Maybe I won’t be home for Christmas


It looks like Michael Burz won’t be coming home for the holidays after Jetstar rejects his credit card. Unless, of course, there’s a Christmas miracle …

Question: We are supposed to fly to Australia for Christmas to be with my wife’s parents, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to make it. I hope you can help us.

Last summer, we booked our domestic flights from Melbourne to Cairns on Jetstar Airways through CheapOair.com. We received a confirmation from CheapOair and my wife even spent 40 minutes on the phone with their billing department, to make sure the transaction went through. She also phoned CheapOair two days later to verify the transaction and received assurances all was clear.

But when she called Jetstar a few days ago, they said we didn’t have a flight. A representative told us our credit card had been declined.

CheapOair has offered to put us on another flight but at a higher cost and perhaps a different date. I just want them to honor the reservation we made several months ago. Can you help? — Michael Burz, Bethesda, Md.

Answer: If CheapOair sent you a confirmation, then you should have had a ticket. It doesn’t seem fair that you’re being asked to buy a more expensive ticket only a few days before you’re supposed to be home for Christmas.

Could this have been prevented? You might have called Jetstar after you made the reservation to make sure your credit card went through. But normally, a confirmation from your online travel agency means your flight is also confirmed with your airline.

Related story:   Another lost honeymoon. Who is to blame here?

You shouldn’t have to call every airline, car rental company and hotel on your itinerary to separately confirm your itinerary — after all, that’s why you’re dealing with an online travel agency.

I found it interesting that you phoned CheapOair twice to “make sure” the transaction went through. Your tickets cost $2,261, which is no small sum. If you had continued to monitor your credit card transactions, you would have probably noticed that the amount wasn’t deducted from your account, and you might have been able to catch this error last summer.

I contacted CheapOair on your behalf, and here’s what happened: There was a breakdown in communication between the reservation system used by your online agency and the airline’s reservation system. That resulted in a confirmation being generated without a reservation.

CheapOair should have been able to catch the problem, particularly since your wife called the agency twice to inquire about the tickets. And Jetstar should have contacted CheapOair when your credit card was declined, letting it know that it canceled the reservation.

CheapOair should have offered you a better solution than buying a new, more expensive ticket. I contacted the company on your behalf, and it agreed to buy a new ticket, with Jetstar covering half the difference in airfare and CheapOair picking up the other half.

Enjoy your trip to Australia.

This story first appeared nearly a year ago. Since then, our advocacy team has helped a few more people get home for Christmas. And, thankfully, no more repeats from Cheapoair or Jetstar.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • SirWired

    You expect Expedia to have lots of complaints, since they are such a large outfit, but CheapoAir seems to be represent a disproportionate number of the cases here. I guess they are the Spirit Airlines of OTA’s.

  • AJPeabody

    This case is a repeat of a story from a year ago, so using this particular case to say COA has a lot of cases is unwarranted.

  • Alan Gore

    Was the amount LW saved by using CheapoAir (another name that comes up a lot in our horror stories!) worth the aggravation? Instead, use Orbitz to search the route and fare options, and then book direct. If there is a credit card problem, you will know right away.

  • Chris_In_NC

    This may be an unpopular opinion but the OP shares some of the blame. HOW did the OP NOT notice that a $2261 missing charge? That would have been the time to question the transaction. Did they really think they were getting the tickets for free? When did they think the charges we’re going to post? Jetstar isn’t to blame so it is generous for them to pick up 1/2 of the difference.

  • Mel65

    My thoughts exactly!

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL that was the first thing I thought! That’s not pocket change – I would certainly have recognized that I’d never actually paid $2261 for something I thought I’d bought. I would definitely have noticed that I seemed to be over 2 grand flusher than I was expecting to be!

    So the truth is, he was expecting to fly on a flight that he’d never paid for! It seems unlikely to me that he would have had no clue that he never paid for that ticket. Unless, of course, two grand really IS pocket change to him, and he spends so much that not paying for that ticket just slipped right past him. In which case, why make a big deal out of it? ;-)

  • John McDonald

    Similar issue with bestjet.com who appear to be Australian but most staff seem to be in Manila. Made a booking on a Friday & card charged BUT they seem to issue tickets manually & for some reason they didn’t try to issue the tickets til the Monday when fare was no longer available. Surely they work weekends so maybe their tickeging line was very long, who knows.

  • KanExplore

    I do think it’s always good to go to the airline site if booking through an OTA or when paying for tickets with third party points programs, not just to verify the existence of the booking, but also to look into things like seat reservation, luggage and check in policies. Some of that may be in the confirmation but maybe not.

  • Donna Manz

    Let’s see …. consumer used a site called “Cheap-O Air” and expects quality????? Price is what you pay; value is what you get. And, in most cases, you get what you pay for …

  • jsn55

    Cheap O Air. Why, why, why do people book with these online booking agencies? Repeat after me: book direct. Using an OBA with the word ‘cheap’ in its name … ever wonder what that means?

  • Steve Rabin

    The name says it all

  • kanehi

    Sorry to say but when I book online thru Orbitz or Expedia or by myself I actually call the hotel, rental car and the airlines to confirm my reservations. It doesn’t take that long to check and make sure you have your confirmation number to verify. Once I forgot my confirmation number but the hotel looked up my last name and found it. Also some airlines you can check on their web site if you are truly booked and this goes for car rental agencies. Once I was attempting to book an international flight to Tokyo and the card I used kept declining the reservation. I called up the credit card company and they told me that it’s a safety feature to decline large transactions due to possible fraud. After I told them of my travel plans they approved the transaction. I told them the dates when I was leaving and returning so they wouldn’t block the card on those dates.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.