CheapOair said my girlfriend didn’t need a visa — but she did

When Arkady Kivman purchased an airline ticket for his girlfriend through CheapOair (a brand of Fareportal), he made a mistake. He accepted a travel agent’s word without checking it out for himself. And it cost him $1,450.

Kivman’s story is a reminder to travelers that they alone are responsible for checking and complying with all travel requirements — especially for international travel. And, even if a travel agent provides assurances that a requirement does not apply to you, those assurances may not be reliable.

It is every traveler’s responsibility to obtain and have available all necessary documents to enter or pass through each country in his or her itinerary. Without those documents, you may be able neither to travel nor to recover the costs of your trip. Unfortunately, Kivman found this out the hard way when his girlfriend couldn’t use the ticket he had purchased.

At the time of the purchase, an agent of CheapOair informed Kivman that his girlfriend did not need a transit visa. (We don’t know what airline she was flying or her itinerary.) But this turned out to be incorrect.

The following day, Kivman learned that, yes, his girlfriend needed a transit visa. He had to cancel the ticket he had purchased and buy an entirely new ticket.

Says Kivman: “The agent tried to sell me a ticket so badly that she lied to me. I asked her numerous times if I needed a transfer visa for this ticket. She said no, I did not need it.”

Kivman then requested a refund for the unusable air ticket. But he received only $250 from CheapOair, plus a credit from the airline for a future flight within a 12-month period.

Related story:   My son was bumped from his flight -- where's his compensation?

As Kivman cannot use the credit, he turned to our advocates for assistance. His desired resolution was a full refund of the $1,450 price, plus interest, for the original ticket.

Unfortunately for Kivman, we didn’t have good news for him.

CheapOair’s terms and conditions indicate that visa and entry requirements are the responsibility of the customer and not CheapOair:

All customers are advised to verify travel documents (transit visa/entry visa) for the country through which they are transiting and/or entering. Reliable information regarding international travel can be found at and also with the consulate/embassy of the country(s) you are visiting or transiting through. CheapOair will not be responsible if proper travel documents are not available and you are denied entry or transit into a Country.

Your transaction with CheapOair does not guarantee entrance to the country of destination. Traveler understands that CheapOair accepts no responsibility for determining passenger’s eligibility to enter or transit through any specific country. Information, if any, given by CheapOair’s employees must be verified with government authorities. Such information does not imply responsibility on CheapOair’s behalf.

So we were not able to advocate Kivman’s case. Although we suggested that he post about his situation in our forums, he hasn’t done so as of this writing.

We can only warn our readers: Do double-check anything a travel agent tells you – especially if it involves documentation for international travel. And don’t assume that your travel agent is correct. Otherwise, you could lose a lot of money and not be able to get it back.

Related story:   I didn't activate my E-ZPass on my Budget rental, so why am I being charged for it?

Update (8/4): Fareportal says Kivman has received a refund.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for

  • Steve Rabin

    I would trust a reputable, bricks and mortar travel agent. An outfit named CheapOair, not so much. But I agree, the onus is on the purchaser to check with the country they are traveling through to figure out if they need a transit visa or any other documentation.

  • polexia_rogue

    “$1,450 price, plus interest, for the original ticket.”

    Plus interest? this is Cheapoair you’re talking about. They are like the Spirit airlines of travel sites. I can see why is this filed under cased dismissed

  • Noah Kimmel

    “The following day, Kivman learned that, yes, his girlfriend needed a transit visa.”

    If it was the following day, why could he not cancel and get a full refund?

  • Lindabator

    very true – if her situation was unique, it may cause several issues they are unaware of

  • Annie M

    You can’t really call these agents travel agents. They are order takers and that’s all. They do what you tell them to do, they do not offer any other services beyond booking what you tell them.

    Next time use a real travel agent.

  • Annie M

    Thats the first thing I thought of – was it outside the 24 hours he booked? Or was the ticket booked with less than 7 days before traveling?

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Another reason not to trust a person who is selling a ticket online and works on commission. The telephone agent’s first priority is to make that commission s/he depends on. Google is one place to start checking out for transit visa or visitor visa or any kind of visa someone needs when traveling

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Exactlyy, let alone this ppl. work on commission, is in their own best interest to sell every single ticket they can, even if it includes a lie.

  • Mark

    So, what’s the itinerary? A transit visa may not have been all that difficult to get – and could have been the easier path to use here.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    Guy relies on commission only call center worker for advice on immigration law!

  • Kerr

    As this case highlights, do they even do what you tell them to do?

  • Alan Gore

    A real travel agent would have had to make the customer whole by buying a new ticket, but if your “travel agent” is an offshore call center, it is responsible to nothing and no one. Do not use.

  • Mel65

    If you know enough to ask if you need a transit visa, you should know enough to check with an authoritative source before buying the ticket.

  • PsyGuy

    This is CHEAP O air, where are you getting the idea of quality, name says it all.
    Interest, no one gets interest, when it’s your fault. The CSR may have been wrong, or even lied, but confirming entry and exit requirements is ALWAYS the responsibility of the traveler. Know what you need BEFORE you purchase travel.

