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Is there any legal requirement for companies selling flight tickets to tell their customers what Visas they may need for the flight?

If they make it sound like, via omission, that you don't need any visas for a journey you do need visas for, and then take money in exchange for the tickets, have they committed any potential legal wrong?

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    Moot question: All airlines have terms and conditions (or a contract of carriage) that clearly state that proper documentation (for both entry and Corvid) is the traveler's responsibility. All airlines require you to accept these terms when you buy a ticket.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 23:01
  • Your question is borderline with law stack exchange. In general you are responsible to be in line with laws (also if you do not know it). When you buy a ticket, usually there is a link to check visa requirements (usually on external site, because it is complex). In any case you should know better then an airline. If you want more, you should go to a travel agency. Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 10:00
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi a real good travel agency. Many travel agencies won’t assist customers with that either (including of course the vast majority of online travel agencies).
    – jcaron
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 11:40
  • In much the same way that it's not the Uber driver's responsibility to check that you have a valid flight ticket when they drive you to the airport, the airline doesn't have a responsibility to you to ensure that you have the correct documentation for your flight destination. The only reason the airline cares at all and checks your documentation at boarding is to reduce their risk of having to fly you back where you came from if you're denied entry.
    – brhans
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 14:41
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    @Hilmar: The EU for one takes a very dim view of companies that try to make consumers responsible for things that the company knows best. This burden cannot be shifted to the consumer, not even via a contract. A company can't tell you exactly which visa you need, because it can depend on individual factors that the airline may not know. But general things like "transit visa are required for this layover" are more objective.
    – MSalters
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 22:43

4 Answers 4

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No, flight selling companies tell you that you need to look for the needed visa yourself.
That is airlines as well as sites that only sell the tickets.

There are even sites that sell a lot of unconnected flights, with very short layovers, where most people need visa, without a clear warning about this.

With the warning that it is on the customer to make sure they have the needed visa they cover the legal aspect. (But I think in some countries you might be able to argue that they should have done more and you may get a partial refund, but I have never heard of that happening.)

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    @theonlygusti, they all have it somewhere on their site, in the paperwork they get you to sign if you buy in a brick and mortar travel agency and likely in the small print on the ticket themselves if they still hand out paper tickets.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 12:38
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    Which jurisdictions does the last parenthesis in your answer pertain to?
    – minseong
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 17:33
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    As I wrote, I have never heard of one, so there might be but I can not tell you where to look for them.
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 17:34
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    As long as there are warnings somewhere that you need to ensure you have the proper travel documents for the trip, I doubt any sane legal system would hold the vendor liable in case the customer does not have said documents. It's impossible for the vendor after all to ensure said documents exist, unless they themselves provide them as part of the contract with the customer.
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 7:22
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    @theonlygusti What exactly do you mean by “illegal”? It’s not illegal to buy or own a ticket to a country you can’t legally enter, it’s just a waste of money.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 13:05
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Questions like that, or complains about specific cases where it did not happen, are common on this site. But think about what you are asking the ticket seller to do:

They would have to be aware of the entire travel and legal history of their customer, as well as all citizenships. A years-old overstay might mean that the customer cannot get a visa on arrival, and has to apply beforehand. A second or third citizenship might mean that the customer needs no visa. And even then, the customer might be on a secret no-fly list held by some country.

Or they hand out a pages-long questionnaire, with lots of questions that are either insulting ("have you ever been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude") or impossible to answer ("do you have the same birthdate and shoe size as a wanted terrorist?"). Then they feed that into a computer system and tell the customer the answer.

For easy cases, it would actually be an option to require that from any ticket seller (travel agent, tour operator, ...). But it would also mean that people with complex cases would not be asked to think through their specific situation.

