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Sneaky Airline Tricks

I always knew credit card companies were sneaky, but now the airlines seem to be copying their “best” practices. This is my conclusion after a weird encounter with Continental today.  I use a Continental mileage-reward credit card because I fly out a Newark, a hub for the airline. In the mail today I received two gift certificates for $20 off a flight in the U.S. that said “Here is your free gift. Thanks for using your credit/debit card.” Very handy, as I was just booking a flight to Chicago for August.

Now I had priced this trip a week ago, and it came up at $178 round-trip, but I didn’t book it because my plans weren’t confirmed. When I logged into Continental. com, and submitted my gift certificate promo code, it priced at $258. So I logged out and did a quick check on again, without using the promotion certificate. Price? $198.

So as you make your summer travel plans, beware of credit cards and airlines bearing gifts. This one was apparently a $60 Trojan Horse fare hike — or make that $40, as I would have “saved” $20 by using the gift certificate. It’s kind of like a corporate membership program I had with a rental car company years ago. You would price the deal, and then price it again with your membership number — and it always came out to a higher rate.

Have you run into sneaky practices by the airlines that empty your wallet? Comment here or email me at laura at

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