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I'm trying to buy plane tickets for a group of relatives to go to overseas for a wedding. I suspect it would be easier to just buy vouchers or airline gift certificates. They insist on paying their own way, but I know how much of a hardship it'll be for them, so I hope I can pick up their airfare. What's the best way to do this without asking them for their passport information? If I ask them for it, they'll protest, so I'd rather just tell them after the fact.

Thanks in advance!

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Talk to a Travel Agent,
Tell them (or have the agent tell them) that they are getting the best deal, quote them 1/2 of the real cost and you pickup the difference.

I wouldn't lie to them about how much the airfare is, or even insist they all use the same travel agent, etc. That would seem a bit fishy to me, if I were one of the relatives.

I wouldn't pay for flights for other people (who were not immediate family) because their plans could change and then it would be complicated to sort out.
And as you say, their passport details are required, etc.
Plus, people may want to spend airmiles, stay a few extra days, go through a different connecting airport, fly business class, or whatever. I'd let them do their own flights.

It might be easier for you to pay for their accommodation, or at pay for least part of it, especially if everyone will be staying in the same hotel(s) for the couple of days surrounding the wedding date.
Maybe you could give them a gift voucher to that hotel and let them apply it as they wish, or arrange with the hotel that you will pay $x towards each person's bill.
If you wanted to keep it a secret until they checked out and then found that their bill was much lower than they expected, you could do that, but maybe they'd want to know beforehand, because they could have used that money which they'd budgeted for the hotel on other aspects of the trip (like buying a nice souvenir to take home or going on a 3-hour whale-watching cruise or whatever).

Or, maybe you could arrange for a private sightseeing daytrip in the foreign location with English-speaking tour guide and nice lunch or dinner included, for the group, and pay for that, if that sounds like something they'd want to do together, and would welcome as part of the experience.

Thanks for the great comments and suggestions. The hotel and other accommodations once they're there will all be taken care of by the parents of the couple getting married. The relatives I'm trying to help with airfare don't really know them, but are nonetheless obligated to attend. I was given the task of making sure everyone saves face. That's right, we're Asians. I think I'll just buy the miles for them. United used to have vouchers you can buy for third parties, but they stopped selling them.

Buying miles is useful only when you are just a little short.
Buying miles and then buying tickets using the miles is typically going to be waaay more expensive than the ticket.

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