Is Kayak Reliable? Is Kayak Safe to Book Flights?

Sometimes I feel as though I have been booking travel since I was a child. I recognize that is a bit of a stretch, but being the one who books 95% of our travel and transportation, With Husband In Tow, I spend my fair share of time online, looking for decent deals, earning and redeeming miles and points, and managing our itineraries.

Before the first time booking through Kayak, I never thought to ask the question: “Is Kayak Reliable”? But, after our first booking experience, I feel that everyone should be asking: “Is Kayak safe to book flights?”

One of my cardinal rules of travel booking is to book direct. I do this for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I want to earn points and miles. But, after booking some flights through Kayak I realized there are even more reasons why it’s best to book direct. I hope that you can learn from my mistake. 

In this post, we will share our Kayak flight booking experience and provide our answer to the question is it safe to book through Kayak. I also hope to share our advice on whether you should book through kayak or airline direct.

Booking Flights on Kayak – Using a Middleman

booking through kayak I have always been skeptical of travel booking websites, like Expedia, Kayak, and god forbid, Priceline. In my mind, you never know what you are going to get. We religiously use Kayak to search for itineraries, figure out who flies where, and to price flights. In recent years, I’ve started to rely more on Google Flights because I like the interface.

Before this experience, I never actually experienced booking with Kayak. In fact, I would NEVER book a flight with Kayak. I ALWAYS book through the airline direct. After all, 99% of the time I can find the same itinerary for the same price through the airline directly. Why insert a middleman into the process?

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Booking Through Kayak vs. Airline Direct

I am a points whore. I learned that phrase years ago. Often when booking through a middleman, including booking a flight through Kayak you don’t earn miles.

When I fly, I want to ensure that wherever possible I am earning miles for my flights. I am always weary that I will not earn my miles by booking on another website, particularly with discounted fares. 

Or, minimally, it will be a huge hassle to add the frequent flier number with them later. By keeping track of my miles and points we are able to book business class flights more often. 

This is where there is a big difference in booking on Kayak vs airline direct. If I book through a travel site, can I take advantage of any airline status I may have?

Will I be able to reserve decent seats, which I like to pick through Seat Guru to ensure I am not sitting near the toilet. If the flight schedule is changed or the flight is canceled will the airline do their best to help me out, or will they point their finger back at Kayak or Expedia? Too many questions to allow for smooth traveling. 

People often ask why is Kayak so cheap? I generally don’t find their prices to be that much cheaper than booking directly with the airline. When Kayak flights are cheaper it is often because the airline is selling those seats with fewer benefits, like seat assignments, miles earning, or even support in the event of a cancelation.

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Eric Wanted to Go to Vietnam

Here is our story of booking on Kayak. I spent three hours looking for the perfect itinerary for Eric’s 40th birthday trip to Vietnam. There were no Kayak direct flights.

We needed to fly from Bali to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, and then onto either Hanoi or Saigon, before connecting to either Da Nang or Hue, before training to Dong Ha. Certainly not a direct itinerary, but certainly not all that unusual either. 

I booked six flights to get us to Dong Ha and back for his birthday while trying to minimize cost and travel time. Our Kayak ticket booking included a combination of two carriers, Air Asia and Jetstar.

I first tried using my credit cards on Jetstar and wanted to book before prices increased. My credit cards all were declined. This is why I turned to Kayak for flights and ended up with an itinerary with Kayak multiple airlines. This is when I should have done my own search about how reliable is Kayak.

I received my Kayak confirmation with a Kayak confirmation number and thought we were good to go. In the end, we booked our Jetstar flights on Kayak and AirAsia flights direct with AirAsia.

Kayak Customer Service for Kayak Air Ticket Booking

When Eric reviewed the Kayak confirmation email, though, he realized our Kayak online booking from Da Nang to Saigon took off three hours after our connecting flight from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur.

And, we had the wrong flight from Saigon to Da Nang. After another three hours of travel customer service hell, we found out that Kayak sold us two flights on Jetstar that did not even exist! This is the point I make when people ask me is booking through Kayak safe. 

I called the Kayak contact number (24 hours line), but there was no answer. I tried to talk about our Kayak flight status on Twitter with no answer. I tried to ask about the Kayak ticket booking through their customer feedback form. I received a simple reply stating I would need to contact Jetstar, who actually services the ticket. This is the key to Kayak airlines reservations.