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    Unclear scenarios (like "hidden no flight lists") are obviously out of the question. But since all airlines DO check visas and passport at check in, there is no reason they can't do the same at sell point (online or offline).
    – Dmitry
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 12:52
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    Essentially nobody asks them to check my right of entry, only whether or not I'm allowed to board. In reality I can think only of one real issue. I could buy (and sometimes I have to!) my ticket even before I got my visa. That would be silly to forbid to sell a ticket to me in that case.
    – Dmitry
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 13:01
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    @Dmitry rules change. You being able to travel to country X via country Y on the date of purchase doesn’t mean you will be able to do so on the date of the flight (and vice versa). On date of purchase, customer may not yet have a visa (or even a passport), or an ESTA/ETA/eVisitor or whatever it’s called for the combination. If airlines start checking at time of purchase, it opens a big nasty Pandora’s box of liability for them if they ever got it wrong or anything changed in the meantime. Much better for them to put the responsibility squarely in the shoulders of the passenger.
    – jcaron
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 15:44
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    also, it might not make sense to ask for the visa when selling the ticket because you might even need to buy the ticket first to include it in the visa application, as in some tourist visas
    – Mike M
    Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 21:48
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    @jcaron: I had to fly extremely last-minute to the US once. While I did have a valid ESTA, the only connection I could get on such short notice was via Canada. I literally didn't even have my ticket yet as the train entered the airport and my eTA didn't get approved until minutes before boarding the plane. It would have been completely impossible to get all the immigration stuff sorted out before buying the ticket. Commented Feb 26, 2023 at 22:23
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It is strictly impossible for an airline to know for sure and in advance if you will be allowed into a country or even allowed to board.

While the general cases can be relatively easy, there are so many special cases and exceptions it’s not even funny, there’s a lot of information they don’t even have (like previous travel history), and authorities have discretionary power to reject anyone at the border, or for countries with bidirectional API (like the US), at time of boarding (the dreaded “DO NOT BOARD”).

Even without getting to that point, tools like Timatic have a few limited cases where they will say “no visa required” or “visa required”, and then tons of cases where they have long lists of conditions and exceptions and special cases which are not standardised enough that you can just enter data and get a verdict, you just get something a human must interpret (which is often not quite obvious), sometimes pages and pages long, and is sometimes subject to errors.

Add to that the fact that things change quite often, and you get a big mess, which airlines absolutely do not want to enter, as it could open them to a whole lot of liability. So they just stay clear and put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the passenger, and they honestly very little other choice.

Many airlines and OTAs will make it quite obvious and explicit at the time of purchase, but it is always spelled out in the terms and conditions.

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    and then there are the cases where you get stopped after checking in by some roving security patrol, taken in for questioning, and miss your flight. Would the ticket vendor be responsible? Obviously not. On take the case of my father who once in Budapest was taken off the aircraft after boarding by the secret police when his permanent entry business visa for the USA (tells how long ago that was, they no longer issue those) raised the suspicion of someone at security, they led him through but reported it anywyay.
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 7:25
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You expect a higher level of customer service.

You have in your mind a certain level of attentiveness and customer service. You want your provider to pay attention to details like that, and work with you to help your travel be a success.

That's fine and a reasonable thing to expect. From a quality, full-service travel agent.

And I remember when that was pretty much mandatory. You didn't get on a plane without a machine-printed ticket exactly the size of an IBM card, with perforations and break-off sections, that came off a very expensive printer that the travel agent leased, and tied to a 3278 terminal on a special phone line. As telephone call centers, automated phone systems and the Internet changed all that, legislators decided consumers should be free to choose discount providers. Which works for me.

But now that such discount providers have become normalized, people don't realize a full-service agent is even a thing, or a thing for them because they prefer "cheaper". True; agents don't work for free.

When you book travel yourself on the Internet, you're the agent, and it's your job to educate your client on travel issues like visas. That's why you get the big bucks! :) Or rather, keep the big bucks in your pocket.

So you chose to DIY the visa stuff when you decided to deal discount/direct. That was your choice and they don't owe you anything.

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