FlightCentre’s Fly Free Guarantee is NOT Fake


FlightCentre’s “Fly Free Guarantee” is for real.

3 PM UPDATE: FlightCentre, in response to my customer service inquiry about their Lowest Airfare Guarantee (a.k.a. the Fly Free Guarantee), is reimbursing our fares. Thanks so much to the TF Readers and Friends who encouraged FlightCentre to do the right thing and thanks FlightCentre for doing right by your Customers.

If you’ve got an air fare quote, I highly encourage you to contact Flight Centre! They offer great customer service and a guarantee that means something. Their number for quotes is 1-877-967-5302.

I will do an update on Friday to thank everybody and announce my small token of gratitude but, in the mean time, thanks to all the consumer advocates who brought the concern to FlightCentre’s attention:

Recently, I was made to feel pretty stupid by FlightCentre. I found out the hard way that their Lowest Airfare Guarantee (a.k.a. the FlightCentre Fly Free Guarantee) is fake.

Fly free guarantee offered by FlightCentre gets BUSTED

My Partner and I wanted to fly from Toronto to Edmonton for Christmas. On Tuesday, November 13th, I came across the lowest fare on Travelocity.ca. The Air Canada flight would cost $1348.04 for both of us, with a stopover in Regina on the way out and a stop in Saskatoon on the way back.

I called up FlightCentre because they offer a great guarantee: they will beat any airfare quote or you fly free! It’d be money-stupid to ignore a price-beat promise on a purchase as big as airline tickets.

The customer service rep (who I need to say is an awesome guy who has tried his best for us throughout) found the exact same tickets (same flight/date/times/class) in his FlightCentre system. But the price it quoted him was hundreds of dollars higher. So he checked my alleged price of $1348.04 on Travelocity.ca. Sure enough the exact same publicly-available tickets were much cheaper on Travelocity. He couldn’t personally authorize the price beat guarantee so I waited on the phone while he escalated it.

The manager to whom it was escalated refused to beat the fare. This, despite the fact that the fare met all of the strenuous requirements of the fly free guarantee (it was publicly available, FlightCentre could book the same flight at that time; it met the requirements even down to the fact that Travelocity dynamically prices rather than wholesales Air Canada tickets!). Matt took my number so he could escalate the issue. I asked if there was anybody I needed to call to get the fly free guarantee applied and he said no, because he would inquire on my behalf. At this point on Tuesday night, I was scared. I knew prices would go up and the Travelocity.ca deal would disappear. I also knew, however, that FlightCentre had refused to price beat a fare that met its criteria and I was therefore entitled to a free flight.

On November 14th, Matt called me back to update me. Apparently Air Canada had been offering lower fares to “high quality” Canadian travel websites like Travelocity.ca. Flight Centre didn’t enjoy the same discount in their pricing system. FlightCentre admits that they should have booked the flight on November 13th and price beat it on the evening I called, but that they had refused to do so. But Flight Centre couldn’t even book the same flight anymore because it had filled up.

Later in the day, Matt called again. He was able to offer me a different flight to Edmonton at the same price of $1348.04. Again, instead of giving me a free flight for a fare they had refused to match, FlightCentre offered to now match the fare. Prices had already gone up the day after FlightCentre’s refusal to match. The cheapest inclusive ticket on Saturday (using Travelocity’s system that is apparently superior to FlightCentre’s) was $783.63, or $1567.26 for two people. I’m on a fixed income because of parental leave. We couldn’t afford to wait, lose the tickets, and pay hundreds of dollars more. So we bought the tickets.

Added: As of Monday, November 19th, Flight Centre has notified me that they are reimbursing the tickets to make the flight free.

