Is Kiwi.com legit? In this review of the travel website Kiwi.com, I’ll share my experience with you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
First, let’s all acknowledge that travel during these pandemic days is not going to be the most pleasant experience. If we manage our expectations thusly, our chances of being let down diminish.
Second, let me tell you a bit about me … because who you are, and what type of traveler you are, definitely affects whether you want to go with an online low budget travel agency like Kiwi.com.
I am traveling solo with only a carry-on bag and plenty of flexibility if things go awry. “Solo” and “flexible” — IMHO — are key ingredients for whether you want to book with an online travel agency.
If I were traveling with the family, I’d probably book direct with the airline. In fact, I have read that, in these pandemic days, it is unwise to use online travel agencies such as Kiwi.com, Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, etc.
But throwing caution to the wind is a age-old practice of mine so, without too much hesitancy, I booked a trip through Kiwi.com. Here are all of the things that I learned and you need to know if you if you book travel with Kiwi.com (be sure to read about my experience):
- How I Found About Kiwi.com and Who They Are
- Can You Trust Kiwi.com
- Why I Chose Kiwi.com (And Why You May Not Want To)
- How Was My Experience with Kiwi.com
- Kiwi.com Review Conclusion: Caveat Emptor!
How I Found About Kiwi.com and Who They Are
My normal first stop when booking a flight is Kayak.com to get a general ballpark idea of the prices for my upcoming travel.
In fact, several times I have booked directly through the Kayak website and have had very positive experiences.
So, in this instance, I was booking a flight from Medellin, Colombia to St. Louis, Missouri. A standard rate on a top-tier airline for this route is usually between $800 and $1,200. Often (since I fly this route a lot), to get a better price, I will book two separate roundtrips: one between Medellin & Miami/Ft Lauderdale and the other between Florida & St. Louis.
But Kayak is always my first stop and here is what I saw:
As you can see, there’s a great price of $390 offered by Kiwi.com.
Kiwi.com? Who are they? I have never used or heard of them. They do have a Wikipedia page that indicates many disgruntled travelers during the pandemic. In fact, their Better Business Bureau rating is currently an “F”.
Red flags everywhere … but the price is so good. It’s like half of what it would be on American Airlines.
Can You Trust Kiwi.com?
I literally Googled this phrase. And here are the results:
So, in bold, we read that “Kiwi is not a scam”.
However, if you read every entry in these Google results, you will find one dissatisfied customer after another.
Here are just a few quotes:
“They’re a pile of shonksters with tons of complaints on here who cobble together separate tickets as one “booking”.” (source)
“They’re legit in the sense that they take your money and book air tickets that you can use, but not legit in the sense that they care about customer service or have any sort of interest in you reaching your destination on time or getting your money back if a flight gets canceled.” (source)
“Took all my money and haven’t heard back from them!” (source)
Why I Chose Kiwi.com (And Why You May Not Want To)
In spite of all this, I still chose to book with Kiwi.com? Yep, and let me lay out the reasons why:
People post negative reviews WAY more than positive reviews.
In fact, one of the most reputable online travel agencies is Expedia.com and they have a horrible rating of 1 out of 5 from more than 5,000 reviewers on Trustpilot (click photo below for direct link).
I know this tendency to post negative comments first hand as a part of my job as an online consultant is to remove bad online reviews for companies.
And the more popular a site, the more negative reviews they will have.
But they wouldn’t continue to exist if everybody had bad experiences. Would they?
Ample Time Between Flights
I would say that you only want to book with an online travel agency if your itinerary provides for ample time between flights, especially if those flights are with different airlines.
An extremely large portion of all of the complaints to these online travel sites have to do with flights being canceled or delayed.
So, if you are going to use online travel agencies such as Kiwi.com, make sure they offer a good amount of time in between layovers.
The Top Tier Airlines Are Now … Not So Top Tier
For the itinerary that I am flying, I did find an American Airlines round-trip flight for $694, $300 more than what I am offered on Kiwi.com.
So my question is this: is American Airlines $300 better than the airlines that I will be flying?
