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Airline Tickets

Hi Everyone -

I have not bought airline tickets in a really long time. Wow, it has become so confusing. The last time bought them I just went to the airline website and bought it directly from there. It was never a big shock but USAirways was always the cheapest because where I fly from (Philadelphia) is a hub location. Now it is American Airlines. I know I can get cheaper flights going to Newark and Atlantic City but I like the convenience of being close, with little traffic it is about 15-20 minutes from my house.

I checked out a few discount sites - Kayak and Momondo and their flights were cheaper but you would end up buying the tickets through a 3 party company. The old adage "If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is". I tried buying through one of them Cheap Best Flights, I could not complete the transaction via their website so I called their 1-800 and they wanted me to buy it over the phone. Thankfully, I realized it was a scam and said thanks but no thanks.

Is it still the safest bet to just get your tickets directly from the airline's website?

Thanks for your input and help...

Posted by
2677 posts

People use these online travel agencies all the time. I have and had some terrible experiences. And, there are hidden fees which often don’t appear until you are just about to book. So, I use Google flights or Kayak, find my flights, and book directly with the airlines. If things go sideways between booking and travel I’m dealing with an airline, not a third party (and I buy travel insurance separately). Here is an article which covers many of the OTA’s and search engines

Posted by
10326 posts

Is it still the safest bet to just get your tickets directly from the airline's website?


Posted by
492 posts

I use Google flights and Kayak all the time, but truthfully have never once booked a flight through them for myself. Essentially, I like to use them as search engines to compare airlines and fares all in one place, and many of the people on here do the same.

Having said that, I've used Orbitz and Expedia a lot for work (not booking my own flights, but when I've had to book flights for people I work with or that we're contracting for various projects that require travel). I've found the big name, reputable 3rd party sites like Orbitz and Expedia to be reasonably reliable and can't say I've ever experienced a hassle with either that stands out all that much from the kinds of hassles I've dealt with from the airlines themselves - there can be change fees and restrictions and hoops to jump through on cancelations or changes, some customer service reps are go-getters eager to help out while others want to give you the runaround, sometimes your options are severely limited no matter who you book through because you booked the least flexible fare, etc. Mind you, it says something that I only trust my personal travel by booking direct with the airline.

What many people don't understand is airlines often have a best price guarantee - they want you to book directly through them, and want their website to be the destination that comes to mind when you're looking for a flight. Even if you can find a cheaper airfare listed on a 3rd party booking site, it is possible to call the airline and mention to them you're looking at a lower price on another site. They'll often honor that price, or even give you a voucher for the difference. The catch here is this usually has to occur within 24hrs of booking - which is to say, if you book with an airline and then see a lower price on Expedia or some other site within 24hrs, you can call the airline to get either a credit or voucher. Here's Delta's as an example (though I'm not sure American offers such a guarantee anymore):

Third party sites can be great if and when everything about your travel goes well. You might have easily been able to shop around on a single site and found a good fare, and saved yourself some money on that wonderful trip. It's when things go wrong that they can sometimes be a bit of a hassle. This isn't to say booking directly with airlines assures you your experience will be hassle-free, and your experience with a 3rd party site is guaranteed to be a miserable one. Rather, it's more a case of how much you wanna stack the odds either for or against you - the more parties you involve in the process, the greater likelihood you may get the runaround or have to jump through hoops if a flight is canceled or delayed or connection missed or some other unexpected problem pops up. The more people wanting to make money off your transaction, the more fees you might come across. Again, nothing is ever really a sure thing, and there's always a chance you'll beat any odds or lose out no matter how good your hand. But ultimately your leverage is certainly higher when having booked directly with the airline.

Posted by
10098 posts

We always buy direct from the airline. If there any problems, those buying directly would be taken care of first.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks for this post tangiergal.

I have been asking myself this question for the last few days as I book my September travel.

Thanks Alan, Joe42F and 1885BD. The information is much appreciated!

Posted by
8081 posts

I have used Orbitz and Expedia before, but usually research there and then book with the airline. One thing I dont like about third party websites is that they will sometimes cough up unreasonable connections, or cobble together multiple-airline itineraries that I am not comfortable with, especially if you're looking on price only. Tangiergal, you are right to not just look at the price, but the time and convenience as well.

This is a bit more challenging when you're flying from a non-gateway city, and need to connect in the US first. You have to consider connecting airports and weather for example.

Posted by
110 posts

I had to purchase 5 tickets to Italy so I was looking for the most reasonable deal I could find. I used 3rd party sites to find a good deal and then went directly to the airline website, found the same flights and prices and booked directly with them. I always book directly with the airline.

A few years back in Greece, our flight home was canceled, it was the only flight of the day on that airline. We immediately called the airline (while 100+ people stood in line at the counter trying to rebook) and we were rebooked on another airline and ended up getting home within an hour of our original flight. I doubt if I had booked through a 3rd party that I would have had the ease of getting another flight so quickly.

Posted by
22891 posts

My preference is to use the air carrier direct. However, have used Orbitz and Expedia frequently over the years for domestic flights with no problems either at the customer service level or ticketing.

Posted by
3899 posts

Is it still the safest bet to just get your tickets directly from the
airline's website?

Safe in many ways. If your flight is cancelled, you are much better off having bought your tickets via the airline and not some 3rd party provider who may not be available to you as soon as you need them. NEVER buy via a 3rd party vendor. Feel free to look for flights/airfares on websites like skyscanner or google flights but then buy directly from the airline.

Posted by
11294 posts

My preference is always to book with the airline. But last summer, my sister was looking for tickets for her family of 4 from New York to Prague. Delta flies this route nonstop (her strong preference with kids), but was charging about $800 per person, and the same flight as an Air France code share was the same price. But booked on Expedia, she got the exact same flight for $400 per person! So, she ended up flying a Delta flight, on an Air France code share number, bought through Expedia. The flights went fine, and they had no trouble using the Delta and Air France website to select seats and special meals.

About 15 years ago, I had to buy a ticket through Orbitz when I couldn't get the open jaw itinerary I wanted (into Vienna, out of Berlin, with different airlines) on one ticket any other way.

So, using a third part site can be fine. Expedia and Orbitz have been around a long time; I'd be much more leery of some of the other ones. And if the price difference is minimal, I'd still pay a bit more to book with the airline.

Posted by
3112 posts

When looking at other airports with lower fares, one always has to factor in the transportation costs and additional travel time to get there. I once found perfect and inexpensive flights out of JFK to Turkey on Turkish Airways but, by the time I factored in the costs to get to JFK, it wound up costing less to fly direct to Germany on a US airline with a Lufthansa connection to Turkey. Even though the flight from JFK was direct, one change of plane in Germany turned out to be much easier than getting to JFK.