Is Kiwi.com a smart online travel agency or a scam?

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

After losing $24,000, was the family negligent or is Kiwi.Com a scam?

A New Zealand family had to travel quickly from Auckland to Amsterdam due to a death in the family. Researching options online, the family found an expensive but convenient connecting route on China Southern from AKL to AMS via Guangzhou (CAN). Oddly enough, it wasn’t available on any other online travel agency, but was the quickest way to get to Amsterdam. So the family bought the tickets, allegedly spending NZ$24,000.

But when checking in, they were denied boarding as mainland China does not currently allow transit of passengers due to its zero COVID policy. The family was turned away and after contacting Kiwi.com they were told they should have checked all transit requirements. A China Southern airport staff member was said to be in disbelief that this ticket was even sold.

The innovative aspect of Kiwi.com is that it bundles multiple one-way tickets on a single itinerary, which can result in substantial savings or more options compared to simply booking the trip on a single ticket. In this case, he booked the family a one-way ticket from Auckland to Guangzhou and a one-way ticket from Guangzhou to Amsterdam. This was not mentioned anywhere when booking, although important warnings to check transit and immigration rules were present.

So is the family totally at fault here (they certainly share some of the blame) or shouldn’t Kiwi.com have sold them a route in the first place that they knew wasn’t actually possible to fly ? (I understand that even Chinese citizens who could enter China legally should be quarantined before boarding a connecting flight, although at the very least a transit visa is required). Here are the current rules for TIMATIC New Zealand passport holders:

I’ve experienced Kiwi.com myself and it’s been generally positive, although I don’t appreciate the tricks that are secretly played (keyword, secretly) to find lower fares. Once I found out while checking in that I was actually booked on a hidden city ticket.

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

In this case, although the family should have been more careful, the fact that China does not allow transit at this time has really rendered their ticket worthless.

CONCLUSION

A family claims to have lost $24,000 after being denied boarding on a trip to southern China 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?

Willie R. Golden