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Avoiding Super Bowl Travel Scams

(January 2002)

When it comes to sports championship games, the Super Bowl reigns supreme. Many fans will do almost anything to attend the big game, but unfortunately, scammers are ready to take advantage of football fans' hard-earned money.

If you are thinking about attending the Super Bowl at the last minute, here are a few things to watch out for.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Travelers going to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans should be aware that not all tour packages include tickets to the February 3 game.

In the past, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Aviation Consumer Protection Division, some advertisements for Super Bowl travel packages did not appear to include tickets. As a result, the DOT routinely cautions travelers that if a game ticket is not specifically mentioned in advertisements or other solicitation materials, the ticket is probably not included.

Furthermore, the DOT's consumer protection rules require that tour operators promoting Super Bowl tour packages as including game tickets must have them in hand or have a written contract for them before doing any advertising.

If marketing materials do not state whether a game ticket is included, consumers should ask the tour operator if it is. If a tour representative states that a game ticket is included, consumers should request that the game ticket, or at least a written confirmation for it, be presented to them at the time of purchase.

These "truth in ticketing" rules were adopted in the wake of the 1994 Rose Bowl, when many University of Wisconsin fans learned that their air tour packages either did not include promised tickets to the game, or upon arrival in Pasadena, were told they would have to pay hundreds of additional dollars to receive their tickets.

Get a Safety

Fortunately, under the watchful eye of the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, there is no evidence of misrepresentation by Super Bowl tour operators in recent years. Nevertheless, before purchasing a Super Bowl package:

  • Carefully read tour brochures, advertisements, and any other solicitation materials.

  • Pay by credit card whenever possible, because you will receive some protection under fair credit practice laws if you don't get what you paid for.

  • Know your rights. The DOT's "truth in ticketing" rules state that if a tour is supposed to include a game ticket and you do not receive one, you are entitled to a full refund for the entire package. Also, if the tour operator increases your price by more than 10 percent beyond what you originally agreed to pay, you have the right to cancel and receive a full refund. No price increases are permitted during the last ten days before departure.
Additional consumer protections apply to Super Bowl packages involving public charter flights:

  • If the tour operator makes a major change to the tour—including changing the flight's departure or arrival city for either the departure or return date, or substituting a hotel that isn't named in the solicitation material—you may cancel and receive a full refund.

  • Super Bowl charter tours may not be canceled in the last 10 days before departure, except for events beyond the control of the operator.

  • On a charter, you are required to sign, and are entitled to keep, a copy of a detailed operator-participant contract.

  • Scheduled and charter flights have check-in time limits. Know your times and arrive well ahead of the scheduled time.
When booking a tour, remember the old saying, the best offense is a good defense.

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