Over a decade ago, American Airlines was a co-creator of Orbitz. This week, the airline has pulled its flights from the Online Travel Agent (OTA) during a contract dispute. Charisse Jones, who covers the travel industry for USA Today, talks about why airlines are trying to wrestle power back from OTAs, and what it all means for consumers.
Five Things We Learned About Buying Airline Tickets:
1. This dispute is about the fees the airline pays Orbitz for every flight booked. American Airlines says Orbitz is charging too much.
2. Sometimes these aggregator sites are more expensive than buying directly from an airline. Some OTAs do charge an extra fee – so check and see that buying from an airline won’t actually be cheaper. You will save money using OTAs if you buy package deals -- for rental cars, hotel rooms and flights.
3. Online Travel Agents aren’t actual agents. They don’t offer the same help that human agents do when you need to make a change to your flights, or to waive fees. And when there are problems, airlines often reward customers who deal with them directly instead of working through a third-party.
4. One caller, Tanya in Hazlet, suggested using Matrix when looking for complicated trip itineraries even though you can't buy tickets on the site. Another listener, Roland, added that Matrix is powered by Google.
5. Delta doesn’t use some of the smaller OTAs, so if you’re looking for flights from that airline you may want to use a larger site. Southwest Airlines doesn’t list on any OTAs.