Booking international flight tickets is not a joke. I’m sharing the experience and problems faced by three students during their trip to India in December. By the end of this article, you will learn how to book international flight tickets from the USA.
They learned the lesson hard way and hoped you guys don’t make the same mistake.
- Round Trip Ticket from the USA to India – $1500
- Cost of Mistakes – $850 in change fees
- Final flight ticket Cost – $2,350
Flight Ticket Booking
Students X, Y, and Y from the same university were planning to travel to India during December (semester break).
Student X searched for the best flight tickets deal from the USA to India in an online travel site.
He finds a deal (lowest and based on preferred dates).
This is his first trip to India after coming to the USA.
Pays around $1,500 for round trip tickets from the USA to Chennai.
- Airline ABC – Wilmington(Name Changed) to Chicago
- Etihad Airlines – Chicago to Abu Dhabi to Chennai
- Etihad Airlines – Chennai to Abi Dhabi to Chicago
- Airline ABC – Chicago to City X
Students Y, Z – Flight Tickets to India
After student X books the tickets, students Y, and Z wanted the same flights, same dates.
Student Y is my friend so when he was trying to buy; I gave details of my travel agent.
Travel agent looks at the schedule and warns there could be a problem with this flight booking.
Students Y and Z decided to take the risk.
Within next two days, both student Y and Z booked the flights.
Day of the Travel
Bags packed, I-20 travel signature done, they got ready to travel together to India.
Who wouldn’t be exited to travel to India? Meeting parents and friends after 18 months!
Flight to Chicago was delayed from Wilmington (name changed).
They landed in Chicago about 45 minutes before the next connecting flight to Abu Dhabi.
So, far you must be thinking, 45 minutes should be enough to catch the next flight to Abu Dhabi.
Remember, Travel agent said, this flight itinerary might create problems?
They walk to Etihad Counter to check-in the bags and collect the boarding pass.
Etihad Airlines doesn’t allow them to check-in the bags.
Reason – They need to check-in the bags at least 1 hour before the flight takes off time for international flights.
Did you figure out the mistake they made with flight booking?
If you haven’t figured that out by now, you might run into similar problems with your international flight tickets.
By, now yo should be thinking
Why are they checking the bags again in Chicago?
Airline ABC from Wilmington should have checked-in the bag all the way to Chennai.
Why did they collect the bags and tried to check-in the bags again?
Well, that was the Mistake 1.
When X booked the tickets, online travel site issued tickets with Airline ABC and Etihad airlines.
For a student booking the flight tickets from the USA to India for the first time, they are looking for two things
- Cheap round trip flight tickets to India
- Best deal for their travel dates
So, X sees the travel deal, check with other travel websites, this was the best option. So, he books the ticket.
Unfortunately, there is no partnership between Airline ABC and Etihad Airlines.
Online travel site issued two separate round trip tickets.
- Ticket 1 – Wilmington to Chicago and Chicago to Wilmington(to and fro)
- Ticket 2 – Chicago to Chennai and Chennai to Chicago(to and fro)
Since there is no partnership, Etihad Airlines don’t care about the ABC flight delay from Wilmington to Chicago.
For them, those 3 are just new passengers boarding the flight in Chicago.
For international travel, they are supposed to check-in the suitcases at least 1 hour before flight takes time.
Since domestic flight to Chicago got delayed, they had only 45 minutes before next flight.
That’s the first mistake.
There wasn’t enough time between domestic and international connecting flight.
Now, you can see how the simple mistake made by X has cascaded to 3 tickets.
Students Y and Z would have had an opportunity to get error free tickets, but they wanted to travel together.
$800 Change Fees
Etihad Airlines said, they cannot make changes to the ticket, since it was issued by travel agents.
Only travel agents can re-book the tickets.
Next earliest flight available from Chicago to Chennai was after 2 or 3 days.
If you are planning to travel right before major travel holidays ( Thanks, Giving, New Year, Christmas) expect such problems.
So, Student X had to deal with Online Travel site.
Students Y and Z have to deal with Travel agent to re-book their flights.
So, re-booking fees, plus fare difference have to be paid to change the tickets.
Etihad Airlines looked at available flight tickets and earliest available flight with three empty seats was after two days.
By the time, X called Online Travel Site and Y, 2Z call their travel agent,twoseats were booked.
So, X booked the flight after 2 days.
Y and Z booked the tickets after 3 days. Same flight, but after 2 and 3 days.
They paid like $700 in Ticket Change Fees and Fare difference fee.
Their initial travel plan was to miss first 2 days of class in Spring semester. Since there was a 3 days delay due to this problem, they extended the ticket by another 3 days. They ended up missing (Yand Z) few more classes.
Hotel Stay in Chicago
Since, they are in Chicago, they have to find a place to stay for 3 days.
I searched for cheap hotel near to the Chicago O Hare airport that provided Free Shuttle to the Airport.
Add 3 more days of Hotel expense to already expensive $700 in change fees just for Etihad Airlines.
Return Trip from Chennai to Chicago
Finally, they reached Chennai safe and sound.
Since, Y and Z changed the return tickets and Airlines ABC ticket was separate, travel date from Chicago to Wilmington had to be changed.
That’s another $150 in Change Fees + Fare Difference.
Finally, after paying close to $800 in flight tickets change fees, they had an adventurous trip.
Mistakes – Flight Tickets Booking
- Mistake 1 – Not enough time between connecting flights
- Mistake 2 – Booking international flight tickets as 2 separate bookings without airline partnership.
- Mistake 3 – Traveling during major holidays can be huge hassle due to delays and be painful.
How to Book Flight tickets
Read the following articles
- Check Transit Visa Requirements and Book Flight Tickets
- From Port of Entry to Connecting Flight in USA
- 8 FAQs About Booking Flight Tickets from India to USA
- What Happens Right After Flight Lands in USA (Port of Entry)
- My Flight to USA and Two Big Time Problems in the Airport
- Flight Travel India to USA: Documents, Tips and Caution
- 25 Air Travel Tips for India to USA
Above listed articles gives a brief overview of what to expect while booking international flight tickets (to and from USA).
If you don’t have patience to read all the links, here are few suggestions to avoid similar international flight travel experience.
- If booking flight through (International) online travel site, make sure connecting flights have a partnership. For instance, major carrier in above travel was Eithad Airlines. Go to their website and check if connecting airlines is listed in their partnership.
- For example, American Airlines and Jet Airways have a partnership. You can book same flight itinerary from both American and Jet Airways website. If you check both partner airlines list, American Airlines site will have Jet Airways Listed and vice versa.
Time between Connecting Flights
- With international travel, try to have atleast 3 hours between domestic and international connections.
- Also, at port of entry (while entering USA), make sure you have 3 hours to domestic airline connection.
Booking Flight Tickets
- Try to book flight ticket directly at Airline website (if tickets cost the same at travel agent)
- Try to talk to few travel agents and ask for same flight details and fare cost.
My humble suggestion – If you are talking to a travel agent and if the agent gave the right deal, book the ticket with that travel agent.
Don’t finalize the ticket then go looking for another agent who can offer the same ticket for $5 or $20 cheaper.
You may argue, I’m saving $5 or $20. But, think about the time they spent to find the best combinations of tickets.