Airline ticket jitters?
December 5, 2011 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Should my friend be worried about buying an airline ticket online?

I'm posting this for a friend. Her mom wants to go to Romania sometime next month, and so has found cheap airline tickets on places like Orbitz. The problem is, she does not have a credit/debit card with which to purchase them, whereas my friend does (specifically, a debit card).

She would be more than happy to help out her mom and buy the ticket for her (her mom would supply the funds, of course), but she's never bought an airline ticket online on one of those sites before, and so is concerned that she may not be allowed to buy a ticket for another person, or may be hit with hidden charges, or may even be charges twice, like some online merchants have done. She doesn't know if any of that will happen, and I'm not in a position where I can be of much help.

So, does my friend have anything to be worried about? Thanks in advance!
posted by bookwibble to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
I buy tickets via Orbitz all the time and have never had a problem...just like any other online retailer, in my experience.
posted by dfriedman at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

My husband and I do this all the time. It's fine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2011

I've bought tickets online for another person, using a third person's credit card, with no problems for any of us.
posted by anadem at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2011

How else do people get plane tickets these days if not online?? It's fine.
posted by lydhre at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have purchased tickets on Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, and before and I've never had any of those problems. I have in fact purchased tickets for my husband on multiple occasions (he has a different last name, too), with no issue. Your friend just need to make sure she enters her mother's full legal name as it appears on her ID and has her full birthday,which are now required. There are not hidden fees on those sites that I've seen, but they often do not show the mandatory taxes and fees on the first page of search results - she will see them when she starts the purchse process (but before she commits to the ticket).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's also somewhat harder (sometimes impossible) to make changes or get refunds when you're purchasing from a third-party vendor like Orbitz. But I buy from them all the time.
posted by gerryblog at 6:18 PM on December 5, 2011

I never use debit cards for travel expenses such as plane tickets and hotel rooms. If there is an issue that is a lot of money out of your checking account. There might not be as much protection with debit cards too? I vaguely recall something along those lines?
posted by wurly at 6:21 PM on December 5, 2011

If your friend is really concerned is there a reason she doesn't get a pre-paid VISA debit card for this transaction? She'd want to put on a bit more than she thinks this transaction will be (fees, change in fare, taxes etc) but she can use it up down to less than a buck eventually. She'd feel safer, and that might be worth it to her.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:40 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, you can buy tickets for someone else, and there aren't hidden charges - the final total is what you pay. I've never been double-charged either. I always buy plane tickets online and I have for more than a decade. I've bought for other people with my card and for other people with their own cards; it's all good.

However, using a debit card is not a good idea. (See: 10 Places NOT To Use Your Debit Card - point #1 is "online" and point #8 is "for future travel".)

There appear to be ways to get temporary credit card numbers for online shopping - I've never done this, but I can't tell if they're only available as an "alias" for your real credit card number, or if you can get one to use if you don't have a credit card. Maybe she should look and see if her bank offers something like this? Or she could get a pre-paid credit card to use only for this purchase?
posted by flex at 6:42 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she's going to be checking a bag at the airport, it's going to be kind of a pain to pay the baggage fee without a credit/debit card, so she might want to go in with her mom and get her checked in and deal with any baggage fees. I've paid with cash, but they look you a little funny. And in Scranton-Wilkes Barre anyway, the people there didn't have cash registers or change, but they did take my money and check my suitcase eventually.
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:51 PM on December 5, 2011

My wife has bought tickets on line for me--it can certainly be done. Be warned though that at least one airline (Qatar Airways) wants to see the credit card used to buy the ticket when you check in. There is a way round this but it's a pain. (Qualification: they seem to do this only for tickets bought directly on their website. They may not if the ticket is bought through a third party like
posted by Logophiliac at 8:25 PM on December 5, 2011

I do this all the time for family and never had an issue. Your friend will get an email with the booking confirmation and itinerary. They should make sure that their mum takes a print out of this with her to the airport when she checks in.
posted by arcticseal at 4:21 AM on December 6, 2011

When you buy tickets online they very clearly have different areas for where you put in your financial/billing information and where they ask for "the name on the ticket", so it's designed to explicitly accomodate one person buying tickets for others. She'll be fine!
posted by anateus at 6:58 AM on December 6, 2011

I have bought tickets for my girl (for surprises!) and she's done the same for me, so this can definitely work out. I have used Orbitz, Sidestep (now Kayak), LastMinute and various airlines directly (KLM's iPhone app is great, and does things with open-jaw bookings that many full websites can't.)

But... while it's okay to buy tickets without a credit card, it's really hard to travel these days without a credit card. Check-in desks want one for luggage overages (in the USA), many airlines don't accept cash for in-flight things, you can't rent a car or hotel easily without one (or even change an existing reservation) and it's a royal pain getting local currency for a place you'll only be stopping in for a few hours.

Advice: have your friend buy the tickets, but then also have her get her mother a credit card. She can get a second card (her own) with her mom's name on it. Depending on your bank/provider, this is usually free, requires no credit checking or hassle, and can usually happen in a few days. And unless the mom is the sort who might go off on wild spending sprees, it's probably a nice thing to have in future, too.
posted by rokusan at 7:12 AM on December 6, 2011

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