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My friend lost his cash and bank cards while traveling in France. Now he wants to come home, and I am going to buy him a plane ticket. I have seen questions like this one, that say that he might not be able to board the plane if he doesn't have the original form of payment.

Given that, what is the best way for me to help him with a plane ticket? Should I send him cash, or is there a prepaid debit card in France that he can get quickly that I can then load from the United States? Or is there some other way that I can buy him a ticket? Ideally, we would like to find a solution that doesn't require him to wait in France until Wells Fargo provides replacement cards.

Another related question asks whether flying from Singapore on a ticket someone else has purchased will be a problem. I am asking about France, and inviting suggestions other than using a card in my name.

EDIT: I appreciate everyone's concern about this being a scam. I didn't provide sufficient detail for the reader to rule that out. There is quite a bit of backstory to my friend's predicament which is mostly irrelevant, except that I have been in regular phone communication with him, and I know that this is NOT a scam.

Anyone who comes across this question while looking to rescue a stranded friend should be aware that email accounts get hacked and loved ones get fooled by extremely convincing, detail-rich false pleas for money every day. Here's an example of someone falling for it even after speaking with the "stranded traveler" on the phone.

But that isn't my situation.

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    btw, messages claiming someone is stranded overseas and needs money to get home are a common scam. Many travelers already have a round-trip plane ticket as well. Be extremely careful. – Zach Lipton Apr 18 '16 at 1:15
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    Be sure that your 'friend' is genuine and not the victim of identity theft. Adding 'scam' tag because your narrative closely fits the profile. – Gayot Fow Apr 18 '16 at 2:22
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    My mom has frequently gotten messages from "friends" who are "stranded" overseas. Sometimes, within a few hours of her seeing them in person. It's always been a scam from someone who got access to the person's email. – Joel Apr 18 '16 at 4:52
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    Have you tried calling your friends Cell #? Just because someone on the phone claims to have lost all their things (unlikely, in reality), doesn't mean they're telling the truth. Call your friend directly, and see who picks up. This is one of the oldest scams in the book. They usually try to get you to not contact anyone else who might know the friend, usually saying things like "i'm so embarrassed, don't want anyone to know", etc. This works a lot, and is designed to not allow you to piece together this story is bogus. – SnakeDoc Apr 18 '16 at 18:33
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    @RedGrittyBrick I bought a non-refundable ticket, but he never attempted to use it. Things eventually resolved, and he made it back much later. Some total stranger had an empty seat next to them on a flight from Paris to Boston. – OstrichGroomer Aug 29 '17 at 16:22
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If you are worried about showing payment, you can eliminate this by going to a travel agent and have them book the flight. That automatically verifies FOP for the ticket. You can also visit the airline's office and do the same if they serve your home town.

But be sure to talk to your friend by phone BEFORE doing anything. They can call you collect. The lost cards, cash on vacation email scam has been going on for years.

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    (+1) Another option is to go through a consulate. They certainly won't pay for a flight or lend you any money but they can put you in touch with relatives and help them get money to you (at least my country's diplomatic service does). – Relaxed Apr 18 '16 at 8:50
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he might not be able to board the plane if he doesn't have the original form of payment.

I read the linked answer and it does not mesh with my experience after hundreds of flights I took in Europe, the USA, Canada and in between. Consider people flying on the dime of some company. The passenger certainly won't have the card for that.

Even in the case of IRROPS (irregular operations) noone will ask for it. I've had an Air France Budapest-Paris flight which got cancelled, AF put me on a trip connecting via Munich (btw this is the example I use for flying traditional vs low cost airlines) and never asked for proof of payment -- it's not like I had one...

My experience, without exception is: I show up at check-in, present my pile of passports and relevant immigration paperwork, get a boarding card, go through security, board. If I am asked for a credit card it is only because I need to pay for checked in luggage.

So I would just offer buying a ticket and be done with the problem. If the friend insists on receiving money then it's a scam.

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    Contrary to your experience, people DO get checked by some airlines to verify FOP (form of payment). I have had to show my card on several occasions and one time had to buy a new ticket because I did not have the card with me (the airline promptly refunded the original charge after the flight) – user13044 Apr 18 '16 at 2:02
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    And how does that work with flights paid by companies?? I wouldn't want to purchase a YVR-LHR business ticket on spot, that's for sure and given the time zone differences I doubt anyone in London would be at hand at 5am or so to fax whatever. – chx Apr 18 '16 at 2:08
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    @Tom: it would be nice if you could mention concrete cases. My (not so extensive, but still) flying experience is some 400 segments in 33 different airlines, and not a single time have I been asked for proof of payment or a card. It also didn't happen the few times I bought tickets for other persons. – Martin Argerami Apr 18 '16 at 3:50
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    When I book tickets on the BA website, it always asks me something like "is the person making the payment one of the travellers". Saying no presumably does some extra fraud checks at the time, but then no payment card is requested at checkin – Gagravarr Apr 18 '16 at 11:06
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    @chx The policy only applies if the traveller is purchasing a ticket for himself directly from the airline. It is perfectly okay to purchase a ticket for someone else, as long as you tick the right box when you buy the ticket on the website or confirm this on the phone or at the desk. However, for some city-pairs, this will flag the transaction as suspicious. – Calchas Apr 18 '16 at 15:23
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Airlines in Europe usually ask for your payment card at the airport if and only if the cardholder is travelling. I routinely book flights for my parents (directly via the airlines' webpages, never via reseller) and so far there has always been an option to indicate whether the cardholder was travelling or not. Note that some airlines (Lufthansa if I remember correctly) require you to log on with your frequent flyer credentials before you can book a flight for another person or to go via their phone booking service.
If in doubt I would always call the airline, they are generally able to sort out non-standard bookings fairly efficiently (once you are past the waiting muzak that is...)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Apr 19 '16 at 12:46
  • That answer is two years old. A lot has changed since then. Though the last sentence still holds true: If in doubt, ask. – Marianne013 Aug 20 '18 at 8:46
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As simple as it sounds, book a ticket which doesn't require FOP verification. For example, here's a reseller which doesn't require you to present the credit card for verification at the airport (and even accepts virtual cards).

You may even book the ticket with an actual virtual credit card to be sure.

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Some airlines (Qatar, for example) provide a form for payment verification, if the credit card holder is not traveling with the passenger. One needs to upload the monthly invoice from the credit card company to prove that he owns the card/has access to the invoices which are generally accessible only by the owner.

Another alternative that I found online when I was in the similar circumstances, was to sent a copy of your invoice to the passenger via email. They can take a print of it if asked by the airline authorities. This proves they have access to the invoices, which, also implies the point mentioned above

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