Friday, June 06, 2014

The horrible case of Bravofly (Volagratis)

So I have to leave Italy and go to Belgium for some business. I would make the trip with my colleagues so, imagining they know better how to fly from Italy, since they live here, I ask them to search for the flight. They do that and they send me this link to a site called VolaGratis ("fly for free" would be the translation). This is actually an Italian web site for BravoFly, an Italian flight search aggregator. I find my flight, it says 89EUR a two way flight, which was OK. The site is in Italian, though, so I choose English, it takes me to the BravoFly site, I select the same flight: 105EUR. I'll be damned! So I use the Italian site. I also check the special needs box and write down "Long Legs", expecting them to book me one of those extra legroom places. Now it gets interesting.

The payment section held a big message telling me how great it is that I use Mastercard, so they can give me a big discount. I don't use Mastercard, though, so I select VISA. Suddenly the price jumps from 89 to 125EUR. Well, that probably explained why there was a difference between the Italian and international site. So I proceed. In about half an hour I receive a call from a weirdly formatted Italian number: +39 followed by only 6 digits. I answer in English. There is a long pause, then (in English) I hear the question "Do you speak French?", I reply that I don't, the voice asks a quivering "Do you speak Italian?" (also in English) I also reply no, but I ask her to wait and I pass my phone to an Italian colleague. The operator has closed the connection by then, probably couldn't wait for more than 2 seconds without asking an inane question. A minute later I receive an SMS - in Italian, of course - that I couldn't be contacted and that I should call them back. All nice and all, only their phone numbers are all paid numbers, I have to pay 6EUR per call, give them my credit card details, etc. Or I can call the Italian paid number (six digits) and pay 1.8EUR per minute. Funny enough, I could not call the Italian number from the land line, since it was a paid one, nor from my friend's phone, also because it was locked for paid lines, nor could I call the international number from any Italian phone, as there was an automated voice telling me to call the other number. I wrote them a scalding email, awaiting a reply. I got a phone call at 8 PM which clicked two times and closed after two seconds, but no other reply.

So I was forced to call them using my Romanian number, in roaming in Italy, calling the paid "international" Italian number. And that is because their site could only show my bookings, but would not allow me to cancel one, so in fact they were holding my credit card details hostage. In order to cancel any booking with BravoFly I had to - yeah, you guessed it - call them. Meanwhile I was stuck not knowing if they will book the flight or not. After speaking with an operator speaking English with a thick Italian accent, one who barely mumbled anything she said and then acted annoyed that I ask her to speak louder, I realize that the whole thing was caused by my ticking the special request box and asking for the legroom. I needed to pay extra for that, of course. I said OK, waited for five minutes, nothing happened. I hung up the phone. Got called back in 5 minutes that my booking could not be confirmed. They might just as well have said "Thank you for the money and time you spent trying to make us do what we advertised we do, but we can't, so fuck you!". And I wouldn't have minded as much, since that could have been a nice email message and I wouldn't have had to get this angry.

The ending of the story is me getting to the EasyJet site directly, getting the ticket (with the extra legroom) for about 40EUR less than the one from VolaGratis, all in one nice and clear web interface. Perhaps Vola Gratis in the name of the site is all about them getting to fly for free with the money they extort from you. Don't ever use the BravoFly site or any of their differently named clones. From the way I was treated, I can only assume it is basically a scam, their purpose being only to steal from you.