Consumers complain travel agency has posed as major airlines

Date:

The Better Business Bureau published an alert on its website saying it has received multiple reports of misleading airline ticket booking sites and customer service numbers that are duping travelers.

The BBB of Greater Houston says some of these complaints point to a local travel agency.  

It says it has received nearly 30 complaints and reviews from customers, who say they believed they had called major airlines, were charged extra fees, or didn’t get tickets they paid for after dealing with what was really a travel agency in Houston.

“I called a number that I found online that said Spirit Airlines,” said traveler Rose Ingle.

“I Googled ‘book flight with Flair Airlines’ or something like that, and this is what came up,” said traveler Brian Valenta. 

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And said another traveler, Audrey Griffith, “I contacted what I thought was United, I called them and there was a gentleman named Jack, and he told me he was from United.”

The Better Business Bureau says about 30 people from across the country have filed complaints, saying they either searched on Google for an airline, or received an email or text that a booked flight was changed or canceled, but the phone numbers led them to Fly Vault Travels.

“They started out ‘Spirit Airlines, how may I help you?'” said Ingle.  

Many say they were charged hundreds of dollars in fees to book or change reservations.  

“In other cases, things are not going through. They purchase a ticket, and they come to find they go to the actual airline and there is no ticket for them,” said Leah Napoliello with the BBB.  

“I called United, and they were like we have no record of speaking to you,” said Griffith.

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We called Fly Vault Travels, but didn’t hear back.

We went to the address listed for Fly Vault Travels with the Texas Secretary of State, which was a house in a residential neighborhood.

A man inside, who said it was Fly Vault, talked to us through a cracked door.

We asked him if they had been telling people that they are real airlines.  

He responded, “Ok, I’m going to check with my assistant what he thinks and then get back to you.”

Then we got a call from Arpit Grover, who says he’s an associate for Fly Vault Travels and the person who takes care of business.

We asked Grover how these customers who are searching for major airlines online are being connected to Fly Vault.  

Arpit Grover responded, “We are not aware about it. We get all our leads through a third-party marketing agency.”

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When we asked if he could give us the name of these third-party marketing companies, Grover responded, “This is a trade secret.”

Grover says they do not identify themselves as the airlines.  He sent us what he says is a consent email they send to customers, disclosing their charges for non-refundable tickets through Fly Vault Travels, which some customers tell us they did sign.  

Ingle told us she signed the consent email, but said, “He was rushing, rushing, hurry up, I need to get this back before the tickets get taken.”

Some customers say they asked Fly Vault for refunds, but its no-refund policy left them with just a wing and a prayer.

“I told him I didn’t like what he was doing.  I used stronger language than that. He got up upset and said, Is that the way you would talk to your mother?  I said no, but my mother wouldn’t treat me the way you just did,” said Valenta.

We asked airlines how they are responding to consumer complaints about misleading airline booking sites and customer service numbers they say they’ve found online.  

United Airlines writes, “United works diligently to proactively defend our customers from scams. We are aware of this matter and our teams are actively investigating.”

Delta writes, “Whenever we become aware of an alleged scam targeting our customers, including in this situation, we immediately conduct an investigation. Using the facts gained from an investigation, when able, we can then address each unique situation as appropriate with the necessary legal means at our disposal.”

Delta says it is in constant communication with both law enforcement and Google about links impersonating Delta, and advises customers to contact airlines through known channels, such as Delta’s customer service number, 1-800-221-1212, and its website, which has a 24/7 messaging option.

To help ensure that you make contact with the airline you’re looking to reach, you can download the airline’s app.  Then you can either contact the airline directly through the app, or find its correct phone number on the app.  

When searching for an airline’s website, double-check the URL for any extra letters or misspellings, which can be signs of a fake site.

Grover says the complaints the BBB has received don’t reflect Fly Vault’s thousands of customers.  

He sent us the following written statement of what he refers to as FAQ’s:

“Q-How do we deal with business?
Ans:Once customer gives us a consent on an email for a particular job, we get started for same.

Q-Do we charge customer if we are not able to deliver what customer requested for?
Ans:No we do not charge customers if we are not able to deliver what the customer requested.

Q-Do we charge without getting a consent email from customer?
Ans:No we do not go for any billing until we get a consent from customer via email. Customer should look into email and reply us in positive note like (I approve, I confirm) or any vocabulary which indicates that customer have gone through a document and agreeing to terms for business.

Q-How do we market our services?
Ans:We market our services via third party marketing sources. Few of these are listed on Offer Vault. However, we do not have any control on their marketing practice. We are just a consumer for them.

Q-Do we have any affiliation with any airlines?
Ans:We do not have any affiliation with any airlines and its already mentioned in our disclaimer.

Q-What payment method is used for payments?
Ans:We use only legal payment methods, credit and debit cards for payments.

Q-Do we charge any extra amount to customer apart from mentioned in consent email?
Ans:No we do not charge any extra amount apart from what is mentioned in consent email. Once in a blue-moon, incase of any manual error if any wrong or extra amount is charged then we reverse it within 24 hours.

Q-Do we take any airline name when we start our call or in between of conversation?
Ans:No, we do not take name of any airlines while opening a call. We greet like – (Thankyou for calling flight reservations) or few agents use (Welcome to flight reservations).This is major practice we follow to keep a check on our quality of sales or service.

