The Curious Case of Airfasttickets

Nikolaos Koklonis is the founder of Airfasttickets

Airfasttickets has been the target of Greek and international media accusing the fast-growing online travel agency for unfair competition and bringing to the spotlight complains that include non-refunded tickets after they were cancelled by the company.

Amid the high tourist season, Airfasttickets has been on the spot of attention, after several Greek electronic travel agencies such as pamediakopes.gr, viva.gr, airtickets.gr and travelplanet24.gr, filed a suit against the company for unfair competition practices and selling tickets at lower than wholesale prices.

The Greek-owned company was recently awarded by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry as the most rapidly developed SME in Greece. However, the founder and alleged chairman of the company, Nikos Koklonis, did not attend the ceremony.

Furthermore, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has blocked the company from all ticket services in Greece, Germany and the United Kingdom saying AirfastTickets owes money to the Airline companies.

“Thousands of holidaymakers who booked with a discount online travel agent are being urged to check directly with airlines that their tickets are valid,” warned BBC.

Airfasttickets has definitely  created a brand after running a very aggressive advertising campaign in key places around the world. In case you visit the New York City subway or the London Cube, it is impossible not to see one of the company’s advertisements. The dynamic startup company has made its appearance in the market two years ago, by offering fares at the lowest prices in the market.

The company’s about statement speaks to a traveler’s heart noting that the founder himself was an unsatisfied customer of travel agencies and decided to start Airfasttickets.

“One day in 2009, Nikos Koklonis, was planning a trip. After spending many tiring hours researching and booking his trip, Nikos had become frustrated with the whole process. Filled with passion, he vowed to create a better way. So on the flight home with only a napkin, a pen, and a dream, he plotted a travel revolution that would empower consumers and businesses across the world. Soon after, he founded AirFastTickets, and the adventure had begun…”

And the adventure continues…

Greek newspaper “To Vima,” in a critical article that poses serious questions on the way Airfasttickets operates says the company has offices in the United Kingdom and the United States.

“In the US however, there are three different companies under the same name (airfasttickets Inc.) in three different states: Florida, New York and Texas. It seems though that there is no evident correlation among them and no correlation with the UK airfasttickets Inc. company. This means that—in legal terms – the term ‘group of companies’  is false.”

The company’s initial share capital is 60,000 euros and from 2012 there has been no recorded capital increase, which raises the question as to how the company would be listed in Nasdaq, as it has been announced.

Airfasttickets sells tickets in very low prices, lower than any other rival company and often lower that the airlines’ websites. After IATA blocked its access, Airfasttickets continued to make ticket bookings through other travel agencies. The outstanding debt of the company to IATA is estimated at more than 45 million euros. If this debt is not paid back, then IATA will request the “freezing” of all its bank accounts.

IATA has issued a warning to all travel agencies in the UK to avoid transactions with airfasttickets, after several passengers complained that they did not receive a refund when they had to cancel their tickets.

Moreover, Greek courts have ruled in favor of the Greek travel agencies’ suit and have issued a temporary order that suspends airfasttickets activities in Greece.

A search in online forums shows customers posing major complains about the company, often talking of ticket cancelations after they were booked and not being given the advertised prices by the site.

A Greek Reporter employee trying to book an airfare to New York was not able to buy the advertised ticket price after 16 failed attempts to book the ticket. The site would always give out a warning and offer a much higher price to the user after clicking the ‘buy’ button. An Airfasttickets customer service representative said that this was caused because the system is updated every 15 minutes by the airlines and within that time window this price difference may occur. Ten hours later the website was acting in the exact same way.

On the other hand there are also happy clients of Airfasttickets, including a frequent traveler from London to Athens who said that ” I am very happy with them. I have been using the site for the past year and never had a problem.”

Greek Reporter contacted the company’s office in the US and although we were told that Airfasttickets will offer us a statement on the matter, we never received one.