CHECK YOUR EMAIL: Travel agency goes bankrupt, strands passengers

Imagine that you’re at the airport, boarding your plane to a far flung destination, perhaps a honeymoon or well deserved family vacation, and you get an email stating that your hotel, transfers, and potentially all activities have all been cancelled, so deal with it.  What would you do?  In today’s digital age with confirmations galore, how could this happen?

Dubrovnik, Croatia in the Summer

Dubrovnik, Croatia in the Summer

Well it happened last month for tens of thousands of people, and it’s still happening today. Online Travel Agency (OTA) LowCostHolidays.com (also doing business under lowcostbeds, hoteling, and lowcostaviation among others) went belly up and stiffed thousands of customers on their reservations.

On Flights:

Flights Not Cancelled

Flights Not Cancelled

It would seem that most of the flights have been paid and valid, but you should still contact your airline directly to double check. If they didn’t actually go through with the booking or never paid the airline, you could be on the hook and stuck at your destination.

On Hotels and Transfers:

Cancel Hotels and Transfers

Cancel Hotels and Transfers

You’re screwed. According to them, “regrettably they have not been paid” and you’ll have to pay the hotel directly. Sure, this sounds great, unless you expected your trip to be taken care of and now you’re at the mercy of the hotel in a foreign country. Transfers too! You get to the airport and expect the shuttle or limo to be waiting for you and NOPE! You’re going to have to go through the supplier directly. Luckily they gave you a 30% discount code to save some money.

Here’s the kicker though, do you see that under accomdation? That link?  It says “if you’d like to use another travel agency, you can click here.” Do you think I’m going to trust you to do another booking for me?  Hell no!

Bought Insurance?  Ha!

So, you bought travel insurance in case things go south? You thought you were smart and being prudent in protecting your trip? Think again…

Cancel Insurance

Cancel Insurance

Read that?  See the highlighting?  The insurance DOES NOT PROTECT YOU in case that the OTA goes out of business or becomes insolvent. Sucks for you.

Mad TV's awesome skit

Mad TV’s awesome skit

So, what can you do?

Well, for future reference, understand that in almost all cases, it’s better to deal directly with the hotel or airline. Online travel agencies are, as a general rule, not known for their exceptional customer service. They have complicated offshore call centers and the cancellation policies can be a mess.  This isn’t to say that ALL companies are bad, so just use your own best judgement when you’re making a booking.

Check to see if your credit card has travel insurance. It might be an option for you, but then again, all credit card companies are different and have different rules. If you’re affected, call them right away to discuss options.

Finally, if you did book through these websites, there are certain EU regulations, especially Spanish law, that will (in theory) protect you, but this could be a waste of your time or a giant rabbit hole. If you really want to go down this road, here’s some information for you.

Did you book through any of these now defunct OTA’s? What happened?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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