CheapOAir is no bargain

In August I booked a flight using CheapOAir. CheapOAir wasn’t cheap for me. My $417 (return) ticket cost me an additional $172.50 at the airport.

The itinerary and ticket listed a departure time of “09:05 PM”. Now, the PM was there, but I asked for a morning flight because this was a business trip and I had a full day scheduled. So when I printed the ticket, as an experienced traveller (four business trips to Europe last year, five the year before, plus domestic travel) I read “09:05” as using the 24-hour clock, which is the standard in transportation. Otherwise, why not use the industry standard and show the evening flight as “21:05”?

At the airport when I couldn’t confirm my flight at the self-service kiosk it took two ticket agents and a computer to realize the error. They also read “09:05” as standard use of the 24-hour clock. Changing the ticket cost me $150 + $22.50 in taxes, plus a three-hour delay. It’s a good thing no connecting flights were involved.

The other problem with CheapOAir’s booking is the lack of an airline reference number. The ticket number and booking number CheapOAir sent were meaningless as far as Air Canada are concerned. Nor was there a phone number to call for assistance. The only number available was for booking more flights.

While CheapOAir’s ticket had the right airport code, they consistently incorrectly listed the name of the destination. I was flying to St. John’s (NL) on the east coast of Canada, not Fort St. John’s, which is a city 4,000 miles away on the west coast of Canada.

For the return flight the itinerary listed “08:35” as the departure time. I knew I was on the evening flight, and that this “08:35” wasn’t a morning departure, regardless of how they wrote it. However the “08:35 PM” was not my departure time from St. John’s, it was my flight’s scheduled arrival time in Halifax. The flight departed 90 minutes before their ticket said.

To further confuse the process, CheapOAir listed the return flight first on both the itinerary and ticket instead of the first flight first.

Their paperwork is confusing. I could afford to make the airport changes and salvage my business trip, but what happens to those on a limited budget? What happens to those with on-going connections to meet? And I was travelling with only a carry-on, so had flexibility that those with checked bags lacked.

The Air Canada ticket agents who helped me sort out my departure told me that the greatest number of errors and complaints they experience come from this company.

After my return, several people with CheapOAir called trying to sell me on using their service again. When I told them about their failings they were suitably shocked, told me they had never had anything but positive reviews by previous clients and would look into it. A second caller told me there was “an open file” on me. That was 125 days ago. I have been to England, Ireland, Scotland and sailed across the Atlantic in that time and they have done nothing to make amends.

CheapOAir is not a company I could recommend. It wasn’t cheap and it created a travel nightmare.

A Postscript – two years and two months later no one at CheapOAir ever did get back to me or offer to correct their mistakes.

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