Don’t Get Taken In by Disreputable Travel Agencies

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No matter who you are, a good travel experience is bound to take up a not-negligible portion of your budget. Even the thriftiest among us tend to splurge when taking a vacation, or even a routine business trip—it’s part of the fun of travel. To allow for indulgences, many of us also tend to scale back on certain expenses, whether it’s seeking out “glitch fares” from airlines or eating like a local.

Or maybe your travel tricks aren’t about budget at all—in fact, you have no problem spending whatever it takes to have a unique, memorable experience. In either case, EmpireCLS commends you, but we also want to offer a word of warning. Disreputable travel agents and agencies do exist, waiting to take advantage of travelers. Make sure you don’t get taken in by these sadly common scenarios, and stick to providers with excellent reputations.

Many seasoned travelers like to claim bragging rights over those hidden-gem sites that offer little-known discounts. But sometimes, a so-called hidden gem is unknown for a reason. JustFly.com, a third-party airline ticket booking site, recently earned itself an F rating from the BB due to over 250 complaints lodged against it for price discrepancies, passenger name spelling mistakes and wrong flights being booked altogether. According to an ABC news report, JustFly.com has all of the hallmarks of a disreputable third-party site: no customer service, misleading information, outright scams, and offering low price that turns out to be a bait and switch and cutting corners.

In other cases, cheap fares are the result of outright scamming. Recently, a travel agency phishing fraud cost the industry $2 million. Phishing is simple scam tactic in which a con poses as official representative of a company to request sensitive information from users. In this case, Eric Donys Simeu of Cameroon used this tactic to target travel agency employees in the US and request their GDS information. From 2011 to 2014, Simeu used the phished information to book tickets for personal use or sell the ill-gotten flights to unsuspecting customers at deep discounts. Buy with caution: that deal might, indeed, be too good to be true.

Sometimes it’s not intentional deception that makes a travel agency bad news—it’s plain old poor business skills. Take the case of Ingrid Scott, a travel agent who was acquitted of 29 counts of intentional deception that she had been charged with after multiple customers complained that they could not use tickets she’d booked for them, due to non-payment. It turned out that Scott wasn’t conning or embezzling—she was just, well, bad at her job, and lost her own home trying to keep her travel agency running. The agency didn’t profit from the $25,000 worth of tickets that clients paid for but Scott never purchased. Instead, Scott had been using payments to cover previous orders from clients, setting up a credit scheme that ultimately ran her into the ground.

If you’re reeling a bit right now, take a deep breath. By and large, travel agencies are respectable. You can ensure that you’re working with a reputable one by working with a network like Virtuoso, a select group of travel agencies and other providers that has been in the industry for years. The network has earned a reputation of only working with truly trustworthy, high-quality travel providers (including EmpireCLS, which was recently accepted into the Virtuoso fold). Not only are you assured honesty and reliable business practices, but each provider has carved a unique niche in the luxury travel market. Your investment will be worth every cent.

Photo: flickr

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