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

Aug 15, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

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 261This 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.

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 Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.