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.

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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 www.travel.state.gov 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.

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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 Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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