Airline website booking traps

We expose the website traps and surcharges that can blow out the cost of that bargain basement airfare.
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02.Rex, Tiger and Virgin


Regional Express

Rex, the airline servicing Australia’s rural flyers, can also be tricky to navigate. Consumers opt in to receive their itinerary via SMS and for additional services such as transporting unaccompanied minors. 

But if you’re in a rush, you may not notice you must opt out of buying travel insurance.

As with all policies, customers can cancel their purchase within 14 days, but this is a trap to watch out for.

Tiger Airways

If you’re not careful with Tiger’s online booking system, you may be paying for extras you neither want nor need. 

Users opt in for terms and conditions and the carriage of sports equipment, but opt out of checked baggage. “The booking options available on Tiger’s website are based on customer demand,” says spokesperson Vanessa Regan.

Interestingly, sometimes during our testing we had to opt out of travel insurance, while other times buying travel insurance required going to a separate site. A pop-up advertising the option to switch to flexible ticketing, which allows flight changes but is very pricey, also interrupts the booking flow.

Regan says consumers need to be aware of the options they’re selecting in the booking process. “We encourage people to select carefully to ensure they tailor their travel needs correctly at the time of booking.”

Virgin Australia

While most of Virgin Australia’s booking system is straightforward, there is some trickiness. The box to opt in to Velocity Rewards, Virgin’s frequent flyer program, looks an awful lot like the terms and conditions box.

Inconsistently, customers must select whether they agree with terms and conditions, wish to check baggage, offset their carbon footprint or pay for extras such as seat selection, yet travel insurance is automatically selected, so you have to specifically opt out if you don’t want it. CHOICE member Kym Vercoe alerted us to this practice. 

Virgin spokesperson Melissa Thomson says customers who buy travel insurance without meaning to can cancel their policies. Virgin even sends customers an email informing them of their purchase and allowing them to reverse it after an online booking is completed.

“We’re fully supportive of travel insurance and thoroughly recommend it to all of our guests. But if they wish to, they have 14 days to cancel the travel insurance.”

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