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
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?
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.Looking to make air travel more bearable? Check out our review of the Priority Pass Lounge Membership Card
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:
Then, my friend Katie picked up the Tweet and we had a little conversation, where I brought Jetstar into the mix:
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:
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.