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book airfare keyboard airplaneToday, Frontier Airlines made a preemptive strike against booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz by penalizing fliers who purchase Frontier flights anywhere except the carrier’s own Web site. According to the airline’s press release, “For customers purchasing Frontier’s lowest fares through outside booking channels … customers will get their seat assigned at check-in, earn 50 percent EarlyReturns miles, and pay higher fees [for services like itinerary changes, unaccompanied minors and pets in the cabin].”

In other words, the fares may be the same, but if you want to choose your own seat and get full credit for your frequent flier miles, you’ll have to book directly through the airline’s own Web site. FlyFrontier.com is also the only place travelers can access the airline’s Classic and Classic Plus fare options, which offer perks such as free checked bags and itinerary changes.

A Clever Secret to Getting a Cheaper Airfare

Although most airlines sell a large percentage of their tickets through online travel agencies, they make more money on bookings through their own sites, for which they don’t have to pay a commission. According to an Associated Press report, the booking sites charge the airlines about $10 to $25 per ticket — which adds up quickly in an industry with such tight margins.

But forget what’s best for the airlines; which booking experience is better for the consumer?

The booking sites’ clear advantage is the ease of comparing schedules and prices among multiple airlines (although I’ve found that aggregator sites like Kayak.com and TripAdvisor Flights are even better, as they include multiple booking sites as well). If you’re looking to buy your flight in combination with a hotel stay or car rental, the Expedias of the world make it easy and convenient.

9 Must-Do’s Before a Long-Haul Flight

Personally, though, after I’ve done my initial research, I nearly always find myself making my purchase on the airline’s Web site. If the price on the booking site and the airline is the same — and it usually is — I prefer to cut out the middle man. In the past, I’ve occasionally had problems checking in on an airline’s site when I booked through an outside agency, as the airline didn’t seem to recognize my confirmation code. I also find that fare and fee options are spelled out more clearly on the airline’s own site. And if anything ever goes wrong with my flight arrangements, booking directly through the airline means there’s no question about who’s responsible and whom to contact for help.

Which booking option do you prefer?

Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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2 Responses to “Airline Penalizes Fliers for Using Booking Sites”

  1. cami says:

    I booked 20 flights this year. I choose where I book based solely on price. I went back to check and of those 20 flights, I only booked one flight at the airline’s website, which means that 19 times, the booking sites were cheaper for me.

  2. Hayden says:

    Normally, I would agree with using the airline sites. However, sometimes using an agency can save a lot of angst. On one overseas booked air flight booked with Orbitz, I tried to check in with USAir from a cruise ship the night before the flight. For some unknown reason, my entire booking had been cancelled. The USAir site gave no way to contact them except via an 800 number. Expensive from the ship at $12.00 per minute. Orbitz has a live chat feature that I used for minimum internet connect fees and they resolved the problem in less that five minutes on-line.

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