Travel agencies 'rip off' SA consumers

2011-11-14 11:35

Johannesburg - South Africans are being ripped off by traditional travel agencies which do not provide the best available flight prices for customers, according to research commissioned by online travel agency Travelstart.

Synovate, a multinational consumer research company appointed by Travelstart, contacted 50 different branches of six traditional travel agency groups to explore flight pricing, pricing consistency and the level of service offered.

The researchers asked for the cheapest available prices for return economy class flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to 10 international destinations popular with South African travellers.

Of the 10 destinations surveyed, the prices for flights to Amsterdam, on the same dates, were the most alarming, with the quotes ranging from R6 000 up to R14 300 from Cape Town, and from R7 429 up to R12 426 from Johannesburg.

Big variations

Even more alarming was the fact that six different outlets of one particular traditional travel agency group offered quotes that varied by up to R5 300 on the Cape Town to Amsterdam route.

The prices quoted to London from Johannesburg on the same dates ranged from R8 628 up to R16 155 - a huge variance of R7 527, which equates to of 87% - for a family of four travelling to London. This would mean an overcharge of more than R30 000.

Flights to Frankfurt on the same dates were no better, with one agency quoting R6 115 from Johannesburg and R6 369 from Cape Town.

This was great if you were lucky enough to call that particular agency to book those flights. But if you were unlucky enough to call a different agency, you could have been hit with a fare of R11 400 from Johannesburg and R8 213 from Cape Town - a whopping 86% more expensive in the case of the Johannesburg price.

Travelstart CEO Stephan Ekbergh said: "We were expecting different prices when we commissioned this research to compare our online service with traditional offerings, but we were shocked at the huge price variations from the traditional travel agency groups.

"We were even more surprised at how different branches of the same travel agency group were quoting such different fares. This research shows that South African travellers simply cannot trust that the traditional travel agencies will get them the best available flight deal first time round."

Ekbergh explained that every travel agency (whether online or traditional) had access to the same fares distributed by the airlines, worldwide. "So pricing discrepancies, like we have seen in these results, occur when travel agencies load fares with exorbitant and inconsistent service fees."


  • gcr - 2011-11-14 12:46

    This is not half the problem try booking a flight on line for the times you want to fly internally and you will find massive price discrepencies. I prefer to go to Flight Centre and put together a package because if you try Mango or any of the others they love quoting one way flights

      100003155616847 - 2011-11-14 13:10

      this seems to be travelstar punting their business thats all, doesnt seem like a independent and unbiases survey

      Jeffrey - 2011-11-14 13:37

      If you are too stupid or lazy to book your own flights directly through the airlines then you deserve to pay more. Even FlightCenter charges more. When I flew Emirates to Amsterdam I couldn't find one travel agent that could beat the airlines price.

  • Jeffrey - 2011-11-14 13:38

    We consumers are aware of this for years.Tell us something new and not this same old hogwash.Even airport taxes vary to the same destination. This needs to be regulated.

      JuliusAunt - 2011-11-14 16:28

      Well Jeffrey, get your facts straight, The Travel retail industry is regulated, both by IATA and ASATA,Its the 3 rd party service providers in other countries that are not. So good luck and book your holiday directly, and good luck when you arrive at your destination wit your internet vouchers just to find out your hotel is sitting on a grave yard

  • Baakens - 2011-11-14 13:54

    I have found Travelstart fates to be competitive and working online with them is super easy.

      Baakens - 2011-11-14 13:55

      I mean fares not fates!! Although fate would have it I spelled it wrong!

  • JuliusAunt - 2011-11-14 14:34

    How hypocritical, Travelstrat is also a Travel agency , so what they actually are saying is that they also rip-off consumers?

  • Honest Agent - 2011-11-14 14:51

    This story is sooo one sided !!! Yes, some agents do charge higher service fees than others but there are MANY factors when you quote a client. Some agencies will quote you what the cheapest fare is but is is not necessarily available. Other agencies will quote you the cheapest, available fare - that already gives you a difference in quotes. This does not mean that the agency quoting the higher fare is ripping anyone off - it just means the cheaper fare is not available. I am an independant agent and often my fares come in cheaper than Travelstart - so does that mean they are ripping their clients off???

  • Professional - 2011-11-14 15:00

    Maybe instead of trying to slate the competition (as many Travel Agents come in cheaper than travelstart - I know I do at least 80 % of the time !) Travelstart should spend money on advertising rather than stooping to this level to try and get more business !!

