Travel websites have become an issue of concern as they are accused of deliberately misleading consumers by providing inaccurate information.  The EU Commissioner is already cracking down on these unscrupulous websites and sanctioned over 30 sites with 235 identified as dishonest, deceiving and misleading consumers.

Websites that rank at the top of this chain are those offering airline bookings or cheap flights, hotel bookings and car rentals.   The criticism levelled against these sites is that they are deliberately providing misleading and inaccurate information on prices and deals, some of which aren’t even available.

Some deals and discounted prices may appear to be too good to be true, maybe it is because they aren’t real or available to begin with.

Flight Bookings

Sites offering online booking are ranked at the top of misleading consumer with discounted fares, deals and pressuring people to purchase.

Websites offering airline bookings have the most criticism and highest complaints levelled against them.  They are accused of misleading consumers by offering discounted prices that don’t exist or flights that are not available.  Issues of double booking are another issue as well as putting pressure on consumers through non-stop pop-up warnings (e.g. “1 or 2 seat left”) to force them to purchase.

Discounted prices on offer aren’t always what they appear to be and are often misleading.  Once you click and proceed to book, the price will automatically increase by almost $500-$600 in most cases, or doubled by the time you pay.  Be vigilant and pay attention because once the booking is finalized, you cannot cancel or change it without incurring some loses or extra costs.

It is important to note that booking companies, not airlines, make money by offering extras which are often sneaked into the deal without your consent or your being aware.  It could be as simple as being prompted to select a seat, choose a meal, baggage check-in and compulsory travel insurance (often at the very bottom so that you don’t realize it has bee added).

Hotel Bookings

Travel websites are accused of offering deals and booking rooms not available or different from the actual product.

Sites offering hotel bookings are also accused of offering prices and deals that either do not exist or deliberately misleading.  The room or the property that you choose, book and pay for online may turn out not to be the same as the one that you paid for.  Furthermore, the price that appeared on the website is often not the same as the price you will be required to pay at the destination.

Tip:  If you see a room or property that you would like to book, do it right away on the website before you leave to avoid ridiculous price changes upon arrival at the destination.  Some properties want to make money out of tourists by charging extra for everything including changing rates on a daily basis.

Try to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and headaches by paying for everything at home before you leave.  If you book, get confirmation and then accept to pay at the destination, you may be surprised to discover upon arrival that a room that was initially $65/night when you booked may instead be $135/night.  If possible, try to pay for your accommodation and breakfast before you leave to avoid being charged $10 for a basic cup of coffee/tea with cereal and a slice of bread or $20 for (barely full) English breakfast.

Car Rentals

Online Car Rentals have been criticized for misleading consumers on prices, deals and cars that turn out to be different from what they booked.

Websites offering car rentals have faced similar criticism on prices, deals that do not exist and booking vehicles different from the ones for pick up at the destination.  With car rentals, it is best to stick with reputable international brand names like Avis, Hertz, Budget, Discount, EuropCar, National and Alamo among a few.   At least with those, they are under certain contractual obligation by the brand franchise to provide and maintain certain services and operating standards including ensuring vehicles are fully insured.

Otherwise, if you have rented a vehicle previously at the destination, then it’s advisable to stick with the same rental company that you have dealt with in the past.  However, if you are someone budget conscious, getting a local person to drive you around and offer to pay for the gas is more cheaper than using a rental car.  That’s something to consider for the future.

Travel websites have their good and bad sides. Just be careful when using them.

Remember This when you visit some Travel Websites: 

  • Prices shown do not always reflect the final amount you will pay.
  • Reflected deals and promotions are not always available.
  • More often, the way total price is calculated is never clear.
  • Warning message pointing to scarcity of availability (e.g. 1 or 2 seats left) are not from airlines but website companies looking to make money.

It is therefore important to be very vigilant when using travel websites to look for deals or booking to ensure that you get and pay for what you want and not a dime extra on additional extras you do not want.  The EU Commissioner is already going after these websites in a bid  to stop unscrupulous online companies that take advantage of consumers who are after a deal for their vacation.


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