Online booking of travel, providing consumers with a wealth of information and reducing the cost of booking tickets. He basically took the people (agents) out of the business. Something was lost in the process – expert advice on the best flights to book, for example, for reliability reasons. B. whether a one-hour layover in Chicago is desirable in the winter, or if you can book the last flight a day in advance.
There is a huge opportunity to improve online booking and no one has really done it. I thought Google, with its ability to know the habits of consumers and their searches, would step into the breach with AI, but it hasn’t.
Most people use sites like Expedia or Kayak to compare options because they don’t know if they want to fly American Airlines or United. They find the schedule and price they are looking for, and then book what they think is best. Orbitz, now owned by Expedia, actually started out as a competitor to airlines. The price list was also partially in the possession of the airlines concerned. These pages do not restrict you from booking flights with any airline or its partners.
While it can be useful for the average consumer to search for flights on Expedia and similar sites, it’s not really worth buying travel there unless you can put together complex itineraries at a lower price than booking directly. Instead, search for the flights you want and go directly to the airline to purchase your ticket.
Two recent tweets from American Airlines passengers illustrate why.
Online travel agencies have their own rules, which may be stricter than those of airlines.
If you book through an online travel agency, they may charge a amendment fee, in addition to the airline’sfee. Depending on the airline’s policy, you may be entitled to a free change, but the website you booked with may charge you a service fee for the change.
You can also refuse a refund on your Ticket if you are entitled to a refund under the fare rules. During the pandemic, online travel agency websites became notorious for refusing to refund tickets for cancelled flights, even when airlines were willing to make refunds. The OTAs wanted you to keep your flight credits so they could keep their commissions.
In fact, this practice is probably illegal. The Ministry of Transport clarifies that customers must be reimbursed for cancelled flights and that the Ministry’s reimbursement rules apply to online travel agencies, not just airlines.
I just finished a 45 minute phone call with @Expedia and was told that my flight on @AmericanAir that I paid extra for has been rebooked to a connecting flight and that I will not get a refund due to @AmericanAir’s policy. #Unknown American Airlines
– Twitter (@umarcarter) 23. March 2021
Someone will come between you and the help if something goes wrong.
In general, travel agents make money by automating the booking process. They spend a lot of money on advertising to get consumers’ attention and then try to meet their expectations as economically as possible. Customer service is often outsourced, agents are not empowered and wait times can be long.
When you finally reach someone at the booking site, they may not understand the nature of your problem or how to solve it. You may be put on hold again or put through and have to start your story all over again. Never assume you will be called back.
An online travel agency may ask you to call the airline. But the airline will tell you to wait – it’s an agency ticket. Agencies must make their own reservations. Unless you booked directly with the airline and they had to pay a commission for the sale, they usually won’t help you in advance (the day of the trip at the airport is a different story).
@AmericanAir I waited over two hours for them to tell me to call Priceline after speaking with a Priceline customer service representative to call American. Debbie, who works in the settlement department, doesn’t want to help and this lady should lose her job for talking to people.
– Maria Noetzel (@MariaNoetzel) March 23, 2021
If you’ve booked through an online travel agent and need the airline’s help, all hope is not lost – but the airline may charge you a fee to purchase your ticket, and that fee can be as high as $100.
If an online agency and an airline are pointing fingers at each other, consider bringing them together for a conference call. The wait can be long, and both sides can resist. The fact that you have to resort to this solution highlights why you should avoid involving a third party in the transaction in the first place, if possible, of course.
This does not mean that you should never go through aagent.
Sometimes you want to buy a ticket that you can’t buy directly from the airline, or that the airline’s price search engines suggest at a higher price. The savings or convenience of booking this ticket may outweigh the risks associated with customer service issues.
And there are actually good brokers whose business model is not based on offering the cheapest service and keeping commissions at the expense of clients. I don’t know many, because most good travel agents don’t like to touch airline tickets if they can avoid it. A good exception, of course, is Brett Snyder’s Cranky Concierge, which specializes in managing complex routes and solving problems as they arise.
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