They only offer a web portal to the Kayak flights booking. The airlines service the reservation. In the end, this means it’s a big customer service hot potato. There is no such thing as flying with Kayak.

Twitter Travel Customer Service on Kayak

I spent a good deal of time with Jetstar social media customer service, in particular chatting with a live agent online. She told me I was SOL and they could change the flight for me, but with a change fee. They told me it was Kayak’s error. The finger pointing and blame shifting were enough to tear my hair out. I tried to resolve the issue the only way I knew how: Twitter.

I had some good success with Etihad Airline’s Customer Service, by contacting them through Twitter, and I swear it is the new way to resolve problems.  So, I Tweeted to Kayak:

Book a Flight With Kayak

Then, my friend Katie picked up the Tweet and we had a little conversation, where I brought Jetstar into the mix: 

Book a Flight Kayak

Just when I had given up hope and began to dispute the charge with my credit card company, I received a reply Tweet from Amanda at Jetstar:  

Book Flight With Kayak

Within minutes, Amanda called me through Skype, and two minutes later, she booked us on an earlier return flight that will enable us to make our two connections home. No change fees. Problem resolved. Thank you, Amanda.

The thing is, my Kayak plane tickets were really Kayak’s problem. But, after the fact, Jetstar took care of the situation even though it wasn’t their fault.

Is Booking Flights Through Kayak Safe

Is Kayak reliable I don’t know that I like to use the word “safe” here. When I think of safe I think of a safe flight. In that sense, a Kayak flight booking is “safe”. But, when it comes to the booking process asking the question “Is booking through Kayak safe?” is perhaps not the right question.

The right question is probably more “Is Kayak reliable for flights?” Yes, there is a difference between safe and reliable when it comes to the flight booking process.

I know a lot of travelers who have reached out to me over the years to say that their experiences booking flights with Kayak have been perfectly okay. Many of them have found Kayak reliable.

It’s just hard for me to agree with them based on my experience. I didn’t even need to wait for an issue with a Kayak flight cancellation. The flights booked with Kayak just didn’t even exist.

In fact, this flight booing Kayak experience happened to us four years ago. In that time, I never heard from Kayak about their Kayak booking error. Strangely, another traveler shared this post with Kayak on Twitter in 2018.

Even then, Kayak Air Travel never owned up to their error. So, is Kayak safe? I can’t say. Minimally their customer service needs a lot of improvement. That alone will continue to have me booking direct rather than buying tickets on Kayak.

Things I learned from this experience booking with Kayak: 

kayak book flight

  1. I will never book through Kayak. I finally received a response from Kayak’s customer service, telling me I needed to resolve with Jetstar. When I replied back to inform Kayak that they sold me two flights that did not exist, they ignored me. I even told them I was considering booking a multi-city itinerary to Europe in October through Kayak (the truth), and I decided not to (also the truth). I suggested they take a look at their system and remove the flights that do not exist so others can’t book them. Even after notifying them about the flights, they remained on the website, available to be booked by another Kayak website visitor. 
  2. Tweet away to resolve customer disputes. Amanda let it slip that the folks responding to Tweets have more leeway to resolve problems than their other customer service reps or their booking agents. This was similar to what I found with Etihad. Of course, this only works with companies that monitor their Twitter account. I never received a reply from Kayak through Twitter.
  3. There may be one reason to book through Kayak direct. If I found a flight that was ridiculously cheaper than anywhere else online, I might consider purchasing through Kayak. But I doubt it. I am more skeptical than ever on this one. It might be a Kayak itinerary and price that are too good to be true if they are not found anywhere else online. In the end, Kayak sold me two flights that do not exist. If Jetstar had not responded to my Tweet, I would have to go through the process to dispute the charge on my credit card, which would have taken up to 30 days, while I purchased another itinerary for the same flights.

Kayak is a reputable company and has great tools for travel planning, but I will never book a flight with Kayak again, ever.

What experiences have you had booking with Kayak, or similar websites, good or bad?

Pin It!! Is It Safe to Book Flights Through Kayak

book a flight with kayak

16 thoughts on “Is Kayak Reliable? Is Kayak Safe to Book Flights?

  1. Jodie says:

    Wow, sounds like you've had a heck of a time! Admittedly, I use Travelocity a lot to book travel. I haven't had problems, but haven't had to contact them either. I like using them because it makes it easy to book through multiple carriers. For instance, for my trip from Chicago to Tampa next week, I'm flying United there and Delta on the way back. I suppose I could have done this through their websites too, but Travelocity is just faster.

