Better Business Bureau posts consumer alert for FlightHub, JustFly due to pattern of complaints
FlightHub spokesperson says most customers have had positive experiences with the online travel agencies
Following a CBC News story about two customer complaints involving FlightHub, several readers wrote in detailing their gripes with the online travel agency.
"I fear I'll never get my money back," wrote Derek Losier of Niagara Falls, Ont. He said that more than a month after he complained to the agency, he was still waiting for a refund for two airline tickets FlightHub had sold him that turned out to be invalid.
"I definitely feel taken advantage of."
CBC News interviewed three other FlightHub customers who each had similar complaints: They couldn't secure a refund for airline tickets purchased through the agency that, for various reasons, didn't translate into an actual flight.
Each received refunds plus added compensation after CBC News contacted Montreal-based Momentum Ventures. The company owns and operates FlightHub and JustFly — another online travel agency that mostly serves the U.S. market.
But the complaints don't end there. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that FlightHub and JustFly generated nearly 800 customer complaints over the past 12 months and it is warning customers that many of the complaints are similar.
The business watchdog is currently combining the two agencies into one online profile after learning from CBC News last week that they're owned by the same company.
"Even if a business is answering complaints, patterns can show that the company is not addressing the underlying problems," BBB spokesperson Katherine Hutt said in an email. "It's up to the company to make the necessary improvements."
In July, FlightHub and JustFly informed the BBB that they're reviewing customer feedback and working to improve the customer experience.
The BBB first established a pattern of complaints involving JustFly in May, and with FlightHub back in 2014.
The bureau says that in 2016, FlightHub pledged to work with the BBB to resolve the problem, but that the pattern of complaints continued.
Momentum Ventures declined to do a phone interview with CBC News, but Pierre Methé, FlightHub's director of customer service, responded to questions by email.
He said that more than 10,000 people book with FlightHub and JustFly daily, so the BBB complaints represent only a tiny fraction of customers.
"The feedback we receive is largely positive, which explains our success in this highly competitive industry," he said.
The agency provided refunds plus FlightHub travel vouchers totalling at least $1,500 to each customer CBC News interviewed.
"When these rare situations arise our primary goal is to ensure a timely and satisfactory resolution," Methé said.
But Losier feels he got a satisfactory resolution only after contacting the media.
"It's unfortunate that we had to go to a reporter to get it done."
His ordeal began when he learned of an amazing deal advertised by FlightHub: about $250 for a round-trip ticket from Toronto to Naples on Air Italy.
We were lost and angry and upset.- Derek Losier of Niagara Falls, Ont.
Because the airline had only recently begun flying from Toronto, Losier figured it was a special promotion. On May 29, he and two friends, Adrian Dywan and Tina Belcamino, each bought tickets for themselves and their partners, departing on Sept. 29.
"We were all excited," said Losier. But that excitement died a few weeks later when Belcamino read negative reviews online about FlightHub, checked the status of their tickets on Air Italy's website and discovered that the tickets didn't actually exist.
"We were lost and angry and upset," said Losier.
Air Italy told CBC News that it declined to honour the FlightHub bookings because they were sold with incorrect fares.
The three friends, Belcamino, Losier and Dywan, each say they tried to get a refund from FlightHub with no success.
'Still very skeptical'
Belcamino said she finally got her money back after she complained to her credit card company and it launched an investigation.
Following an inquiry from CBC News, FlightHub also refunded Losier's and Dywan's tickets, plus provided all three friends with two $750 FlightHub travel vouchers each for their troubles.
"That was the right thing to do," said Losier.
Laurie Brownrigg of Vancouver also struggled to get a refund from FlightHub after she booked a flight from Calgary to Vancouver and later discovered the agency had cancelled the booking.
She said she called FlightHub repeatedly over the past week, but couldn't get any results.
"They never even admitted to charging my [credit] card," she said. "I just felt hopeless."
After CBC contacted FlightHub, Brownrigg got her refund plus two $750 vouchers — which she's a little leery about using at this point.
"I'm still very skeptical," she said " Do I trust them?"
Methé said FlightHub continually reviews customer feedback to improve its service and to prevent these types of rare problems from happening again.
"Customer service is our priority."