Wednesday, January 31, 2007

STA Travel, in review

It is hard for me to review STA as it is the only travel agency we have used for this whole trip, and I is difficult for me to find good things to say about them. While they claim to be an international company, this is only partially true. There are STA's all over the world, but the offices do not cross international borders, so STA Japan has little to do with STA USA other than sharing a name and catering to students. This creates problems when you're trying to check flight prices and make bookings, as the STA Japan will have very different results from the STA USA for the same search. Also, if you have credit from, say refunding a ticket, at a STA USA, you can not use said credit for purchases made through STA Australia. Speaking of refunds, they really fall short here. As part of their insurance policy you can refund tickets for a $100 fee and they will either credit your account or write you a check. When we refunded our Thailand ticket we opted for checks (since we were leaving the states and couldn't use our USA credit in Australia.) They say it takes 4 weeks to process, numerous emails and 12 weeks later there was still nothing. Now, when we first bought our tickets in providence they gave us an 800 number, an international number, and said if we were in trouble we could call them collect anytime. That, we discovered, was a flat out lie. You can't call them collect at all and you can expect to be on hold for 30 minutes if you make a pay call. This can be quite costly when you're overseas, so we had to have some one in the states make calls for us to finally get out checks. For the most part the staff we have talked to in person try to be as helpful as they can, however, I can not recommend the STA LA branch at all. The woman there was rude, unhelpful, and refused to sell us a ticket to Japan, so we had to go to STA UCLA where they would sell us the same ticket. I still don't really understand what happened. A problem we've recently encountered is changing the dates of our flights. As a rule, STA will change dates given at least two weeks before scheduled flight for $25.00 plus and difference in airfare. Fine. We've recently tried to bump up our return tickets and they told us continental has their own flight change fee in Rupees, which makes the total cost of changing the tickets more expensive than living in India for the ten days we were trying to miss. It is upsetting they never mentioned the airline's fees from the beginning and makes me wonder why go through the travel agency at all when it may be less expensive to speak directly with the airline? The one useful thing we've gotten out of STA so far has been the international student discount card, and while it is not accepted everywhere that offers student discounts, it has more than paid for itself on savings in transportation alone, not to mention admission fees. However, I think you can these cards at many travel agencies, and not just STAs.

I hope this information is helpful to anyone who may be trying to plan a trip of their own for the first time. Like I said, I don't have anything to compare STA with, but I would not recomend them, and do not plan to go through them again in the future.


Anonymous said...

I completely understand. I've been on the phone with STA and my airline since 4:47 and it's now 7:40 and they still haven't helped me. The travel agent booked my flight for the wrong day (didn't realize that 1AM monday is NOT monday night) and now I have to pay at least $500 in airline fees and fare difference for a mistake STA made.

When I asked to speak to a supervisor I had to talk to 3 people first and still haven't spoke to the supervisor. I don't recommend using a travel agent unless you have a large group. It would have been much cheaper to go directly to the airline to get this ticket and a lot easier and cheaper to change.

Air France customer service was very helpful but the $200 fee to change flights on a ticket that is already $2000 seems extreme.