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Cleveland BBB warns about third-party websites when searching for travel services

Posted at 11:46 PM, Feb 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 11:49:58-05

Otelia and Joe Simmons of Uniontown believe they were misled when they needed to book an emergency flight back home in Sept. 2016.

The couple had just landed in Honolulu for their 40 wedding anniversary when they got a call that Otelia's brother was extremely ill.

Joe Simmons told News 5 he immediately got onto his iPad and logged into the United Airlines official website, where he says he was led to a phone number, which he called to book a flight back to Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

Simmons said he thought he called United Airlines and said the agent on the phone never told him he was from a third party agency.

Simmons said he learned he actually booked with Cheapflightsfares.com when he got his credit card statement from Chase Bank, which listed a charge of $2,186.86

Simmons believes he could have obtained ticket prices that were far less money from United Airlines if he was told upfront he wasn't calling United.

"The link to the phone number was on the official United website, and the agent picking up the phone didn't say he was from Cheapflightfares.com when he first took my call," said Simmons.

"I know I should have been more careful, but it was a family emergency, and I feel that I was exploited."

"I think they take advantage when they can, similar to a piranha or a shark."

Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell told News 5 her agency has had its share of problems with Cheapflightsfares.com, giving the company and "F" rating, based on 41 consumer complaints over the past three years.

McConnell warned consumers to take extra care when running online searches for services from name brand companies.

"This company has refund issues, ticketing issues, pricing issues," said McConnell.

"Results pop up on Google, that result that you're looking at might not be the company that you're searching for, it could be a third-party."

News 5 contacted Cheapflightsfares.com by telephone, a supervisor said her team tried to contact the Simmons family three times about this case, but didn't get any answer form them at their home.

The company agreed it would look further into the situation.

Meanwhile, McConnell said the company is now trying to work with the BBB to settle its unresolved consumer complaints, and improve its "F" rating.

United Airlines responded by refunding all baggage fees assessed during the emergency flight back to Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

Chase Bank responded, and said it would further examine the case, after refusing a fraud claim reversal of the charges in Jan. of 2017.