'Qualify' for a Fleecing?
Buy a "qualifying" ticket and get a huge discount, or some "free" deal, or something extra -- that's a common come-on in the travel marketplace. And although those deals can sometimes be really good, the fine print often results in your paying more than you should, not less.
I'm indebted to the excellent Website, The Cranky Flier (www.crankyflier.com) for bringing attention to my first example:
As part of a "bonus" promotion, United offered extra frequent flyer miles on flights to/from
Here's another case: For years, the AmEx Platinum Card has featured twofers in business class (and some in first class) for international flights on 22 airlines, including some of the biggest. The deal is straightforward: Buy one ticket at the regular price and get a companion ticket at no extra charge. The catch is equally straightforward: that "regular price" limitation. The only type of ticket that qualifies for the twofer is a full-fare ticket. And that's a good deal only if you have to buy a full-fare ticket for some other reason; these days, you can find big discounts on business class tickets. On
Of course, some "too good to be true" offers you see are outright scams. Although they're a problem, I'm concentrating now on offers that are honest -- just not as good as they sound.
Over the years, I've looked at all sorts of twofer, companion, and other "free" promotions. Some of them have, in fact, been good deals. But all too often, the ticket/room/cabin/whatever you have to buy to "qualify" for the supposed freebie actually costs a lot more than the cheapest ticket/room/cabin/whatever you can buy, absent the promotion.
Fortunately, misleading promotions such as these are easy to detect and avoid. Just check out what you'd have to pay with the promotion and then re-check for the lowest rate/fare you can buy without reference to the promotion. And compare the restrictions on both options. If the promotion still looks good, by all means take advantage of it. If not, go with the non-promotional alternative.
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(c) 2010 Ed Perkins
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