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OTA Scam Watch - @Opodo


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OTAs (Online Travel Agents) - We are all tempted to use them, because they offer cheaper deals. But it is worth it? How many of them conduct an honest business, and how many use various tricks to scam money out of the unsuspecting customer?

Are the nickels and dimes you are saving worth the complete lack of customer service that you will undoubtedly encounter if anything goes wrong with your holiday plans? Are you even saving any nickels and dimes in the first place?

Today we take a deep dive into one of the leading OTAs in the UK, Opodo, and its many dubious practices
 

 

SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE SCAM

When getting redirected from google flights/kayak etc. Opodo's prices will display as cheaper than they actually are... because it is automatically assumed that you will opt in their "prime" subscription scheme. And subscriptions are evil,  as we know. As you naturally opt out, you will find that your price has now increased. This is still better than the horrible fate that will befall you shall you get yet another subscription that you don't really need.

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

 

SEAT FEE SCAM

Free seat selection is a thing of the past, and everybody knows it, right? So why not milk extra money from the customer whilst they don't suspect a thing!

Opodo charges you more than the airline would ever charge you, for the same seat. A whole lot more!

In this example, Opodo charges customers £10 more (or 100% more!!!) for the very same seat on the very same flight (Birmingham to Paris). Imagine you are a party of 4, corresponding from Paris to another final destination. Ka-ching, £160 extra, all for Opodo, for pushing a button on their computer.

It's pointless too. You can purchase your ticket on Opodo, and then log iAn to the airline portal and pay for your seat there, so there is actually zero incentive for you to pay the 100% more expensive price, unless you are simply oblivious to being taken advantage of.

It gets even worse. Opodo will charge you for seat reservation fees if you have a flex, business, or premium economy ticket, which grants you free seat selection. That's right. They will charge you top dollar for something that's free.

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

on Opodo: £20.31
 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

on Air France: £10.20

 

 

CHECKED LUGGAGE SCAM

Luggage follows a similar pattern. Opodo will charge customers a lot more for their luggage than the airline. In this example (Birmingham to Paris), Opodo charges £16 more or 61% extra.

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

£41.99 per bag with Opodo

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

£25.60 direct with Airline

 

(part I)

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HURRY UP! SCAM

When shopping at Opodo, no matter what ticket you are buying, or when, you will always get this anxiogenic popup that tells you the price is about to go up, as soon as you tab out.

Guess what? I am browsing for a ticket in May 2024. The price is not likely to go up anytime soon, and will probably go down. However this has the crafty effect to induce anxiety in shoppers who have the smart idea of double checking other websites to make sure their purchase is well informed.

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

CUSTOMER SUPPORT SCAM

Why provide Customer Support for free, when you can charge customers for things that you are legally obliged to provide? 

Opodo provides "Standard" support for £6.88 which includes some things which should definitely be free such as "confirmation on demand", as well as some potentially useful things like "alerts via SMS" (but at this price....)

The "Premium" support option at £15.48 takes the cake with "Priority refund". When you know that EC261 commands that passengers be refunded within 7 days, you really are taking the mickey when you're proposing that customers pay to guarantee that those legal obligations are fulfilled.

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

 

OTHER MINOR SCAMS

 

Baggage tracking & Compensation service

£9 to charge you for what the airline is already obliged to do for free. This has the benefit of offering £900 if your bagage is delayed for more than 3 days, but know that 99% of lost baggage is delivered within that time frame, and that the airline already owes you up to £1200 if it is lost forever.

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

Flight Updates and Covid restrictions via SMS

Even if just £2.90 it's still a joke... You can get flight updates for free on your airline app, and covid restrictions are free to browse anytime using one of those two websites:

TravelDoc Passenger View - TravelDoc.Website

IATA - Personalised Passport, Visa & Health travel documentation advice (iatatravelcentre.com)

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

(part 2)

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NOT ENTIRELY A SCAM BUT STILL A BIT SCAMMY: Flexible options

(I am still using our Birmingham-Paris flight as an example)


This one is a bit harder to judge. Opodo proposes that you pay £27 extra for Flexible booking (change without fee), or £91 extra for "super flexible" booking. (change without fee or refund with fee)

Those options, unlike all the other crap we've covered so far, actually have their uses. Especially so if you think your plans might not go ahead,and/or you don't have a good travel insurance.

There are some serious caveats with each option, which I will list below, so I would only recommend you buy them after thoroughly double checking. 

In addition, it seems that you can buy the very same options on page 2, at a lower price, without the "high priority assistance". This is a much better price.

 

£27 or £11.37 - Change without a fee

Rather than a flexible arrangement with the airline, this seems to be an insurance of sorts. Opodo will refund you the price of your original ticket in full, and then you have to pay for the new ticket in full, as priced on Opodo.
When you are travelling on "light" (or "inflexible") fares, this can be quite attractive as the airline itself would charge you £85 (in our Air France example) to change your ticket. However this assumes that Opodo wouldn't pass on the £85 cost onto you, so it's worth double checking the full terms and conditions with them.

In our earlier examplee, if you were to purchase a "changeable without a fee" directly with the airline, it would cost you £54 instead. You would get free luggage on top. 

In both cases (buying with Opodo, or buying with airline) it's a bit of a lottery as you will have to pay top dollar if the prices have gone up for your selected dates.

 

 

£91 or £16.50 - Refund with a hidden fee

Pay up front and your ticket will be refundable. You have until 24 hours befor the flight. If you read the T&Cs you only get 80% of your money back, which is fairly misleading of Opodo to word it as "Refundable ticket". Still, at £16.50 only it's hard to fault.

If you bought this directly with the airline it would cost you £166 extra. You would get free luggage, free seat selection with extra legroom, fast track security, priority check-in and boarding. Your ticket would be 100% refundable up to 30 minutes before the flight.

 

IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album
IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album
IBB.CO

Image image in OTA Scam - Opodo album

 

(part 3 and final part)

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IN CONCLUSION

  • Does Opodo use scammy and quite frankly a little bit disgusting tricks to overcharge customers? Absolutely
  • Should you avoid using them entirely? Not necessarily. If Opodo offer the best value for money, once you've removed the subscription discount and all the other hidden fees, then by all means, go for it.
    • You should absolutely avoid any ancillary services they propose like seat selection, luggage, or insurance, as you are bound to find cheaper elsewhere.
    • You should be confident that you are able to solve your own problems if the need arises, as their "customer service" is priced extortionately.
    • Flexible options might be worth buying, but only if you are travelling on a hard dicount/light ticket
  • Are they the only one? Certainly not. I didn't mean to single them out, but I had the opportunity of trying to buy a ticket with them today so it was a good time to expose all these hidden fees and charges they try and take. Be aware that many other OTAs use the same tactics. Some of them might actually price services reasonably, but care is due when browsing. As a rule of thumb buying with airline is always safe, unless you know exactly what you are paying for and are happy to use an OTA. You can sometimes get good discounts this way.

 

I am hoping that this guide will be helpful to some, and perhaps after we see some of these shady practices exposed, companies will think twice about their pricing strategies! If you enjoyed it, I might investigate a few other TAs when I get the chance.

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