Definitely not. Why?
Because American Airlines now nickels and dimes you just like all the budget airlines. This price of $694 does not even include luggage or seat assignments.
American Airlines, once ranked the second best airline, has begun playing down to the competition rather than maintaining and enhancing their services.
So basically there is no difference.
That extra $300 does not even get me out of the middle seat — I’d have to pay extra for that.
Luggage Requirements May Be a Show-Stopper
Checked luggage, and in fact carry-on luggage as well, maybe a showstopper if you intend to book with Kiwi.com or any other budget online travel agency.
I’m not saying it’s an absolute deterrent but you should expect to pay more for checked luggage and, in many cases, carry on luggage. These baggage fees make offset much of the savings that you intend to have with Kiwi.com.
And remember, on most airlines you can still carry on a personal item for free (a laptop bag can usually be classified as a personal item). Basically, if it fits under the seat, it’s a personal item but, if they are being sticklers that day, here are the actual measurements of carry-on bags.
Also, if you have multiple legs of a trip on different airlines and you have to retrieve and recheck your luggage, this is where many of the problems arise when you do not book directly with the airline.
Given all that, be mindful of your luggage requirements prior to booking with Kiwi.com.
I Can Accept (Not Happily) the Worst-Case Scenario: Can you?
If you decide to book on Kiwi.com, or for that matter any other online travel agency, you must be prepared for the worst case scenario.
The two worst case scenarios are as follows: your flight gets canceled OR your flight is delayed so long that you miss a connection.
One thing that we repeatedly see in the Kiwi.com reviews is that customer service is absolutely terrible. So, if anything goes off schedule, you’ll need to be prepared for the worst.
How Was My Experience with Kiwi.com
Okay, now we get to the heart of this review: what was my experience like on Kiwi.com?
My experience with Kiwi.com got real interesting real fast!
You see, Kiwi.com says that they will do the check-in automatically for you. And here is the first message that I received before I even boarded a plane (be sure to install their app for notifications):
As you see, Kiwi also indicated that if I had to pay a fee for checking in at the counter that they would reimburse me. However, that was one of the biggest fears booking with them because, by all accounts, it’s impossible to talk to Kiwi.com agents on the phone and resolve discrepancies like this.
So I began thinking about how Kiwi.com actually works and realized that their computers identify the cheapest flights and book you on each of them separately.
Given that, I went directly to the Spirit Airlines app (which was the airline on the first leg of my trip) to try to get my boarding pass through them rather than the one provided through Kiwi I had read that some airlines don’t like to honor the Kiwi.com boarding pass so it’s probably best to have one direct from the airline anyway.
The key piece of information that you need to know is your confirmation number for the flight which Kiwi.com does a fairly good job at concealing … but you can find it! It can be found in the PDF attachment on the “We’ve checked you in” email that they send as you see below.
Armed with that code and my last name, I was easily able to get my boarding pass directly from Spirit Airlines and all was smooth sailing.
That would be my most important piece of advice when flying on a trip booked through kiwi.com – get your boarding pass directly from the Airlines app.
It’s also quite possible that Kiwiwas not able to check me in on my first leg of the trip because it was international travel. They were able to check me in automatically for my second leg of the trip, which was travel within the US, from Orlando to St Louis Missouri.
Kiwi.com Review Conclusion: Caveat Emptor!
I’ve learned in life that expectations often dictate experience – great movie previews lead to let-down at the theatre.
Conversely, reduced expectations can lead to satisfied customers.
This is the secret to booking travel with Kiwi.com – reduced expectations.
If you are a demanding traveler with lofty expectations, Kiwi.com is probably not for you.
However, if you are a low-maintenance traveler who simply wants to get where you’re going at a reasonable cost, I think you’ll find Kiwi.com to your liking.
Get your copy of his latest book entitled Obvious Conclusions, stories of a Midwestern emigrant influenced and corrupted by many years living in San Francisco and abroad. It just received its first outstanding review "...reminiscent of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs" on Amazon UK.
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