Buyer Beware: Air India's Sale a Borderline Scam

Don’t be misled by Air India’s “sensational economy class sale fares” of $635 round-trip from New York or Newark to India. The only real “sensation” is the difference between the hyped $635 figure and the real fare of $1,345.

The difference, as Air India’s announcement puts it in fine print, is “departure taxes, airport fees, including the 9/11 Security fee, fuel surcharges and other taxes of approximately $533 to $580 are not included.” And I find no explanation for the additional discrepancy of at least $150. The truth is that United is matching for nonstop flights and other airlines are undercutting the real fare by $120 with flights that connect in Europe.

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This sort of “plus tax” fare advertising will become completely illegal in the U.S. later this month, and almost all big airlines and online travel agencies are already posting all-up fee-inclusive prices. The Air India release touting the $635 fares was aimed at travel agents rather than consumers, and maybe it thinks that lying to travel agents if OK even when lying to consumers isn’t. We shall see in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, don’t get fooled by someone—travel agent, naive travel writer, or whatever—into thinking you can really get to India for $635. You’ll actually pay a bit more than double that.

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