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-14 15:06

    Travel agents in general are for the rich, anyone who has spent any time touring overseas already knows that it is a lot cheaper to plan yourself even if it takes more time. Our family vacations overseas were always a week or to longer if we bypassed travel agents.

      JuliusAunt - 2011-11-14 15:57

      Well good for you, hope the airline will help when there is a strike, ash-cloud and tsunami. Hope the hOtel on the internet site has a sea-view room as advertized on the internet, and i hope you have also done your checks on Visa requirments of the countries you want to visit. I hope you have good medical aid if something goes wrong and I hopethe airline will inform you when they flight has been delayed. I hope there is someone to pick you up at the airport when you arrive and I hope you get all your money back in the event that you want to cancel your trip.

  • pgibbings1 - 2011-11-14 17:48

    Its called convenience - thats why it is so much more expensive

  • Friday4Life - 2011-11-14 20:35

    @JuliusAunt - If you can't sort out your own travel insurance for those cancelled flights yourself; If you can't sort out booking directly with a hotel and dealing with the odd mess up yourself; If you can't check a nations visa requirements at their embassy yourself; If you can't sort out your own travel medical insurance yourself; If you can't sort out your own airport transfers yourself and if you can't deal with cancelling your trip yourself... then by all means pay the "nanny fee" of using an agency - your choice.

      JuliusAunt - 2011-11-15 08:36

      Well firday4life,I presume you service your own car in your garage ,pull your own tooth , install your own new geyser ,operate on your tannie’s broken knee, represent yourself in court, home-school your children, file your own tax return, and catch the thief that broken into your house single handed.

      TravelWorks - 2011-11-15 09:23

      @JuliusAunt - I can mow my own lawn but I would rather pay someone else to do it. We can do lots of things ourselves but my time is money ,and if your time is not that valuable, which presumable it is not, then spend days bookings your own holidays and checking out the insurance, visa ,hotel, car airline web sites etc and possible save yourselves a few rands. I would much rather get my agent to do it and use my time more productively !

  • shyjakes - 2011-11-14 21:59

    Well We can Always Blame the Landlords Rent

  • TravelWorks - 2011-11-15 09:15

    Whilst this survey might be taken at face value the statement by Travelstart is decidedly one sided and one expected from an agency that is attempting to drive traffic to their site. TravelWorks is not a travel agency but an independent Strategic Analyst for companies wishing to seriously contain travel costs. There are numerous factors / arguments that will counter Travelstarts comments and before TravelStart point fingers they should look at the true value that professional travel agencies add to containing corporate travel costs for organisations. TravelWorks is more than welcome to go "Head to Head" with travelstart to rectify the misconception portrayed via this article. Digby Johnson CEO , TravelWorks

      JuliusAunt - 2011-11-15 09:40

      Well Travelworks, I think you misunderstood my sarcastic remark aimed at friday4life, so chill bro, I am a travelagent!!

  • JuliusAunt - 2011-11-15 12:24

    Bloody Agents... Don't Laugh!

  • Martin - 2011-11-16 08:44

    I'm not entirely sure how the author of this article can state that people are being ripped off by the travel agent. It is the responsibility of the consumer to educate him/herself and to ensure that he/she has the information available to derive the greatest utility on a purchase. Why would a person not sell something at a higher price if there is no reason to sell it at a lower price.

  • trace.patchin - 2011-11-16 12:50

    Oh my gosh - catch a wake up.... Ever priced the services of a lawyer... They all differ as well... This is what you're paying for - Service !!! Any idiot can book on the internet, but it's when all hell breaks loose that they come crying to the REAL travel agent to assist them...I know of someone who booked through Travelstart, only to be denied boarding as they didn't have a visa. That wouldn't have happened if they had dealt with the professionals. Grrr - this type of publicity makes me so damn mad !!!I have been a travel agent for 26 years, and I get referals and repeats all the time. This is because of the great service theyy receive. Seriously Travelstart, catch a wake up !!

  • Jake Hower - 2011-11-22 04:33

    It would be good to see the results of this research, were the quotes based on the same airlines, or did the prices differ by so much due to not comparing apples with apples?

  • Serame - 2012-06-11 09:18

    Nice Try about you first disclose your ticket terms and conditions???Most of your tickets are nonrefundable,non endorseable and to worse extent non-changeable..

  • Serame - 2012-06-11 09:19

    Nice Try about you first disclose your ticket terms and conditions???Most of your tickets are nonrefundable,non endorseable and to worse extent non-changeable..

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