  • PsyGuy

    Why do PAX use Cheap-O-Air i have compared their prices and it’s at most a few extra dollars to buy elsewhere (mostly direct from the airline), especially on domestic travel.

  • PsyGuy

    That’s not entirely true, you either get a 24hr refund period OR a hold that expires within 24 hours.

  • PsyGuy

    They are nothing more than CSR’s.

  • PsyGuy

    I get the feeling he was flying the girlfriend very close to the travel time.

  • joycexyz

    What travel agent? This CheapOair.

  • The Original Joe S

    AGAIN with this fly-by-nite outfit? DUH? How many times are we gonna see these dirtbags on this blog?

  • The Original Joe S

    Because people are corner-cutters. The wanna save $3, and get what they deserve for being CHEAP !

  • jah6

    I knew what the answer was going to be to this as soon as I saw it. I have known since I was in my early 20s that it was my responsibility to get the necessary documents for travel.

  • Byron Cooper

    A full service travel agency will assist with the necessary visas. They will not only know the rules but will assist the travelers with obtaining the visas. I read online reviews about CheapOAir. There are numerous complaints against them, including not honoring cancelations in the 24 hour window and not rectifying mistakes related to the passenger’s names.

  • Bobby Dale

    Most every travel agent works on commission, but not all need a good relationship with customers to continue to do so. Your local travel agent wants you to book with them the next time you travel, the CheapoAir rep probably does not have any chance at this.

    Remember that the Roaming Gnome does NOT return phone calls.

  • Bobby Dale

    CSR implies Customer Service Representative, whom you seem to disparage via this comment, the “sales person” at CheapoAir is probably a call center person making little or nothing.
    If you look at their job postings most all are in India.

  • Bobby Dale

    I would hope that she was flying concurrently with the travel time, it could get messy otherwise. ;)

  • Bobby Dale

    Do we know that the call center worker works on commission only?

  • Bobby Dale

    A real travel agent would verify the requirements before selling you the ticket.

  • Noah Kimmel

    the amazing thing is cheapo-air is just a name. They don’t have lower fares than other OTAs, and I don’t think they even take smaller comissions or anything. Its just marketing fluff and a brand that basically tells you price > service

  • Pegtoo

    I hope the Cheapo Air rep was disciplined for giving document advice that is against the company’s policy. If there were serious enough repercussions from the company, the reps would stop faking it to make the sale.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Sorry I did not mention that “ALL TRAVEL AGENTS” work on commission, my bad. But yes, every agent that sits in front of a computer and sells airline tickets or a Hotel room does work on a commission. I thought the article was about only CheapoAir and not ALL travel agents. Hope this correction is acceptable.

  • pauletteb

    Another case of “not my responsibility. I’m actually disappointed that Fareportal caved.

  • Attention All Passengers

    “We can only warn our readers: Do double-check anything a travel agent tells you – ”

    Since when is CheapOAir a travel agent ? They are nothing but a 3rd world call center staffed by anything but “travel agents” (if they can even speak passable English). No ability to make decisions, think out of the box, let alone fix anything. Button pushers collecting your money.

  • Attention All Passengers

    You really think that some call center Employee in India is going to be investigated, let alone disciplined ? Nothing happens to them, they are probably making about $300/month.

  • Attention All Passengers

    People, is your friend.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    And CheaoAir is cheap only in name, they do advertisie a very low base price, but it does not includes taxes and fees, and by the time the final price is given, usually is a lot higher, than a ticket purchased from the airline directly or from a licenced travel agent.

  • Pegtoo

    It cost them $1,450… so yes, I’m thinking they will consider it.

  • PsyGuy

    I hear the wing seats have the least turbulence.

  • PsyGuy

    Yes CSR is the acronym I disparagingly use for Customer Service Representative.

  • Bobby Dale

    Why PsyGuy? Do you never ever ever receive good or excellent customer service? Do you EVER compliment people on good or excellent service? Try it one time, I PROMISE that you will enjoy the response it gets.

  • jsn55

    CheapOair, just the kind of entity I want to obtain travel requirements from. What are people thinking?

  • PsyGuy

    All the time, but I live in Japan. I have never gotten even a shadow of the customer service treatment in the US. Let’s be very honest with ourselves, no “american” wants to be in customer service. Do they want a job, do they not want to be unemployed, do they want to pay their bills, do they want to get an education, a car, a house, whatever the new apple gadget is.? Yes, absolutely, but no one growing up in school or when they were young, or after graduating anything wants to be in customer service. It’s something they have to do compared to the alternative, and that breeds resentment.

  • Michael__K

    Because OTAs are not bound by the 24-hour rule and this flight may not have even been subject to the 24-hour rule regardless if it was not a US departure.

  • Michael__K

    You don’t know that this purchase was for departure from a US airport 7+ days in advance.
    Furthermore, OTAs such as CheapOAir are not bound by the 24 hour rule. Per CheapOAir’s terms and conditions, cancellations must be initiated by phone ($75/fee per ticket) and acceptance of the cancellation request is not guaranteed and subject to CheapOAir’s discretion and the airline’s fare rules.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.