Air Travel Scams, Rip-offs and Rackets

It’s like they say: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The air travel industry is not immune to scams and rip-offs – particularly what are known as phishing emails – so remain alert especially when opening unexpected emails.

Hear travel expert Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott reveal some of the more fiendish scams:

Which airlines get hit by phishing email

Phishing Emails

These have been plaguing airlines for years. Some may look like perfectly legitimate communications from valid carriers, but these phony emails ask you to provide personal or credit card information which airlines do not solicit via email. Other phishing messages ask you to click links designed to unleash viruses. Messages in phishing emails may include reminders about flights you never booked.

What to do: Hit delete. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of any email, contact your airline immediately. One more tip: change your miles program password.

Are Free Rewards Tickets Actually Free?

Free Tickets that Aren’t Free

Some in the Dallas area recently received postcards bearing the Delta logo. The message: they’d been selected to receive “2 round trip airfares to anywhere in the contiguous United States, good for the next 12 months.” A freebie was implied the word “free” did not appear anywhere on the postcard. That’s because it wasn’t free. I’m told to get the tickets, you had to jump through hoops: sit through a 90-minute presentation to entice you into joining a travel club (that may have membership costs in the thousands of dollars) and you also had to pay $200 for taxes on the free tickets. In case you’re wondering, taxes on average non-stop domestic tickets run about $23 round-trip or about $43 for a connecting flight.

What to do: Use your common sense. Learn as much as you possibly can about any such promotion before getting involved. Is it legit? Might want to check with the Better Business Bureau. I checked with Delta and they say they are not involved in this in any way. Such an expensive membership payment – if true – also strikes me as a good reason to stay away. Look, there are perfectly legitimate ways tickets and miles are used to sweeten purchases, but if a purchase is solely about promises of future travel and/or discounts and comes with a four figure price tag, without more information I don’t like the sound of it.

There are No Free-Tickets-for-Life. Usually.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Wish I had a nickel for every story I’ve heard about how babies born on planes who get free-flights-for-life. The rumor-busters at say those are phony stories.

Oh, wait. There was a child born on an AirAsia flight a couple of years back, and he did get free flights for life. The mom, too. OK, sometimes the stories are true.

More from Rick Seaney:

Free Airline Tickets: Scams, Rackets and Rip-offs


Published: May 22, 2013