Although some of the travel sites have dropped their booking fees, I still always use them for research and then book my flight directly with the airline. Today, I discovered the ultimate reward for that practice.
Booking Directly Can Save Fees
Most of the major travel sites make their money off fees they charge you for making the purchase. Travel agents are no longer paid by the airlines, so bookers are coming to consumers for their money. I will still compare flights on Orbitz or Farecast, then I go to the airline’s website to book the flight. The only time this doesn’t work is when the best fair is on a split itinerary with multiple airlines. Then you really do have to book through the travel site.
Booking directly sometimes nets me a lower fare, too. In addition, some airlines give a mileage boost if you’re a rewards member and book online. Most have discontinued the practice, but they do hold occasional promotions.
Book Directly if Your Plans May Change
I had to book a flight for work. An hour after I booked it, the client changed the meeting date. I was ticked because I’d have to pay a $150 change fee. Then I discovered that United offers free cancellation for 24 hours if you book directly with them. Delta offers the same service until midnight of the next day. Not all airlines do this, but if your itinerary could change, make sure you choose an airline with this option.
Book Directly to Reduce the Hassle
Again, if your plans are likely to change, then booking with an airline reduces the hassle. The travel sites make you deal with their customer service reps who don’t have real power. You’ll spend hours on the phone arguing. If you booked with their airline, their reps are usually nice, helpful people who can actually do something for you.
Book Directly to Avoid Being Scammed
I’ll admit this is rare, but at least once a summer you hear about some traveler who was scammed by an online travel site that turned out to be a fraud. They were left with no tickets, no money, and no recourse. If you go directly to the airline’s website, you don’t have to worry about scams. Of course, you might miss out on some of the sweet deals that packagers offer, but if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
I rarely book travel through a travel website unless I need to score a hotel room deal on Priceline or TravelZoo or want luxury travel from LuxuryLink. Otherwise, I go directly to the airline. It’s the best way to save.