It was a deal too good to be true. I was searching for a way to both affordably and comfortably get between New York City and Belgium on short notice and one outlier showed up on SkyScanner, a one-way nonstop fare home that appeared far too low. I was skeptical but I clicked through and sure enough the price was legit. Except not really.
That the fare was unreasonably low was the first red flag on this purchase. Second was that the OTA explicitly warned me that US DoT protections would not apply to the purchase, despite traveling to the US on a US carrier, albeit with an EU airline flight number. I was offered the option to pay $10 extra for those protections (mostly the ability to fully refund within 24 hours, which I wasn’t going to use) which was sketchy but, again, I’m on a budget and the price was right. And so I bought the ticket.
It is a Delta flight, albeit carrying an Air France flight number. But for seat assignments and such Delta handles the details so I logged in to my SkyMiles account and imported the reservation. And that’s when I finally figured out the scam. I had been sold a round trip ticket despite requesting a one way trip. The OTA performed the search as a round trip itinerary and hid the return half from me at every step of the process. Every confirmation, receipt, search result and flight details page showed only the one segment. But the Delta site clearly showed all three (the return has a connection).
Fortunately I knew that there were the extra segments on the PNR because when I got to the gate in Brussels airport I was subjected to the “security” questions, one of which was, “So, you have a return trip booked as well. Do you live here?” I can imagine an unwitting consumer who scored a cheap one-way being all sorts of confused by that line of inquiry, believing that they had only the one segment. That’s all sorts of bad.
Oh, and when I bought up to Delta’s Comfort Plus (not worth it to me this trip other than for the power outlet which I might have secured in a regular seat but it was critical so I paid for it) the transaction was charged in rubles.
And, yes, I considered booking the return as a proper round-trip and getting an extra flight back to Europe; I do that all the time (in the middle of one right now, actually). But this was a work trip being expensed to a vendor so making it into a personal junket is not something I am keen to do. Turns out the OTA didn’t care at all, breaking the rules and taking its cut. And it is not just via SkyScanner that it shows up this way. Performing a one-way search directly on the site returns the low fares of a return trip with no disclosure to the customer that it is a violation of the airline contract of carriage to fly the itinerary that way.
I guess the good news is I now have a one-way trip to Europe I can try to use, though I’ll need to change the dates and it is unclear if the change fee is worth it for that.
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