STA Travel and their uncertain ‘Price Beat Guarantee’
Another trip is on the horizon – and it’ll be visit number eight to Thailand. With me travelling at Easter, the prices were already quite steep, so I was keen to take advantage of ‘best price guarantees’ offered by no end of travel agencies and to try and save a few pounds more on my fare. Unfortunately, one particular travel agency was keen to ensure that the booking process was anything but smooth!
On their website, STA Travel say We’re so confident that we have the best flight prices anywhere that we guarantee to beat your quote or we’ll give you your next flight for FREE! With a price direct from the airline, I approached them, but one of their ridiculous terms and conditions stated that they could not beat the price offered by an airline – whatever happened to best flight prices anywhere? Since they couldn’t beat that price, I offered them the next cheapest fare, which again they found excuses not to match.
In the end, I gave up on STA Travel and would encourage others to do the same. Their service is appalling and their Price Beat Guarantee is, well, not really guaranteed at all.
I contacted STA Travel by email this morning and am awaiting their reply. Just as soon as I hear back, the reply will no doubt end up on here, because I have a feeling I won’t be getting the free flight that I am owed.
From: Michael Kinghorn
Sent: 14 January 2012 11:39
Subject: The STA Travel Price Beat Guarantee – Complaint
Dear STA Travel,
Reading your website, I was drawn to the page that talks about your ‘price beat guarantee’, where you make the claim, ‘We’re so confident that we have the best flight prices anywhere that we guarantee to beat your quote or we’ll give you your next flight for FREE!’
On the evening of Friday 13 January, I wanted to book a return flight to Bangkok with Oman Air, and, as always, I had spent some hours researching the best possible prices using every travel website that I could think of – yours included. It was my intention to travel on Wednesday 4 April on flight WY102 from London Heathrow to Muscat connecting onto WY817 to Bangkok. I planned to return on Monday 16 April on flight WY814 to Muscat connecting onto WY101 to London Heathrow – joining my family who were already booked on these very same flights.
Contrary to the bold statement made on your website, you were not offering the best flight prices anywhere, as I found no end of websites selling my preferred flights for less than STA Travel’s £660.86 fare. I was drawn to the airline’s own website – www.omanair.com – where the same flight could be purchased for £650.86. Aware of your guarantee, I wasted no time in contacting your call centre, keen to get myself a better deal.
Calling shortly before 7.30pm, it took approximately 30 minutes to get through to one of your workers. The better price was pointed out and it was explained that you could not match any price quoted by an airline, which, I later found was mentioned in your terms and conditions. Still, it seems ludicrous to me. You really shouldn’t be making such wild claims about how your prices are guaranteed to be the cheapest when clearly they aren’t. But armed with a list of websites offering the same flight for pennies more, I started to point out more. If you weren’t able to beat the £650.86 offered by booking directly with Oman Air, you would surely beat the £651.00 offered by Flight Catchers. As per your terms and conditions, I offered to send a screenshot of the price at the final booking stage and to send it by email, but that was apparently a problem. With no management in the office to receive the email, the price could not be verified and the flight price could not be beaten. Point five in your terms and conditions states that STA Travel will check the quote for availability and booking conditions that same day – why could this not happen? Why was it necessary for an email to be sent? Surely, your staff have access to competitor’s websites so that cheaper prices can be confirmed quickly and easily?
Earlier this morning (Saturday), having booked my ticket with a cheaper provider, I contacted STA Travel again, this time to point out my concerns about the handling of my request. Again, it was somebody who did not understand the terms of the price beat guarantee. He told me that STA Travel had 24 hours to check the prices – which contradicts item 5 (mentioned above) and item 6 (the only term that makes any reference to a 24 hour investigation period – but only if there is suspicion over the price quoted). There was no suspicion over the price and at least two websites were allowing to me to purchase a trip at a price less than that of STA Travel.
Attached are three images – a screenshot of the price offered by Flight Catchers and another showing your price (both as of about 10 minutes ago – but still clearly showing that you are not the cheapest provider) and a screenshot of my confirmation email from Oman Air.
Your guarantee clearly states that if a price cannot be beaten, the traveller is entitled to a free flight (or travel credit) for a future booking. I have provided you with sufficient information here to disprove your best flight price claims and, since you no doubt record calls to your call centre, you might also like to retrieve the recordings of the calls made on the evening of Friday 13 January and again on the morning of Saturday 14 January.
I look forward to seeing you soon to book my free flight to Thailand, which I expect I will take towards the end of the year.
Given the recent interest in my encounter with STA Travel, I really ought to provide an update. After sending four emails to the same Customer Relations worker, I gave up and decided to pursue my complaint at a more senior level, dealing with a Head of Customer Services. The response was an arrogant one. The efforts of STA Travel were praised and I was told that I did not understand the terms of the offer – when I most certainly did! In one of my emails, I quoted each of the terms and conditions of the offer and explained at length how everything I had done was well in line them. What it comes down to is that STA Travel did not have adequate staff in their call centre (not mentioned in the terms and conditions) and they could not be bothered to investigate my ‘erroneous’ fare (which was just £9.86 cheaper than STA Travel and therefore not erroneous). A 2-minute search of the internet would have confirmed that a cheaper price could be had online.
At a time when money is tight for many of us, I hope those of us that can still manage an overseas trip avoid using STA Travel. It simply is not acceptable for companies to make false claims in order to attract customers! And judging by the comments below, I am not the only person left feeling disappointed and cheated by this ridiculous company. Boycott STA Travel, I say!
Have you also been affected by a price promise guarantee by STA Travel or any other travel agency? Post your comments below or contact me with your stories!