Apparently, at a high level, FlightCentre has contacted Air Canada to talk about the dynamic pricing situation, since they weren’t offered the discount and couldn’t pass along the same price to a customer. Per FlightCentre’s own policies about price differentials, they were unable to price beat because the gap was large. Yet I still have not been offered a reimbursement of my fare price to make the flight free.
I think FlightCentre's Fake Fly Free Guarantee made Cat cry :(

My complaint is that the FlightCentre Fly Free Guarantee is fake because the company is not willing to fulfill it even when the criteria are met. The travel consultant had never seen my situation — I totally believe that it is exceedingly rare. But whether it’s one in ten thousand or one in a million, it met ALL of Flight Centre’s requirements and they should have honoured their fly free guarantee. If Flight Centre corrects their error by reimbursing my tickets then I will gladly update this story.

FlightCentre should stop promoting their non-sense promise if it’s a lie. It’s unethical and misleading. They enjoy the increased business and goodwill that results from such a guarantee. And yet they apparently won’t fulfill their promise in my rare, applicable situation.

If you doubt my claim that this fake “fly free guarantee” is being used to build unjustified goodwill, see how the promise features prominently in their Google Ads campaigns:

conditions apply, but are applied unfairly so as to make a free flight impossible  inline text example of Flight Centre guarantee

I continue to try to get FlightCentre to honour its commitment:

  • I have an unanswered answered written inquiry (submitted at the behest of the company’s Twitter account, @FlightCentreCA) sitting with their customer service.
  • Canada’s greatest consumer advocate, Ellen Roseman, has inquired on my behalf in an effort to seek a resolution but hasn’t heard back and FlightCentre has responded to my concerns. I will fully participate in any coverage she sees fit (which is now an obvious good news story!).

I’d greatly appreciate your support. Please help by contacting FlightCentre and telling them you no longer believe in their guarantee. Here’s their contact information:

Regarding Twitter, I’ve set this page’s SEO title as “I think the @FlightCentreCA Fly Free Guarantee is Fake” so you should be able to Tweet at FlightCentre simply by tweeting this post.

Thanks for all your support. Please don’t bug Flight Centre any more about this as they’ve rectified the situation thoroughly. If you have another five minutes and you’re willing, please thank them for making it right and restoring the promise of their guarantee.

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33 Comments… Share your views

  1. Joe, I wish you good luck with this! (I am in the same boat for 2 months starting next week on parental leave so I know about a fixed income).

    We are also victims of the Canadian travel system (i.e. no subsidies like US) and we try to avoid flying in Canada as much as possible.

    I didn’t know about the guarantee they have but it is strange after you spoke to them and having this escalated that they will not help you out at all. I will RT this today – power to social media.

    My friend and I used FC on a trip once and the agent did not inform us of updated changes at a connection and we nearly missed the last leg of the trip.

    • Thanks so much for your moral and tactical support Steve. Glad to empathize with somebody.

      That’s a scary situation to be left in. See, the really odd thing about this particular story is, if they’d simply given me the free flight based on last Tuesday’s refusal to match, this would have been one of those insanely GOOD customer service stories. Instead, it’s devolved into an exceptional negative like your experience with FC.

  2. Get ‘em Joe. Contacting Ellen Roseman was going to be my suggestion, and you’ve already done that. I have some friends that work at Flight Centre, I’m going to forward them this page.

    I’m sure you’re aware, but travel is one of those industries that have government watchdogs to handle complaints.


    Hope that is some help!

    • lol thanks Adam! The moral support AND practical support definitely makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing. I hadn’t thought of TICO. I’d only thought of the BBB and Competition Bureau. I will add TICO to my “escalation list” (because, yes, this is only Step #2).

  3. Of course they think the situation is rare…that’s why they came up with the guarantee, because of the low probability that they’d have to pay out. But if they can’t price match fares from a popular booking site like Travelocity, then their guarantee is worthless.

    And even more ridiculous now that the situation has escalated, you’re out a few hundred bucks because the original flight is booked, and they won’t stand behind their claim. Flight Centre is a joke. I hope that the negative publicity from this post and Ellen Roseman’s inquiry will rectify the situation for you, Joe.

