Thursday 7 February 2019

Buying flights through Flight Centre - a costly mistake!

We were going to Japan for the marathon, and to make the trip worthwhile, with the expense of 5 airfares, we decided to see more than just Tokyo and fly into Hiroshima then travel up by train, making stops along the way. I looked at flights and then headed in to Flight Centre. The agent found more expensive versions of the same flight (on the same plane, somehow) so I pointed that out, showed her what I could get direct with the airline (not a discount website) and she price matched. Then she tried to add a ticketing fee of $26 a person. I pointed out that I didn't have to pay $130 for ticketing if I booked directly and had to go through the process of 'buying' a ticket online to show her, so she'd waive this additional charge. The whole exercise of simply buying tickets that I had already found took roughly an hour. That really should have set alarm bells off for me.

Fast forward 5 months and my husband's knee blew up. We had cancel for any reason insurance so we decided to cancel (You get 75% back on the money you've spent, it had been explained to my by the Flight Centre agent). What I discovered is you don't get 75% back of what you paid, you get 75% back of the non refundable part of what you've booked. Here's where using Flight Centre becomes costly. If I wanted to change dates, with this airline, had I booked myself, it would have been free. However, because I used Flight Centre, I can only change dates through them, and that costs me $200 a ticket or in our case, $1000. If I booked myself and cancelled, with this airline, I would have been charged $200 a ticket, or $1000 and been refunded the rest, getting $5700 back. However, because I used Flight Centre, I am not allowed to cancel directly. I have to cancel through them and they take a cut. Their cut is $300 per person on top of the $200 the airline charges. So I am charged $2500 in fees to cancel $6700 worth of airfares so will only get $4200 back (or worse, 75% of that). None of these fees are covered by the insurance.

Basically, for trying to support a travel agent, which was actually obsolete in advice or expertise, as I knew specifically what I wanted, I am financially penalised. She also was far more expensive if I couldn't price match, and wanted to charge additional fees.

Cancelling a trip means you burn money, using Flight Centre means you burn considerably more than you would otherwise. I am thankful they couldn't provide any cost competitive accommodation, as all the hotels I'd booked on, Agoda and directly with the hotel (Thank you were cancelled at no cost and fully refundable to me, not going through the insurance.

It was a lesson I learnt the hard way, and when I rang to ask them what they were actually providing, all the Flight Centre manager could say was that they were a 'bricks and mortar' business and they provided expertise. As I had not experienced any expertise, and was slightly mislead on what the Covermore insurance actually paid 75% back on, I can't agree with the expertise aspect.

So in answer to the prompt, the worst purchase I ever made was the $6700 worth of airfares through Flight Centre. Buyer beware!

Edit: It appears I am getting $3862.70 back. Had I booked directly, that would have been $5362.70. For us that is a substantial amount of money, with absolutely nothing to show for it. There seems to be a non accounted amount missing, which I am chasing.

Have you been burnt trying to support a business when you could have done it better and cheaper yourself? What is your worst purchase?

Linking with #LifeThisWeek


  1. Thanks for the warning, Lydia and sorry your husband, yourself and your travel group had to go through this stress and expense.

    SSG xxx

  2. Hi Lydia I recently saw some news about Flight Centre and how they operate so I'm not surprised. Airfares are costly enough without the teeny tiny fine print. Thanks for the info. I usually book my flights directly with the airline but the refund or cancellation side of things can be confusing.

  3. Sorry for the financial loss and frustration that you experienced, Lydia. I usually book directly with the service provider (airlines, hotels, tours, etc.) #lifethisweek

  4. Urgh, I really feel for you! We got stung with Flight Centre not nearly as badly as you and have since just booked our own flights. Incidentally, we've had some great experiences with Covermore but we always buy our insurance directly with them and never through Flight Centre. How stressful though, you should totally book another holiday to get over it!

    1. When I get the money back, I most definitely will!!

  5. Oh My Goodness! Webooked our Penang and Singapore trips with them & I was just about to get them to price our upcoming UK trip too... I usually book my own fares, but we have some deviations we need to take on both of these. Words of warning.

  6. Oh my! I had a cancellation with them too way back (change of mind) and I lost so much I think I would not go down that path again either. Sigh. It is hard when as you say,you were actually 'trying' to support a local business. In 2005 they planned my first (and only OS trip and did a fab job mostly.

    Thanks for sharing on Life This Week. Next week's optional prompt is: 7/51. Self-Care: Share Your Story. #1. 18/2/19. Denyse