You can go through with these FAQs above for overview on our business practice. We hope it will clear all your doubts. We would like to enlighten a fact that no business can satisfy 100% of their consumers and in democracy consumers have a right to dispute transaction given on consent via credit card even after agreeing to terms or write a review without thinking if they have given a consent for business. We are dealing fair business and catering thousands of customers annually, availing them best possible fares on mojor airlines through our partners. Customer is always aware of fact about whom they are dealing with and what they are getting on what price.”

Grover also sent us what he says is a consent email that Fly Vault Travels asks customers to sign:

“Dear Passenger,
Greetings for the day! I hope this message finds you well.
We are delighted to confirm the flight booking for you and your fellow passengers.
I kindly request you to review the following itinerary with passenger information:

Passenger’s Name : 
Date of Birth :

Passenger’s Name : 
Date of Birth :

Confirmation Number / Booking Reference :

To facilitate a seamless and secure transaction, we kindly request you to check the following details and authorize if they are correct to your knowledge:

Card Type: 
Cardholder’s Name: 
Last Four Digits of Card: 
Expiration Date of Card: 
CVV:
Billing Address of Cardholder:

Phone Number of Passenger and Cardholder:

Class of Service Offered:

Booking Itinerary:
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Based on our telephonic conversation, you have agreed to book your flights through our services and have agreed to pay the Airline Base amount of $0.00, FVT charge of $0.00. The grand total is $0.00 USD.
Please note that the tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable. Name changes are not permissible. Schedule changes or flight changes are subject to a fee, which depends on current availability at the time of request. However, please note that the same conditions are not applicable to basic economy tickets. Fares are not guaranteed until the tickets are issued. For any modifications, please feel free to contact our representative at +1(XXX)XXX-XXXX.

Terms of Use:
Please be aware that the tickets are non-refundable, non-transferable, and name changes are not permitted. In the event of any schedule changes, penalties may apply based on availability.
Fares are not guaranteed until the tickets are issued.
For any modifications, please contact us at +1 (XXX) XXX-XXXX. Our customer service is available 24/7.
We would like to advise all customers to ensure they have the necessary travel documents (such as transit visas or entry visas) for the countries they are transiting through or visiting. We cannot be held responsible if proper travel documents are not available, resulting in denied entry or transit into a country. We recommend consulting the embassy of the country(s) you are visiting or transiting through for specific requirements.

These terms and conditions (Terms of Use) apply to your use of Fly Vault Travels, in short denoted as (FVT) in this agreement, including its services, products, and contents. This is a legal agreement between you and FVT. Please read all the information provided carefully and agree to the terms and conditions outlined in this agreement when accessing or using any of FVT’s products, services, or contents.

Traveler’s name: When making a reservation, please ensure that the traveler’s first name and last name are entered exactly as they appear on their government-issued identification or passport for international travel. Once approved in this consent email, the name cannot be changed after the tickets are issued. Please note that a penalty fee may apply for minor name corrections, subject to airline policies.

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any specific airline, nor do we have direct connections with them. However, we operate as a travel consultant or travel agency, providing services such as booking reservations, making changes, or canceling reservations on behalf of our customers. Additionally, we can assist customers with changes or cancelation for bookings not made through us, charging a certain fee based on availability and class of service. Payments may be processed in separate transactions if booking is made directly with the airline or through our fare consolidator. The total payment amount will remain as communicated in this consent email. The use of airline logos on itineraries is solely for the customer’s reference to identify the airline they are booked with.

Fare policy: All tickets are not guaranteed until they are issued. The fare may change at any time, even after the reservation is confirmed. FVT will inform you of any fare changes made by the airline or supplier, without assuming any responsibility – financial or otherwise – for such alterations. You will be notified of the new fares and can decide whether to proceed with the purchase or cancel the product or service at the new cost. In the event of a price increase before ticketing and charging your card, you can cancel the booking at no cost.

Payment policy: FVT accepts debit and credit cards. All prices will be displayed in the respective currency as mentioned in the document, with the default currency set as US dollars (USD) unless otherwise requested by the customer. FVT reserves the right to split charges with the supplier or airlines, but the total amount will remain as authorized in the provided quote. Please note that baggage fees are not included in the ticket fares. Tickets are guaranteed only after ticketing is completed, and they will not be guaranteed upon submission of payment. If your credit card payment fails for any reason, we will notify you within 24 hours.

Third-party payments with credit or debit cards: If you are using an international debit or credit card to purchase plane tickets for personal travel or on behalf of someone else, certain documents are required to verify the processing of the passenger’s e-tickets. These include a complete credit card authorization form, a copy of a government-issued photo ID, a front copy of the credit/debit card showing the last four digits, card network, and cardholder’s name. These documents are necessary to verify the payment and are required from the original payment maker.

Changes and cancellation: To request a complete refund, as per the regulations of the Ministry of Transportation in the US, passengers traveling from the United States must submit cancellation or exchange requests within 24 hours. All tickets purchased from us become non-refundable once the ticketing process is completed and the 24-hour cancellation window has passed. However, you retain the right to request a refund or exchange if allowed by the airline’s fare rules associated with your ticket(s). Please note that FVT’s fee remains constant and non-refundable. FVT may charge a change or refund fee for handling your cancellation request. We do not have control over airline penalties imposed on the amount paid for the ticket(s).

When traveling internationally, you may be offered the option to travel on multiple airlines. Each airline has its own set of rules. If different fare rules apply to the total fare, the most restrictive fare rules will apply to the entire reservation.
Thank you for choosing to do business with us. If you require assistance in modifying your reservation, please contact our toll-free line at +1-XXX-XXX-XXXX, available 24 hours a day.”
 

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