Is Kiwi.com A Clever Online Travel Agency Or A Scam?

A family lost $24,000 after booking an airline ticket on Kiwi.com that was impossible to actually fly. Kiwi.com says the family is to blame for not checking transit restrictions, but does this incident rather show that Kiwi.com is just a scam?

After $24,000 Loss Was Family Careless Or is Kiwi.Com A Scam?

A New Zealand family needed to get from Auckland to Amsterdam fast due to a death in the family. In searching out options online, the family found a pricey but convenient connecting itinerary on China Southern from AKL to AMS via Guangzhou (CAN). Curiously, it was not available on any other online travel agency, but represented the quickest way to get to Amsterdam. So the the family purchased the tickets, allegedly spending $24,000.

But upon check-in, they were denied boarding because Mainland China is not currently allowing passenger transit due to its zero-COVID policy. The family was turned away and upon contacting Kiwi.com, were advised they should have checked all transit requirements. A China Southern airport staff member was allegedly incredulous this ticket was even sold.

The innovative thing about Kiwi.com is that it puts multiple one-way tickets together on a single itinerary, which can result in substantial cost savings or more options versus simply booking the journey on a single ticket. In this case, it booked the family on a one-way ticket from Auckland to Guangzhou and a one-way ticket from Guangzhou to Amsterdam. Nowhere was that mentioned during booking, though prominent warnings to check transit and immigration rules were present.

So is the family totally at fault here (it certainly shares some blame) or should Kiwi.com not have sold them an itinerary in the first place it knew was not actually possible to fly? (My understanding is that even Chinese citizens who could enter China legally would have to quarantine before taking a connecting flight, though at the very least a transit visa is required). Here are the current rules for New Zealand passport holders form TIMATIC:

I’ve had experience with Kiwi.com myself and it has been positive overall, though I do not appreciate the tricks that are secretly played (key word, secretly) to find lower fares. I once found out upon check-in that I was actually booked on a hidden city ticket.

So is Kiwi.com a scam? I’m not sure I’d go that far, but caveat emptor and I think this family is due a refund if the itinerary booked was impossible to fly without a quarantine.

In this case, even though the family should have exercised more caution, the fact that China does not allow transit right now really made their ticket worthless.

CONCLUSION

A family claims to be out $24,000 after being denied boarding on a China Southern trip they purchased on Kiwi.com. Kiwi.com says the family should have checked immigration and transit requirements before booking.

Who do you think is at fault here?

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