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Warning when buying airline tickets from JustFly

Warning when buying airline tickets from JustFly

The state of California has launched a lawsuit against online travel agencies FlightHub and JustFly for alleged “unscrupulous business practices, designed to fleece the average consumer.”

FlightHub and JustFly’s parent company is Montreal-based FlightHub Group, formerly known as Momentum Ventures.

The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court on Sept. 19, accuses the company of “swindling its customers for years” with practices such as charging “deceptive, false, and hidden fees,” advertising enticing airfares that don’t exist and failing to deliver prompt refunds.

“We’ve received complaints and done investigations that show that there is a variety of practices that are unlawful or unfair under California law,” said San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the state.

“What we’re trying to do is to stop a practice so that more people are not victimized.”

A spokesperson for FlightHub and JustFly told CBC News in California that the lawsuit focuses solely on JustFly and that its claims are baseless because the agency is transparent and compliant with regulations governing the industry.

According to the suit, the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have received more than 2,000 customer complaints about JustFly and FlightHub in the past two years — more than any other online travel site.

FlightHub is geared toward Canadian customers while JustFly targets the U.S. market.

Methé said customers purchased more than five million airline tickets using the agencies in 2018 and that the “vast majority” are “highly satisfied” with their service.

The Better Business Bureau has posted an alert for JustFly and FlightHub after identifying a pattern of complaints with the two online travel agencies. (Better Business Bureau)

The Office de la protection du consommateur — the consumer protection agency in Quebec where FlightHub Group is based — reports it’s concerned after receiving 77 complaints involving both agencies over the past two years.

Complaints shared with several media companies include one from Bernadette Villareal of Airdrie, Alta..  She was distraught because she still hadn’t received a promised $5,200 refund for five airline tickets she canceled on May 28 — more than four months ago.

In March, she booked the tickets through FlightHub for a family trip to the Philippines in June. But then her father, who lived in the Philippines, died, forcing Villareal to cancel the tickets. She repurchased them for an earlier date so the family could attend the funeral.

When Villareal’s promised refund for the canceled tickets didn’t materialize, she continually called and emailed FlightHub with no success, she said.

The agency told  Villareal the cause for the long delay by filing a claim for the missing money with her debit card provider, which had to be sorted out first.

Villareal said she didn’t file a claim until July 18 — after waiting more than six weeks for her refund.

Patricia McPhee in Bowden booked a flight to the Philippines over the phone and said the FlightHub agent misspelled her travel companion’s name by one letter on the ticket.

During one followup call which McPhee recorded, FlightHub blamed her for the mistake and suggested she may have to cancel and rebook the ticket, plus pay a $465 cancellation fee.

During another call, McPhee said, FlightHub told her the airline involved, EVA Air, would do the fix for $300. On Sept. 20, she called EVA Air and learned that it wouldn’t charge for the fix, which must be done by FlightHub.

On Sept. 23, CBC News contacted FlightHub about McPhee’s case. Later that day, the agency fixed the mistake at no cost. “It was nerve-racking,” said McPhee. “It should have been fixed within 10 minutes. It took 10 days.”

Although only customers in California could benefit financially from the suit, its wider aim is to stop FlightHub Group from engaging in alleged unfair business practices.