With the year-end around the corner, it is time to start planning a perfect holiday. But don’t rush, don’t fall for airline ticket scams, sign up for flight price alerts, read the fine print and check new routes offered by airlines. Here are 10 things you should know before planning a holiday. (Also read | December resolutions: 5 things to do in the last month of the year)

Year end is round the corner. Don’t rush, don’t fall for airline ticket scams, sign up for flight price alerts, read the fine print and check new routes offered by airlines(Freepik)

  1. Listen to Interpol warning about airline ticket scams: Interpol has issued a warning about deals on airline tickets offering prices that sound ‘too good to be true’. Be careful before you buy, or you could wind up with no ticket and losing your money to criminals – a victim of airline ticket fraud, Interpol has stated.

How does airline ticket fraud work?

• Criminals use stolen, compromised or hacked credit card details to buy airline tickets

• The criminals offer these tickets for sale at bargain prices via professional-looking websites or social networking accounts which appear to be for legitimate travel agencies or agents

• The criminal ‘travel agents’ ask for immediate payment, typically by cash, bank transfer or virtual currencies

• After receiving your payment, the criminal sends you the flight booking confirmation – with their original purchase details deleted.

The red flags:

• Is the ticket price significantly cheaper than anywhere else? Since they make 100% profit, criminals will offer bargain prices to entice you to take their ‘deal’

• Is the departure date in the next few days? Criminals will offer fraudulently purchased tickets only one or two days before the flight (or even the same day), before the real credit card owner notices the fraud and cancels the ticket

• Are you asked to pay in cash or via bank transfer? With these methods, your money is gone instantly, and you have little recourse to get it back in case of fraud

• Does the travel agency’s website/social media account provide a full range of contact details, including a physical address and landline telephone number? When you buy an airline ticket in this manner, you put your money directly into the hands of criminals who use it to fund other serious crimes.

What happens:

• If the owner of the stolen credit card which was used by the criminal to make the initial purchase reports it before the scheduled flight, the ticket will be cancelled by the airline, and you will be unable to travel.

• If the credit card owner reports the fraudulent purchase during your trip, you could be stranded with no way to return home.

Tips for making safe purchases

• Book airline tickets directly from the airline, or a reputable travel agency which is certified by your country’s relevant authorities

• Only buy tickets online from websites with secure payment systems (e.g. https at the beginning of the web address)

• Research the travel agency you intend to buy from. Do they have a legitimate website? Do they have positive or negative online reviews? Is there a way to contact them in case of issues?

• Check the Terms and Conditions before making a purchase, in particular the refund policy and processes

• Look for the logo of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on the company’s website

2. Flight deal alerts: Sign up for flight deal alerts with websites and mobile apps that can keep track of your flights and alert you when the price changes so that you can get a good deal. Some of these websites are: Kayak, Skyscanner, Airfarewatchdog, Google flights, Hopper, Going, and FareCompare.

3. Read the refund/cancellation fine print: For air carriers, the fine print is called a ‘contract of carriage’ and contains important rules and provisions like check-in deadlines, refund procedures and the airline’s responsibility (or lack thereof) for delayed or canceled flights. Read all this before booking a flight so that you do not lose money for date change or cancellation.

4. Remember, the Error fares: It does not happen often but if you are lucky, you’ll find an error fare. Error fares, also known as mistake airfares or airline price glitches, occur when either an airline or an online travel agency accidentally lists the wrong price for a flight, selling the ticket for much less than it is worth. Some airlines will cancel the booking and refund the payment, others honour their mistake and let the passenger fly with the ‘error fare ticket’.

5. Check new routes added by the airline: When an airline starts a new route from a given airport, prices drop by an average of 20% on all airlines that fly the same route.

6. Turn layovers into free city trip: Long layovers are not necessarily nightmares, you can turn them into a hop-skip city tours. For example, if you have a layover of more than five and a half hours and less than 24 hours at Singapore’s Changi Airport, they offer two types of tour – the city sights tour and the heritage tour. South Korea’s Incheon Airport offers eight tours to travellers on a layover. If you have a layover of five or more hours at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, you can choose from five different tours offered. If you are flying with Qatar Airways and have a layover of at least 5 hours at Qatar Airport, you can take a sightseeing tour of Doha.

7. Use your frequent flyer miles: By selecting the right credit card and transferring your reward points earned on your card to the right airline, you can pay little or nothing for booking flight tickets or an upgrade. For example, HDFC, Axis, and AMEX enable their customers to transfer credit card reward points to over 15 airlines.

8. Incognito Mode: Turn to Incognito Mode while booking tickets. Why? Because most aggregator or airline sites follow your search patterns through cookies and IP addresses. Notice that if you check a flight price on a particular website and return to it later, it is likely that you’ll find a higher price. Hence, you use the incognito mode or delete all cookies after use.

9. Travel Insurance: If you travel a several times a year, buy an annual travel insurance that covers the US and Canada also. Annual travel insurances are much cheaper than booking insurance for every holiday separately.

10. Tourism Tax: Know about tourist or tourism tax that several countries have implemented. Check whether this tax is worked into airline tickets or the taxes you pay at your hotel. From April 1, 2024, tourist tax in Barcelona will rise to €3.25; in Valencia, visitors will have to pay between 50 cents and €2 per night depending on their chosen accommodation, for up to seven nights, Venice will introduce a tourist fee in 2024. Starting in 2024, non-European Union (EU) citizens from outside the Schengen zone, will have to fill out a €7 application to get in. Those under 18 or over 70 will not have to pay the fee.

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