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Here's a Big Reason You Should Be Careful When Booking Flights Through Third Parties

Aug. 15, 2019
4 min read
Here's a Big Reason You Should Be Careful When Booking Flights Through Third Parties
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French airline La Compagnie has made a name for itself with extremely low business-class fares between the East Coast and France. And with the airline's brand-new lie-flat Airbus A321LR now in service, there's never been a better time to fly the with them. However, as TPG reader Rick O. recently experienced, it isn't all smooth sailing.

Rick booked a flight from Paris - Orly (ORY) to Newark (EWR) on La Compagnie's Boeing 757. While that plane sports the carrier’s dated angle-flat seats, they're business-class seats nonetheless.

(Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy)

But instead of an all-business-class plane, Rick was met with an all-economy Titan Airways 757. These weren't some super-posh coach seats like what you'd find on Emirates' A380 either. Each seat had 31 inches of pitch and no seat-back entertainment screen or power outlets. Understandably, Rick was quite frustrated and had a lot of questions.

(Photo courtesy of TPG reader Rick O.)

With just three planes currently in its fleet, La Compagnie doesn't have any “spare” aircraft sitting around in case of unexpected maintenance issues. So, to avoid further disruption, the airline occasionally has no option but to swap in an aircraft from a wet-lease operator. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of an airline making an aircraft swap on one of its transatlantic routes either. For instance, Norwegian has relied on wet-leasing aircraft to operate long-haul flights when it was forced to ground many of its Dreamliners.

These wet-leased aircraft often represent a downgrade for passengers, so airlines typically notify passengers of the swaps in advance. La Compagnie is no different and did notify passengers on Rick's flight. The airline also proactively initiated 75% refunds, which it was obligated to pay under EU Regulation 261. This rule promises passengers certain rights, including 25% to 75% refunds in the case of downgrades and up to 600 euros in compensation when a flight out of the EU is delayed more than four hours. Still, Rick was bewildered when he boarded his flight.

(Photo courtesy of TPG reader Rick O.)

In order to be able to notify passengers about changes like these, airlines need your contact information. If you book through a third party, then that information isn't always passed on. Unfortunately for Rick, because he booked through a travel agent, he hadn't received any of the emails from the airline.

A heads-up could have allowed Rick to explore alternatives before boarding his flight — though, as TPG's Zach Honig found out, La Compagnie is extremely inflexible when it comes to rebooking passengers because of an aircraft swap. On the bright side, despite booking through a third party, Rick is still entitled compensation under EC 261. He'll just need to go through a few extra steps to manually request it.

Bottom Line

There are many reasons to book your flights directly with airlines. Aside from ensuring that you'll be notified of any changes to your trip, booking direct typically ensures you're getting the lowest price available and have more leverage in case you need to be rebooked. Plus, some credit cards that offer bonuses on airfare spending only award the extra points when you book directly from the airline. For instance, to earn 5x points on airfare with The Platinum Card® from American Express, you must purchase the flight directly from the airline or through Amex Travel.

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Related: The Best Credit Cards for Airfare Purchases

If you don't book direct, you'll want to reach out to the airline and provide them with your contact information. In case something goes wrong and the airline doesn't notify you, familiarize yourself with your rights as you'll still be eligible for compensation. Some airlines, such as Norwegian, allow passengers booked on flights with aircraft swaps to switch their flights to another day or destination in the same cabin free of charge.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more