    I might think twice next time though!

    P.S. I hope Eric has an awesome b-day in Vietnam!

  2. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says:

    What a pain! I have booked a few flights through aggregate sites like Expedia before but never had this kind of trouble. But on the occasion when we have had issues with customer service for other reasons, I have definitely found that Twitter is the way to go.

    (Also, I kind of can't believe you booked SIX flights for Eric's birthday! If that's not true love, I don't know what is!)

  3. The Husband says:

    Challenge accepted. Shouldn't be too difficult since we are going to a part of the world we love and almost moved to. Hanging with friends who pride themselves on how much "beer capacity" they have. Eating a top 3 roast pig in the world. Attending our first Vietnamese wedding; and the groom is somebody I care dearly for. Oh and the wife right there to enjoy it all with me. Can't wait to report back.

  4. Amber Hoffman says:

    As an update, I just went on Kayak's site and the flights that do not exist are still on there. I know Jodie and Steph, that people have been booking through these sites for years without a problem, but for me, I have learned my lesson, and I wanted to share this story with others.

  5. Hannah@gettingstamped says:

    Talk about a headache! Glad you got it all sorted out, we flew jetstar in Vietnam last month. Usually a few delays but other than that no problem. I too have used Twitter to get problems resolved, crazy how some companies respond and others don't. Hope he has a great birthday.make sure to go to Hoi An we loved it cafe 43 our favorite restaurant 🙂

  6. Amber Hoffman says:

    Hannah, we have been to Hoi An multiple times and Cafe 43 is our favorite too!!! We will definitely go back.

  7. Amber Hoffman says:

    Adam, yeah I was amazed at the Twitter/Skype resolution, and don't worry, Eric WILL have a great birthday!! He is required to now.

  8. Heather says:

    I had the exact same type of fingerpointing between expedia and AirTran, neither would resolve a cancelled flight and actually both told us we were on our own since they couldn't resolve and actually fought on the phone w us on the line. Unfortunately it was before I tweeted! Great advice on how to handle, but it's so time consuming and frustrating.

  9. Amber Hoffman says:

    Heather, your situation is exactly why I try to book direct whenever possible! And now, really, always.

  10. Ruth Sheffer says:

    You are assuming thst the airlines don’t screw you. I flew from Sri Lanka with a sprained foot and crutches, and was assured by British that they had booked me a bulkhead seat for an 12 hour flight to Heathrow. At checkin the woman said thst her colleague had lied to us! I eventually got the seat by complaining to the cabin crew. Not good.

  11. Joe Schmoe says:

    Have used Kayak many times, frequently fly from US to Europe to South Africa And back, stop over in Europe to break the journey. No problems ever, frequenty looked up flights on Kayak and then tried to book with Airlines only to be told that they are unable to match the on-line prices.

  12. trvlbum says:

    Good and bad. I have had good luck getting better deals on kayak. However, on the trips I wanted to change flight plans it cost between $300 and $400. When I book with airlines direct it’s usually around $100 to $150 to change as long as the same priced flight is available. It’s a crap shoot. On Kayak you will find better deals but you don’t want to change the dates.

  13. Sil says:

    I have been using Kayak since it bought out (circa 2006?) and have never had an issue. That is, until they started adding data on their searches., as came to find out, is an nightmare. Kayak is still alrighy. I cross reference allmy searches, per se. Everything I’ve booked via Kayak, be it car, flight, or hotel is always smooth.

  14. Jim B says:

    Never book with Kayak. I booked a car to pick up at the San Diego Airport, using their website (they call it a search engine). They got me a good price, but it was for pick up at Mira Mesa, 20 miles away. They did list the location in the confirmation they sent me, but it was in light, grayed out small print. When I noticed it, I contacted them and they would take no responsibility. I had to contact the rental car company and pay a $50 cancellation fee. K

  15. Che says:

    Kayak is full of shit, seriously I’m on the phone right now as I type, the reps are rude. All I wanted was to change my dates of travel and they changed it then changed it again and yes I have insurance on my Round trip ticket but really it don’t matter because they do what they want! Yesterday I called 8 times and every time I gave my information. They would tell me they can’t handle that call BA’s but BA was telling me to call Kayak. So after flipping out in my head because I stayed professional the 8th time I found out that the insurance don’t cover cancellations or changes on the flight. So the first time I paid 150. To change my flight. The next said 250 and just yesterday one told me 2,000….. Never again

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