Travel Scams FAQ

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How can I tell whether a deeply discounted airfare is legitimate?

Deceptive airline advertising is so frequent that you may have already learned to read between the lines and scan the fine print to get the real picture. If you are not so savvy, watch out for the following:

  • Deceptive two-for-one offers. The airline promises two tickets for the price of one, but then requires you to buy a ticket in a class that costs the same, if not more, than two tickets at some other published fare.
  • Misleading discounts. Some airfare promotions advertise drastic price reductions on airfares without specifying the base fare from which the discounts are calculated. Furthermore, airlines usually advertise ticket prices at half their true cost. The fine print explains that the fare is "each way, based on round-trip purchase," despite the fact that you cannot buy a one-way ticket at the price shown.
  • Phantom sale seats. The classic airline bait-and-switch tactic is to promote low airfares for a given route and then fail to disclose the strict limitations on the availability of seats. The airline may try to sell you a higher-priced seat or may offer a reasonable number of low-fare seats for the first few days of the promotion, and then retract the seats for the duration of the ad campaign.
  • Frequent flyer deceptions. Airlines continue to severely limit the number of seats that they allocate to frequent flyers, especially for business and first class seats. As a result, frequent flyer customers may have a difficult time getting the seats they've earned.

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