    • Precisely my thoughts. It’s a bizarre situation to be in; also, in part because their customer service rep has been such an awesome guy — he took the initiative to be my single point of contact, he updated me, he was honest, he openly discussed FlightCentre’s error. If the higher-ups had authorized a free flight the next day, I would have been contacting Ellen Roseman and writing here about an amazingly GOOD customer service story and I mean that. But instead we are here. Thanks so much for your support, Robb.

  4. That is ridiculous! The didn’t even BEAT the fare let alone fly you and your family free. (BTW, aww poor baby! I just want to pick Catherine up and give her a cuddle. What a cutie!)

    If I was booking a flight then I would have called FlightCentre to get the dollar off. It really turns me off of their company to see this. I am going to send this to others. I know lots of ppl thinking about Christmas trips south. People deserve to know what lying cheapskates FlightCentre has proven themselves to be. That’s offensive.

    • Thanks for your support. And yes, she started spontaneously crying pretty hard so I went in and snapped that pic before comforting her, but I felt awful during the 10 seconds it took me. I thought, however, that a picture of her crying was good for posterity’s sake. Didn’t think it’d fit well on TF till this post.

  5. Joe, you should send this to Scott Stratten (@unmarketing). He had some really good customer service wins and fails in his book, and he has tremendous reach on Twitter.

  6. I emailed CBC Marketplace with a link to this post. I think this would make a really good episode for their show.

    • Thanks Andrea. I LOVE Marketplace (and that’s saying a lot because I am not a huge fan of CBC). It’s one of my favourite shows and I watch every week’s episode on CBC’s site.

  7. Some commercial airways will reimburse non-refundable passes in the occasion of a family member’s loss of life or other serious occasion – contact the commercial airline but be ready to provide thorough certification.

    • I highly doubt that this situation would qualify. It’s not a problem actually created by Air Canada; it’s a travel agent that has failed to meet their guarantee. But thank you for the thought.

  8. Hi Joe,
    We regret to hear of your recent experience and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to address your concerns. We understand you have been in touch with our customer service team regarding this matter. Please know that our customers mean the world to us and it is the dedicated aim of all of us at Flight Centre to offer our customers the best possible service in every aspect of their travel enquiry. Flight Centre’s Lowest Airfare Guarantee policy is a procedure that is followed within our stores when a customer provides a quote to ensure we verify the fare details. We stand behind our Lowest Airfare Guarantee and we are pleased to see that this matter has been resolved. If you have any more questions, please feel free to reach out to us and we apologize again for any inconvenience this has caused you.

    Safe travels

  9. I hope you get a satisfactory resolution!

    Is it sad that I automatically assume that gimmicks like this are just lies? Guess that FlightCentre just proved me right …

    • Thanks for the support Adina. Luckily Flight Centre has made it right. I now recognize that their guarantee is legitimate and I encourage everybody to at least get a quote from them like I did when they’re travelling. If you find a lower fare and they agree to match it (which is obviously different from my situation) because it meets their requirements, my understanding is you get a $20 travel voucher which is a nice touch to recognize a person’s effort.

  10. Editor Joe’s Note: I’ve deduced that, if the identifying IP and email are accurate, this comment was from the smartphone of somebody who works for Flight Centre. If not, then it’s somebody trying to pin this comment on a Flight Centre employee. Either way, I’ve deleted the comment in question and redacted the details to protect everybody involved and to respect the issue’s comprehensive resolution.

    • Flight Centre has definitely rectified the situation and I agree they offer excellent service.

      I saved the quote from Travelocity, the Flight Centre guarantee on the date of review, and notes from my phone conversations. This is a blog, not a document repository. If you took what I wrote in good faith — even with a critical view — I think you’d see I at least had a reasonable point. It isn’t a legal case, it’s a customer concern about the application of a guarantee. Flight Centre’s decision in this situation reflects that I was being honest with them and it speaks very highly as to their customer service.

