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online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
318 posts
17 reviews
11 helpful votes
online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

why are quite often online booking sites cheaper than dealing direct with the airline? sometimes they are cheaper by around 10% or more which can add up if several bookings involved.do they buy a block of seats at a reduced rate then hope they sell them all or just get a better rate in general.same flights same everything.these are reputable sites like zuji,direct flights etc. buying direct with the airline is no doubt better but sometimes the savings can't be ignored,

any thoughts on this from the seasoned traveller's out there-thanks

Sunshine Coast...
Level Contributor
3,444 posts
37 reviews
52 helpful votes
1. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

Are you sure those seats are really available? Do they include all the extras - fuel surcharges, tax etc?

London, United...
Level Contributor
35,431 posts
97 reviews
106 helpful votes
2. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

There could be several reasons. As mentioned, they may not be the final price you pay; the company may be selling them cheaply in the hope of selling you insurance or car hire or hotel bed, from which they will make a big profit margin.

Then again, the airline may have wanted to get rid of those seats, as they were not selling well. They may have offered a reseller a discount.

But, its also possible the booking site does not have the seats and is hoping they can get them cheap when you book, and their booking conditions may say (price may change....", and you are stuck with them. Read the small print!

Italy
Level Contributor
39,912 posts
252 reviews
212 helpful votes
3. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

Flight prices go up and down all the time, for example yesterday I booked an internal flight in Argentina, I checked out the price first with the airline and it was 289 US$ this was around 11am an hour later I checked out the price on edreams and it was quite a bit cheaper, even after adding on the tax and booking fee, I went straight to the Aerolinas website and found it had also dropped to 219 $US which was slightly cheaper than the edreams finished price, so within an hour we saved 140 US$ for 2 tickets. In general I've found the prices aren't cheaper on a booking website, they go up and down the same as the airline price.

UK
Level Contributor
49,560 posts
82 reviews
193 helpful votes
4. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

Often they also are more restrictive than the "same" flight sold by the airline with fewer or more restrictive changes (or none) allowed and more cost to change both by airline and agency.

Hence some of the whinges here from people who seemingly don't understand what "non" in front of "refundable" and "changeable" means and don't understand why they should pay say $250 to change merely because that is what they agreed to probably without looking closely.into it.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
318 posts
17 reviews
11 helpful votes
5. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

thanks all for the replies. but as far as i can tell all legit. earlier this year did a trip to thailand and the flights were $200aud per ticket cheaper on zuji than they were direct to thai at exactly the same time.which is a fair saving when its x2.had no problems at all with it.now finding the same thing when sorting out some tickets for the daughter and friends and was curious to how they do it.

def better to go direct but if the difference is a good saving, then has to be considered if a legit booking site.

once again thanks to everyone-cheers

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
355 posts
36 reviews
42 helpful votes
6. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

I am a travel agent, and here is what several airlines have told me.. Sites like Expedia and Orbitz purchase seats when the flights are released and are at their cheapest, and if people do not book them (and book through other websites including the airline itself) the flights through the other websites will go up, but Expedia for example will still have their cheaper flights. This is why I just booked a flight through Vayama, for $450, and on BA it was over $1800.

San Francisco...
1 post
1 review
1 helpful vote
7. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

Beware booking international flights with Orbitz. A month after I had booked a round trip flight from San Fran to Bangkok on China Airlines, I just found out that the seats I selected (as part of the booking process on Orbits) could not be confirmed until the day of the flight. I discovered this when I checked on my flight only to see that my ticket was designated "no seat preference" even though I selected seats prior to booking my ticket and paying for my flight. After hours of exasperating phone calls with numerous "managers" at Orbitz, the bottom line was that because it was a "promo" fare (I had no idea) that seats for this "L" designated block of seats could be "selected" (as in I hope to get this seat) but not confirmed. I booked almost 2 months in advance to make sure I would not be sitting in the middle seat in the back of the plane. Orbitz refuses to return my money so that I can buy a ticket (directly from the airlines) that allows me to confirm a seat. The best this company could do is give me a credit to be used at another time I book with them. AS IF I EVER WOULD. Had I known, I would never had purchased this seat in the first place. Nor would anyone else facing a long flight. That's why they don't mention the seat assignment restriction when you're booking. (Also, by the way, this class of ticket also does not allow you to earn mileage.) Orbitz's position is that I should know the difference between "selecting a seat" and "confirming a seat." Just to underscore how absurd this is, I even had a three-way conversation with Orbitz and the ticketing agent at China Airlines who was very sympathetic to me and tried to shame Orbitz into giving me my money back, saying the company was treating customers unfairly and alienating their future customers as well. No movement at all form Orbitz. BEWARE of this shoddy, smoke-and-mirrors practice from this online ticketing company. I'm either forced to pay another $1,200 for a ticket with an assigned seat, or roll the dice on the day of my flight that no one else requested a window seat at the middle of the plane. See you at the back of the airplane.

Hants, UK
Level Contributor
3,412 posts
32 reviews
33 helpful votes
8. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

I understood that even if your seat it 'confirmed' the airline can still change it.

I would save the money and take the chance.

Warks.England
Level Contributor
24,898 posts
427 reviews
1,176 helpful votes
9. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

I find the reverse is the case.

My latest booking with Thai (TG) was 15% cheaper than the identical flight/seats offered by netflights/expedia/opodo and ebookers.And I had the booking confirmed immediately.

Late last year my savings on Emirates (EK) were 3% cheaper by booking direct,and there were no cc charges.

Nashville, TN
Level Contributor
7,755 posts
9 reviews
53 helpful votes
10. Re: online booking sites can be cheaper than direct- how?

"Sites like Expedia and Orbitz purchase seats when the flights are released"

What several airlines have told you is completely false. I worked at Orbitz in a number of different departments including sales. There were no special blocks of tickets for us to sell. We booked our tickets using a GDS just as other travel agents do.

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