Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Internet Booking Anomalies

Trying to book a flight Raleigh/Durham to Mineapolis/St. Paul for a one day meeting Monday, December 18, I naturally wanted a nonstop if possible. Knowing only Northwest flies RDU/MSP nonstop, I shopped first at their website for flights to the Twin Cities leaving Sunday afternoon, December 17, and returning Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Unfortunately, the cheapest nonstop round trip fare I could come up with at was $1,100 and change--and that was for a center seat in coach. So I went to Orbitz to shop among carriers who would connect through some horribly unreliable hub or another and found that both Delta and American fares (with reasonable schedules) could be purchased for $300-400.

Very reasonable, I thought. But I didn't actually buy a ticket from Orbitz. Why not? Well, because the airlines eschew any rebooking assistance in cases of schedule disruptions to those unlucky souls who have the temerity NOT to book directly through their own website, even if you are a super-duper elite flyer like me.

Having been burned several times holding tickets purchased through Orbitz, Travelocity, or Expedia and not being able to contact one of their agents on a Sunday night during a blizzard when I desperately needed to make alternate plans, I thus obediently went directly to to book my ticket instead of at Orbitz.

But when I got there, the Delta website was showing outrageous fares more than twice those advertised for the same Delta flights on Orbitz. Try as I might to ferret out a $350 fare on, I came up wanting, and had to abandon my effort.

Now peevish and muttering to myself, I navigated over to to give American's website a try. And lucked out: Found just the flights I wanted for $313.20 round trip RDU/MSP. And I bought them.

Lessons to be learned here:

1. Often the monopoly nonstop carrier, if there is one in a market like RDU/MSP, can and will charge a bloody fortune for the convenience of not connecting.

2. Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and the like can be a dumping ground for unsold inventory for some airlines, like Delta, with fares not available through the direct airline website. That's fine if you don't mind having your tickets issued through those travel distribution portals, BUT:

3. Be prepared to contact the ticket issuer (Orbitz, etc.) if anything goes wrong during your itinerary because the airlines won't proactively help you. And often they won't help you even if you beg them: "Sorry, sir, your ticket was issued through Orbitz, and you'll have to contact them [CLICK]."

Oh how I miss the days when my travel agent took care of everything. Now it takes three or visits to several different websites to ascertain which is the best fare and schedule and finally to purchase one's ticket.


Blogger Mercwyn said...

One must keep in mind that Orbitz et al. don't use last seat availability which means in many cases they show fares as being available when in reality those fares are already sold out.

And this may come as a real surprise to you but there are real travel professionals out there who do take care of these things for you.

12/29/2006 3:55 PM  

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