  11. While I am glad FlightCentre finally decided to make good on their guarantee, it was only after you wrote an article all about how they wouldn’t. I sincerely hope FlightCentre learned their lesson and continue honour their advertising campaign’s guarantee in the future with less trouble.

    Have a good time visiting this Xmas!

    • Yes, luckily I have the time and inclination to deal with this type of customer service issue. But I feel like they’re treating this as an opportunity to improve various systems (perhaps even their communication with Air Canada) and I feel like the reimbursement is an awesome recognition of that (in addition to fully meeting their guarantee). So in the end I am extremely happy, and I think everybody is a winner.

  12. You did good. I`ll definitely be looking at flight centre next time I fly!! I`ve been known to rack up a lot of air miles (not the point kind) and they are now on my list of places I`ll be checking with next time I fly.

  13. I have a lot of friends who work at Flight Center and I respect the company, they treat their employees well and I’ve never had a problem dealing with them, so I’m glad that this was fixed for you Joe.

    • Thanks Adam. I was thrilled when this turned from an issue into a real “good news” story. I would highly recommend that people call up FlightCentre. They’ve got some really great deals and they clearly stand behind the guarantee.

  14. I’m sorry, but after doing a bit of research (yes, I creeped the Flight Centre twitter conversations) it appears that Flight Centre escalated the issue to their customer service team on Thursday and you wrote this post on Monday morning. Do you seriously expect a company to fork out that much money in one business day? As a long time customer of Flight Centre, I have complete confidence that they would have stuck to their word if you gave them some time to look into it for you. I’ve dealt with their CS team before and they even have an auto-e-mail that messages you back asking that you allow for up to one week for a resolution.
    You’re making it appear that your blog and the SM pressure from your readers/friends are what made it happen. This urks me so bad!

    • I only recommend to TF Readers the services that I trust. FlightCentre is one of those services — hence why I would call them in the first place — and FC’s final decision on the matter aligned with our shared values of fairness and integrity. So, in the end, they remain my preferred vendor who I can wholeheartedly recommend without reservation.

      TF’s Readers encouraged FlightCentre to do the right thing and FlightCentre did the right thing. I didn’t say my blog or the “SM pressure” did it. I’m applauding a good news story: they honoured the guarantee. If you think my article doesn’t reflect this, let me know and I will look into it. Also, spoiler: I’m going to recognize everybody’s efforts, including those of FlightCentre, on Friday by announcing a donation equal to 20% of the flight ($270) to cancer research which I made late last night. I’m also more than willing to be quoted in their marketing or in third party news about this excellent experience. I’ve written to Ellen Roseman as well as Sean O’Shea of Consumer SOS about FlightCentre’s integrity in fully meeting the spirit of its guarantee.

      • Also, please keep in mind I’d been in contact with the company since last Tuesday. So from my perspective it was not just a business day, it was three+ and on the sixth calendar day after contact. I also contacted their social media group again on Saturday (there is activity on the weekend on their account) to inform them this was in the pipeline and seeking quicker resolution if possible. Your characterization that this was out-of-the-blue one day afterward is kind of silly.

  15. Hi Joe, I’m glad to hear that your issue got solved. I hope others don’t have to go through such a gruelling process to get what they’re entitled to. I’ve recently paid for my own flights through Flight Centre as they price matched a quote I got from Student Flights. Is it normal that they only price match, or should it have been beaten by $1? I know it’s only a dollar, but I wonder why they wouldn’t do it. Should i have asked for them to beat the quoted Student Flights’ price?

  16. Keep fighting and bringing to these companies that try to cheat and then “have a change of heart” when threatened with negative media reports.

  17. They actually can offer you a dollar less.
    The problem is that dollar comes out of the agency commission.
    One person you could get away with that 100 people there
    would be a problem.

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