more than three out of five stars for customer service.

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