Skipping the On-Line Travel Agencies.
Why do people continue to use the on-line travel agencies? Is there some benefit that escapes me? If something goes wrong or if there’s a problem of any kind, you’ll end up in a three-party discussion at minimum, with all the buck passing and time wasting that the process will inevitably involve.
My most recent experience was a hotel reservation in London booked through expedia.com. The details aren’t really important, but suffice to say that the dispute was never resolved to my satisfaction and literally hours were wasted with me going to expedia, expedia contacting the hotel, the hotel giving inaccurate information to expedia, me disputing that information in another conversation with expedia–and on and on.
Of course, almost every time I contacted expedia, I got a different person, who had to access my file and skim it before proceeding. After a few days of this—and I have no doubt that’s part of the strategy—I realized that if I got a full refund of the amount in dispute, it would add up to small change per hour for time I had invested in trying to get the refund.
So my approach now is to use the on-line travel agencies to compare room rates or air fares and, in the case of hotels, read some of the comments and look at the photographs. Then I go direct to the web site of the airline or hotel for the actual booking. The fares and rates are almost always the same, but if something goes wrong, I’ll have only one person in one Customer Service Department to deal with.
That seems so logical . . . but what am I missing?
As I have written before, I am very pleased with Booking.com and have had troubles when booking direct through hotels. It was a nightmare in Rome) when I had to change plans and arrive a day early. No replies to emails and a phone call that was something like “Si, SI. ok” It was not ok, the city was booked out and I ended up spending one night in the night manageress bedroom( she was on duty). Changing plans with Booking.com are very simple. I do not like Expedia, have had troubles with them over airlines. I do book airlines direct because I have airpoints with both Air New Zealand and Emirates. I use AA when booking here in NZ and there was an article in the AA magazine this week that overseas agencies are taking high commissions which leave the country but it did admit that small hotels could never afford to advertise overseas. I have also had great success with Airbnb.
Appreciate your insights as always.