Credit card fees for flight bookings at eDreams and Opodo

20 Jan 2016 Knowhow

The market for online flight booking is very competitive. Online travel agencies are struggling with customer acquisition as profit margins are small and the product seems to be the same at any supplier. In the end a lot of websites try to make a difference by depressing prices, which leads to a race to the bottom and declining customer experience.

Especially at metasearch engines the online travel agencies try to rank as high as possible. In order to achieve this they show very low net-prices, which are only bookable under certain circumstances. Customers can only book flights at these prices if they renounce any service and pay with a very specific credit card.

Opodo and eDreams both attracted negative attention in the past due to hidden extra costs. Both belong to Odigeo, one of the world's biggest supplier of flight tickets with almost 10 million bookings per year.

If you search a flight on eDreams from Brussels to Berlin, prices for Ryanair flights start from 7.24€. At Ryanair's website the same flight costs 9.99€. How is that possible?

Prices for Ryanair flights
eDreams showing prices below Ryanair's official prices

By investigating the data that eDreams sends to the metasearch engines, the pricing can be reproduced: eDreams offers flights with a negative profit margin, which means that they sell tickets for less than they actually have to pay for. That's why you can book Ryanair flights for less than the official price.

eDreams' data send to searchengines
API-call shows negative profit margin

Depending on entry point (if you accessed the website directly or via a flight search engine), country and route, even free flights are possible.

booking of a free Ryanair flight at eDreams
Booking of a free flight at eDreams

Understandably eDreams tries to overcompensate for that loss by extra charges in the payment process and by offering extra services such as travel insurances and other useless products.

Furthermore they try to avoid those flight-bookings by offering very limited free payment methods. Only exotic credit cards like Visa Entropay or Diners Club are available without extra costs. Other cards will raise the price considerably. The table below shows the algorithm that is used by Odigeo in oder to identify the type of the credit card in the browser.


Name

Länge

Anfang

Mastercard Credit

16

51, 52, 53, 54, 55

Mastercard Debit

16

51, 52, 53, 54, 55

Visa Entropay

13, 16

4

Visa Electron

16

40, 41, 44, 45, 49 

Visa Debit

13, 16

4

Visa Credit

13, 16

4

Maestro

12-19

5018, 5020, 5038, 5893, 6304, 6759, 6761, 6762, 6763, 0604

Diners Club

14, 16

300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 36, 54, 55

American Express

15

34, 37

Solo

16, 18, 19

6334

Discover

16

6011, 65


As you can see the rules for some cards are the same, like for Visa Debit and Visa Credit. However it's not possible to use a Visa Credit card as a Visa Debit card. After clicking the "Book"-button Odigeo checks the credit card’s number again and displays the following error message if the credit card does not match the specified type.

eDreams' error message
eDreams' error message if creditcard does not match selected type (German)

Moreover you can only make one booking within 3 months. To prevent further bookings Odigeo checks the passenger's data, email address, phone number and credit card number. 

Our experts have found methods and ways to bypass this regulation so that you can make multiple bookings with the same credit cards within 3 months.

error card mismatch
Error message if creditcard was used during last 3 months (German)

The free payment method changes frequently. Also it can be different depending on entry point and stored cookies.


Odigeo's business practices are against the law in some countries. On 2015-10-01 the German district court of Hamburg judged that Opodo's payment fees violate against German Civil Code. Thus at least one common payment method has to be offered by the travel agency. 
However Opodo haven't changed their payment fees yet.

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