American Airlines told me the fare was $169. Then it charged me $1069

Dale Allen and his girlfriend are looking forward to a tropical vacation in Cancún. Unfortunately, they arrive at the airport too late and miss their flight. Wanting to leave immediately, they buy one-way tickets at the American Airlines counter. Allen is sure the agent said that the tickets cost $169 each — so why is his credit card charged $2,400?

How to tell if you have a qualified travel agent

Yarisa Smith knows she has a good travel agent.

“He’s made cruises and European trips special,” says Smith, a manufacturer’s representative from Dallas. “His itineraries and attention to detail have made every trip flawless. He’s even managed to successfully intervene when acts of God have waylaid my plans.”

Yet you might not know by looking at Clark Mitchell, who works for Dallas-based Strong Travel, whether he’s the real deal. Yes, his agency is cited as a source for its travel expertise by mainstream news outlets. It also prominently lists its membership in Virtuoso, an exclusive travel agency consortium.

But until now, there’s been no instantly recognized certification that says an agent is legit. That may be about to change.

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