Buying a plane ticket in Mexico

“For the first time it has ever happened to me, the website first accepted my order, and then (for some reason) I later received an email which stated that there were no longer tickets available at the price I wanted, and they jacked the price up $65.”

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I’m going back to the U.S. in June. Not wanting to be caught in a rush, I started the process of buying my plane ticket in early February.  Having made this flight from Leon (GTO) to Los Angeles and back several times, I knew that the least expensive flight (and one of the better ones) would be on Volaris or Frontier (operated by Volaris).  I noticed that my favorite website (Hipmunk.com) had gone out of business, so I looked first on Cheapoair. There I found an afternoon flight from Leon to LAX and a morning flight from LAX back to Leon for about $249, much better than the next cheapest for $303.  So, with gratitude, I filled out the online form and sought to acquire the ticket. Only . . . . 

For the first time it has ever happened to me, the website first accepted my order, and then (for some reason) I later received an email which stated that there were no longer tickets available at the price I wanted, and they jacked the price up $65.

Well, that was a shocker.  But then I started looking around on other websites (including the Frontier and Volaris website) and the flights I wanted were still being advertised at the lower price I wanted.  In fact, the Frontier flight was also posted as a Volaris flight (only at a higher price).

So then I started on the fruitless effort of trying to order the same or similar tickets from other tick sellers – Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, Cheaptickets.  They all continued to have the same Frontier flights that I had tried to order from Cheapoair. In some instances, they would say, “Only 4 tickets left.” And I would try to order the tickets at virtually the same price as available from Cheapoair, and my order would be accepted and then later turned down.

Ten days after the first try, and after multiple turndowns, I ordered a ticket, got a reservation code, and then no money was taken from my credit card.  So I wrote as follows:

I reserved a flight on Frontier for June 2020 with reservation number MFAAIP.  I cannot see that my credit card was charged for the flight and I am concerned that it will not be considered paid.

Michael T. Hertz

The ticket company wrote back as follows:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for contacting us.


We understand your concern about booking confirmation #MFAAIP. However, please be advised that the Airline you selected was unable to confirm your flights for the fare you had requested.

As a result, you presently have no reservation. Please check the itinerary and current fare that we can offer: 

Frontier Airlines 6900 June 05 Leon (BJX) 3:10 PM :Los Angeles (LAX) 4:42 PM
Frontier Airlines 6899 June 21 Los Angeles (LAX) 9:07 AM :Leon (BJX) 2:20 PM

The current fare is USD 331.60, inclusive of all the taxes and fees. 


Please let us know if you wish to take the given option “I agree with the flight and fare” so that we can. 


We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Thanks and Regards,

 This infuriated me.  I answered:

But they did confirm it by giving me the booking confirmation.

I think there is a scam going on.  I tried getting on that same flight four times.  Each time I asked for the cheaper fare, and then I was told that it wasn’t available.  Finally, I got the booking confirmation and figured there was a problem with the earlier situations.  But now you are telling me that the booking confirmation is invalid.  Only it isn’t.

Is this something that your company is doing or is it Frontier?  I want to know.

I am a published consumer journalist, and I took photos of my computer on the earlier attempts.  You and Frontier are going to be in really hot water if this goes public.

This apparently didn’t frighten them.  They answered:

Dear Customer,

We can cancel the booking #MFAAIP and request you to book directly book on the airline website. 

Please confirm “I agree to cancel the booking” so that we can proceed. 


We regret the inconvenience. 

Thank you,

But I didn’t give up.  I tried ordering the same tickets from Travelocity.  They wrote me as follows:

Sorry

The price of your flight has changed from $283.56 to $341.84. You can continue booking or look for another flight.

Please Note

The total price of your flights changed due to a one-time non- refundable fee of 0.00 from the airline based on your payment method. 

(The asking price was higher because I added cancellation insurance).  I didn’t understand the “one-time non-refundable fee,” especially one for $0.  But I decided to try again with Travelocity. This time I didn’t add the cancellation insurance and I got this letter:  

Sorry

The price of your flight has changed from $261.56 to $319.84. You can continue booking or look for another flight.  

Please Note

The total price of your flights changed due to a one-time non- refundable fee of 0.00 from the airline based on your payment method. 

This time I decided to call Travelocity and ask what was going on.  I spoke to the representative, and he kept going offline to investigate.  Meanwhile, I decided to try once more my own while he was working on this (The entire investigation and waiting for phone calls consumed about two hours).  In fact, because of the very strange explanation that I had received previously from Travelocity, I used a different credit card. And then, lo and behold! A miracle.  I received a booking confirmation, which said:

“Thank you! Your trip is booked.”   And it provided a Travelocity itinerary number. 

It did not state that the flights I wanted were unavailable.  I looked up the itinerary, and it had the proper price and routing. And very shortly thereafter I received an email from Frontier, which said confirmed that I had purchased my ticket.  Except for one problem: they were going to charge me $319.84 instead of $261.56!

Well, that was a problem.  I looked at my credit card account, and sure enough,  Frontier had already deposited a claim against my card for $319.84.

I knew that my bank would be of no help; they always want you to work things out with the merchant before filing a claim with them.  And calling Frontier would have required me to speak good Spanish, which I don’t do. So I called Travelocity again. And waited. And while I waited, I downloaded PDFs of Travelocity’s order confirmation and Frontier’s incorrect documents, and emailed them to Travelocity support.

Finally, the Travelocity people came online.  They actually sent me a special email, requesting the same documents that I had earlier sent to Travelocity. (but presumably, a different office).  The people on the line were very helpful, and after studying the situation for half an hour, they conceded that Travelocity had made an error in requesting the lesser amount from me.  By this time, I was tired of the whole affair. They offered to pay me the difference between $319.84 and $261.56, and I gladly took it.

My suspicion is that  Travelocity was supposed to send me a notice like the previous two they had sent,  informing me that I had to pay $319.84 if I wanted the ticket. But they didn’t, and I had accepted the $261.56 price, and Frontier didn’t notice the snafu.  Just a bit of luck for the customer.

I just don’t know how often Frontier tells Travelocity to hike the price, or whether Travelocity is aware that the prices it is displaying will get hiked.  As I said, this has never happened to me before. But airline tickets have become steadily more expensive and things like baggage, seating, etc., have become fee driven rather than included in the ticket price.  So this idea of changing prices after the customer orders the ticket may be just another dodge to get more money.  If so, I suspect that the ticket sellers are in the game with the airlines, both trying to gouge the passengers.   Consequently, I plan to send a copy of this article to the FTC and file a complaint. 

Even though Travelocity solved one of the problems, there was another one: There was still a pending charge of $243.22 against the first Visa card that I used.  I called Bank of America and, with some difficulty, filed a claim with respect to this charge. The next day the pending charge was applied against my card, even though Frontier had never confirmed a flight against that charge. Thereafter, also with difficult, I managed to call Frontier in the U.S. and told them that I was being charged for two seats on the same flight.  They were kind enough to cancel the second flight and return my money to my credit card.

All this took hours and hours of time.  The Bank gave me very little help, and I count myself lucky that the ticket agency and airline were willing to solve the problems.  I still have no idea why Frontier’s flight was shown at a cheap rate on all the websites but then, when I chose that flight, someone (either Frontier or the ticket agency) refused to honor the offer made.  As I finished this article, I looked by my flight on Orbitz. They were offering the flight round trip for $254.32, stating that only four tickets were available. Cheapoair said the same thing. Expedia offered for $262 and said nothing about any ticket shortage.  Travelocity was the same as Expedia. And Jetcost had it for $257. Go figure.

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